I’ve been reminded by some of the political, sporting and cultural events in the world today as to how some of these moments are like ‘zeitgeist events’. These events capture our hearts and minds and reflect a spirit or feeling for a moment in time. A place where a shared purpose and belief embraces us, influencing our thoughts and actions. Having an impact, creating change in the world.
What’s occurring in Hong Kong is certainly a public manifestation of the beliefs of a large group of people, and we have seen this in many famous gatherings, of ‘zeitgeist like’ events, expressing the hopes and fears of a group of people.
Events are the sum of many parts and people, and sometimes they become more than the sum of those parts.
I’m a big believer that events can serve as a means to capture our imagination – and put the spotlight onto the current shared belief of a group of people, a nation, tribe or even a small community. It is these events that ignite and amplify the shared feeling within a group of like-minded people.
Many mass movements over the course of time have been defined and amplified by mass gatherings. And, many of these movements have built momentum, to then be catapulted forward by these events.
Different cause, similar effects
Events such as these can become a symbol of the zeitgeist of that time. As an example, also in Asia right now, housed within a sporting context, the current RWC has reminded me of how zeitgeist like events can emerge to create an immensely positive influence.
The 1995 Rugby World Cup story was famously told in the movie Invictus, a story of how that event reflected the significant change that was occurring in South Africa. While of course, there were many many other much more significant events around and before that time that contributed to this change, the RWC of 1995 reflected the spirit from that moment in time. A place where a shared identity was emerging.
The moment between Mandela and PInnear the captain was a symbol of that zeitgeist, as was the event as a whole.
Personally, for me, the Rugby World Cup in 2011 also represented a zeitgeist like event. A ‘stadium of 4 million people’ was the pitch to host the event, in that the attention and imagination of the whole nation would be captured. And that was how it played out. To have a event in which a nation was celebrating its default religion was an amazing time. NZ, as a nation were great hosts. Where everyone from close family to the guy at the corner ‘diary’ was talking about the event. It was also a time where NZ was able to express its self to the world. And while that wasn’t necessarily just the zeitgeist of that time, it represented a time and place that NZ was able to share its culture, express its identity and current values.
Creating Zeitgeist events
Which brings us to the current RWC, as a demonstration of how an event can create a spirit for a moment in time. The Japanese team, the host organisation, and the whole nation, have brilliantly seized on the opportunity to create a spirit and a legacy. The success of the Japanese on an off the field has seen over 50 million Japanese engage with the event, and across the nation.
We often see events as a catalyst to influence peoples experiences, lives, interests and beliefs, and I have no doubt a new generation of rugby fans, and hopefully, players will emerge as a result of the experience they have had over the last month, as a nation, and as individuals.
From a profession sense, many of us were involved in the 2000 and then 2012 Olympics, which I think were also ‘zeitgeist like’, in capturing a spirit of those nation for a moment in time – and of our profession. The legacies for us as an industry have been immense. Many of the event professionals I know used Sydney as a catalyst to great things in their careers, and likewise in London.
We see this from many major events; I remember the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games was a great coming together of the talent in our industry. With a motto of being ‘United by the Moment’ we shared an aspiration for what events can achieve, and also a mindset about how to go about this. We’ve all gone our separate ways onto other great things, but again I think this is an example of how an event can capture the imagination of a small group of people, to share an interest and achieve something. And at the same time increasing our capability opportunity and motivation to go onto other things.
I think these Zeitgeist like experiences are a great reminder of how events are a powerful tool in our hands. Both as a focal point for a shared interest or belief, or as an expression of this spirit and feeling. These events can be a catalyst to create new influence, a new set of ideals, and actions.
Whether it be around a cause, a struggle, a movement, a form of sport or entertainment, it doesn’t matter, these events can all act as platforms for great influence in our lives.
And whilst we can’t always create Zeitgeist like events – we can all create events around shared interests and beliefs – which will have a powerful effect.
If you need some help with that, please let me know!