K in the Park 2019. This year’s Skai event in London featured great weather, great food & drink, and speakers from both the advertising and non-advertising world. For those of you who attended, we thank you again—and for those who didn’t—we hope you will join us next summer.
In London (like Chicago, where I’m based), clear, sunny days aren’t taken for granted, even in late June. So it definitely felt like the stars were aligned for this year’s K in the Park, Skai’s award-winning annual marketing summit in the UK—which, as the name implies, took place entirely outdoors on June 27th.
How to quite describe a work event that combines local TED-esque speakers and industry education with the vibe of Lollapalooza, and a touch of old English country fair (case in point: Microsoft’s Welly Wanging booth)? In a word: fun! … lots and lots of it..
Spread across an enormous open field at the Mudchute Park and Farm in quaint, historic Greenwich, with contentedly grazing animals in the surrounding pastures and a central London skyline for backdrop, the setup was vibrant and festival-forward: open-air stages, balloon-laden tents, thematic wristbands and even bum-packs (fanny packs, as we know them in the US) to house giveaways that would have fit right in on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Stages were set with pull-up stools and beanbags, hay bales, lawn chairs, and blankets. Our 500+ registrants were encouraged to wear relaxed, festival-style clothes and to come prepared with open minds and ready handshakes to network with new friends. The message: this is not your grandmother’s marketing conference!
Our guests followed the instructions, and they arrived in droves from Germany, Spain, France, Israel, the Netherlands, all over England and even the US. Hundreds of EMEA’s top marketing minds and Skai extended family steadily piled in and found their name tags as the sun rose high throughout the morning.
This year’s KITP theme—first kicked off at K8 East and West in New York and San Francisco—was Knowledge is Power. To maximize the day’s agenda, and offer some variability in experience, we had content packed on two parallel stages. The “Knowledge Tent” got industry- and Skai-specific, with speakers from our own team, as well as representatives from Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.
The “Power Stage”, meanwhile, held equally thought-provoking sessions on soft-skills and related topics, like stress management, creative thinking, the ethics of AI, and even how to be a human lie detector.
Between sessions (and during them, if you needed a break), guests could lounge in the sun sipping AI-generated cocktails and scooping Haagen-Dazs, or—better yet—visit our sponsor stations to play around with, for example, Google’s cyclone ball-drop game, Facebook’s Instagram selfie booth, or the aforementioned Hunter boot toss. You could also make smoothies by riding a bike, make a name for yourself amongst your peers with a little table tennis, charge up your devices at Verizon Media’s handy stations, or, as I did, opt to just escape it all inside a human-sized bubble.
Turns out it’s easy to build your professional network when you’re engaged in something a little ridiculous.
In keeping with the cookout theme, we stayed well fed throughout the day with lip-smacking plates from Fabulous BBQ (including mac and cheese to fuel that 4 pm carb crash), while enjoying the talents of three separate groups of live musicians (“We’re your human jukebox! Whaddya want to hear?” I was asked. They happily obliged my Fleetwood Mac request). Bacardi sponsored some AI-mixed boozy drinks and Freedom Brewery some fizzy craft beers, which we countered with plenty of caffeine from our resident hipster coffee truck, well-appointed with oat milk and all.
After our brains and stomachs were full, we unwound with The Box That Rox karaoke (said cocktails helped immensely here), glitter-art face painting, and….dodge-ems—which are bumper cars, American compatriots! Any “kid” activity you do as an adult is more ludicrously fun than it has any right to be, so these were not only a smash hit but a great place to work out any unspoken issues with your coworkers. I kid. But seriously, it’s not often that you can post to your Instagram story while driving and not only not get a ticket but be applauded for it.
A full-on DJ dance party closed out the day, along with an after party for those with energy to spare. While walking back to my hotel that night the sun still hadn’t set by 10:30 pm, making me wonder if this was a perfectly scientific result of the Greenwich Mean Time summer solstice in actual Greenwich…or some kind of more mystical K in the Park magic.
I’m going with the latter.