AFQY April 9th Event Rundown; Mid-lockdown


AFQY April 9th Event

Covid-19 put a brief halt to the AFQY events that have been running for over 12 years as an in-person event for people to come along and 'meet the person, not the suit.'

"The thinking behind 'meet the person, not the suit' is that we can do better business, faster, because we have relationships that are built on layers of authentic conversation."

- Ryan the Lion, AFQY founder and Chief Yarner

AFQY defines trust as knowing who that person is and getting to understand them in a more personal sense so that you have those connections built on commonalities and understanding differences - essentially getting beneath the surface.

That's why there's the famous AFQY rules:

  • No selling

In short, this rule has attracted all the end users, those who don't want to be sold to, while they are trying to build authentic relationships where they can share work knowledge and get to know the person.

  • No giving out your cards

A spin off from the no-selling rule, another to save hawkers running through a crowd flicking their cards out.

  • Don't ask what a person does until the third question.

Knowing what someone does enables instant judgement. We don't want you reading the book by its cover, or a person by their position. 

"Twelve years has taught me that we should 'ask about the kids, the cat, and the dog' to enable sharing personal stories, finding commonalities and getting to learn the cut of a persons gib."

- Ryan the Lion, AFQY founder and Chief Yarner

Those that have been along to one of AFQY's events, or have talked to any of the previous attendees, know that AFQY events are full of authentic conversations.

On arrival to a traditional in-person AFQY event, you're likely to be greeted (by name) by the famous Ryan the Lion, and then swiftly introduced to a group, or another person. Alternatively, if he's caught up in a yarn, one of the friendly people of the AFQY community will help you settle in.

It's so easy to stand talking to people you know at networking events, or after being introduced to someone be swallowed by deafening silence as you both struggle to find something to talk about. Ryan began mitigating this by introducing people along with a common interest to the group, fun fact, or cheeky remark at your expense (if he knows you well enough). Just something for people to have a laugh at, comment on, or connect over, to help break down those sky-high barriers some of us feel when meeting new people.

Concerns over community safety saw the AFQY Auckland March 26 event cancelled early, long before mass gatherings restrictions were put in place. AFQY quickly pivoted however, and announced a plan to move to an online format for the event.

On March 26 2020 (the first day of lockdown) they hosted the very first virtual AFQY through video conferencing technology.

Utilising the breakout rooms feature, AFQY was able to continue to facilitate networking almost like in person, but a little better. The technology randomly chooses who you meet and speak to, by sorting you into various 'rooms'. These random assignments actually remove any unconscious or conscious bias of who you might normally choose to speak with at an event. Attendees have 3-4 minutes each time they are sorted into a breakout room to say hello and get to know each other.

"We are using technology to replicate the essence of AFQY in person meetings, as best we can and it ended up being better in a different way."

- Ryan the Lion, AFQY founder and Chief Yarner

The other new change is the introduction of speakers to the format. While I was initially curious as to if this would change the atmosphere or vibe, I've really, really enjoyed the addition and think it adds to the experience, at least in the online setting. I've also heard a lot of positive feedback from others who have enjoyed the insights, experiences, and advice that the speakers have shared.

AFQY Experience Talks - April 9th

AFQY hosted their second online event on Thursday 9th of April with an awesome line-up of 8 speakers. The event was sponsored by Duco Consultancy and Magnetism.

The online event started with breakout rooms so attendees could still have the chance to meet new people, catch up with those they knew, and talk in-person (virtually) to those they'd only had written communications with. One attendee, Stanley Henry, had sent the registration link to his brother in Dubai to join the event. By pure random chance the brothers ended up in the very first same breakout room! What are the odds! Well, actually Stanley worked it out, it's a 0.16% chance. Crazy.

After a brief welcome from Ryan and introduction to the concept of A Few Quiet Yarns, each speaker was asked to give a five minute, high impact, perspective on what is going on right now.

Although the speakers came from different angles, different backgrounds and experiences, different industries, there were some key themes that were repeated and echoed throughout.

  • It's the people and relationships that matter; customers, vendors, employees, community.

  • Now is an opportunity to reset, rethink, and look at what you can do differently. Diversification, innovation, now is the time to act.

  • This is the biggest driver to change / pivot that we've seen.

  • Shifting from focusing on profit and efficiency to focusing on people and community, to providing value.

  • Anything is possible, you can do anything you like; companies and people are doing things they never would have thought possible or never would have happened because of slow decision making cycles and resistance to change.

Speaker Summary

Nisha Clark

"Honesty and integrity makes a relationship. Build a personal connection - you can only do that by understanding the person... don't worry about what the heck they do, find out about what motivates them, what drives them, what they are about... which is really, really, important."

Nisha shared how her leadership team at Downer managed to connect over 2000 users on the crappy legacy technology with the help of their partners. And again, she said, that was about relationships.

"The people in the business recognised the solution wasn't perfect but they recognised the effort we put in and because my team had built relationships with everyone they understood, and they were on the journey with us."

Justin Tomlinson

"There has to be a desired redefinition of success in my mind from pure growth, profit, and GDP towards enterprise, community, and value, things that value the planet, the people, purpose, prosperity, win-win, and profit last."

Justin pointed out that quantum computing and climate change have all just had their asses handed to them by a virus from Mother Nature. Despite all the conversations about disruption and technology advancements, this shows more than ever that necessity is the mother of invention, truly.

His question to the group was, "Can we live with this boom and bust, totally growth focused, consumerist, capitalist model through this event? Can quantitative easing and massive bail-outs work one more time?"

Ryan Ingram

"Who is driving the digital transformation? It's obviously no doubt going to be all three; the CEO, the CIO, and covid-19 in the new world... The silver lining is going to be tough, but maybe the silver lining in your company is that you can reset, redesign, and reimagine how your organisation operates."

Ryan talked about connecting with his 89-year old neighbour who can still do the splits. If an 89 year old lady can still do the splits, he said, anything is possible.

Although there will be hard times, Ryan says it's about finding your silver lining. Companies will have to push reset but this gives them the opportunity to investigate the digital transformation we all know is possible.

Kirti Suman

"If you look at the other side of that coin, there are other things that are going to come out of this that are going to change things."

Kirti talked about how companies are dealing with the massive changes caused by covid-19, and how companies including a clothing manufacturer in NZ, Good George, Dyson, Louis Vutton, and L'oreal are innovating and diversifying off the back of it.

"The current disruption across the world is driving companies to be innovative and diversify their product ranges."

Her question for the AFQY community was, "If you were to think about what you love and what the world needs, and what you could get paid for, and what you're good at, what would you change about you, your way of living, your way of thinking, or even in the jobs that you do?"

Chandan Ohri

"It is not the few that need to be entrepreneurs, it is the entire ecosystem around us."

Chandan discussed the importance of relationships and diversification in business, and the need for positive thinking.

"I cannot emphasize enough the value of relationships, resilience, and above all being and acting as an entrepreneur. We need all of us; employees, employers, contractors, vendors, customers... to act as entrepreneurs creating new opportunities, ways of working and innovation."

He said, "We need to think positively about how we can add value to the ecosystem and community around us, and now is the time to think beyond ourselves and look after our community."

Chandan acknowledged that this will be a disaster for some businesses, but he said we cannot lose positive thinking. "This shall also pass."

Mark Loveys

Expat Kiwi currently in Vancouver, Canada.

"I'd encourage people to think of doing things out of their comfort zone. Don't believe that you can't do things in your 50's or 60's whatever. You can do anything you like."

Mark talked about his 'late OE' with his wife, Lee, and gave us an insight into what it's like living and working during lockdown in Canada. Fortunately his company is set up mainly around cloud software.

Covid-19 has affected Mark and Lee's ability to come back to NZ due to the reduction in flights, and the quarantine requirements in both Canada and NZ.

"As an expat, when we came over here we thought it'd be really easy to come home, but now we find ourselves in a very different situation."

But the ability to have a virtual presence anywhere, getting online has meant the opportunity to attend NZ functions like this one [AFQY] and they can be in NZ virtually.

Mike Clentworth

"The thing that happens in a time of extreme pressure, is not acting and being fearful of acting, is actually the biggest mistake that you can make."

While Mike had originally been going to talk about 'teaming', he said since everyone had been inundated the last two weeks with LinkedIn posts and emails about 'how to keep your high performance teams going' he'd got a little bored with the topic.

So instead, Mike talked about his gratitude for the frontline essential workers, and how Kiwibank have sped up its decision making cycles from monthly to daily, and the benefits of that.

He said, Kiwbank's daily decision making and prioritisation cycles have massively accelerated the rate of the pace of change predominantly with the tilt towards keeping their customers safe, keeping their customers' money safe, keeping their customers' businesses running, and keeping Kiwibank staff safe.

"For most banks that's a pretty big pivot from, as a community from profit to genuinely to customer."

Sarah Laurie

"The fact is, your stress response should only come on in moments of danger for your life.

If we become a global community of people in the first world... that breathe like humans are designed to, we will categorically see a shift in the statististics around stress and anxiety."

Sarah shared incredible insights about the mechanics of stress, anxiety and the brain. She discussed her research, and her purpose, " change the statistics around stress and anxiety because they should not be what they are."

The aim of her talk tonight was to provide "facts to help you feel different and operate differently if you're experiencing stress and anxiety or if anyone in your family or friends are," Sarah said.

The insight that hit home the hardest for me was when Sarah talked about how easy it is for us to start questioning our ability and performance when we're under pressure.

"What we need to look at is you're still excellent at what you do, your brain is working as it should it's just got the wrong switch on, and when we know how to switch off this [stress] response, we'll start to navigate our challenges way more effectively."

Check out the video from AFQY Experience Talks - April 9th here to find out Sarah's simple solution with powerful benefits, and catch many other insights from the amazing lineup of speakers!

Final Insights

The very last 'stragglers' to leave the virtual event were treated to some insights from Ryan the Lion from his Networking Like an Animal course including why we forget names of the people we just met.

Further discussion was had around self fulfilling prophecies e.g. "I'm crap at..." and photographer Keri Little shared insights from her photography sessions: how saying hi to the camera engages your eyes, and why part way through a session she tells her clients to take a deep breath, close your eyes. Keri says, when you open them [your eyes] it's such a beautiful, natural shot.

Feedback seen from attendees' posts on LinkedIn echoes my thoughts around the depth of insights and stories from speakers. Awesome. Inspiring. Real. The real talk was appreciated, as was the openness of sharing, and as always the new people met and connections made.

Until next time - stay safe, stay positive, and stay connected.