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It's right because it's...

People respond well to original, adventurous, slightly mad ideas.

This applies equally to marketing communications and to fundraising events.

As Tim Fitzhigham said during his talk at the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh on Saturday night,

Tell someone that you’re going to run 40 miles in the desert, or that you’re going to row across the English Channel and they’ll say, “Uh, that’s not that hard”. But tell them you’re doing it in a 40 kilogram suit of armour in 40 degree heat, or in a one third of a tonne copper bathtub and they instantly become inspired and engaged.

Original, adventurous ideas don’t grow on trees.

They’re not easy to have.

And they’re not easy to make happen.

Indeed, it’s a characteristic of original, adventurous ideas that “some people” seem to go out of their way to erect additional barriers to make it even less likely that they will see the light of day.

This applies equally to marketing communications and to fundraising events.

You’d think that rowing the English Channel in a bathtub was difficult enough, without various authorities on both sides of the water doing their best to make it even more so.

For instance, the French authorities decided that they didn’t like the idea of their bit of the Channel being rowed in a bath, so they passed a law specifically outlawing this very eventuality.

Undeterred, Tim Fitzhigham found himself a friendly Admiral in Whitehall (a story in itself) and worked a solution whereby he was able to register the bath tub as an official British shipping vessel.

In order to make the bath into a ship he had to add a mast (he installed a shower head), he had to have a sealed cabinet for electrics (he installed a sink unit), and he had to fly the Red Ensign.

His indefatigable attitude and his creativity in the face of adversity allowed him to sidestep this particular barrier whilst retaining the madcap integrity of the idea.

When it comes to making adventurous ideas happen, indefatigability is good, creativity is good, and so is a bit of bravery. Tim Fitzhigham had to stick his neck out several times just to get to the start line. He then had put his body on the line to row across the busiest shipping lane in the world.

The first attempt ended in rough weather during which the bathtub and Tim both took a bit of a beating. The waves tore a section off the top of the bath tub and the resulting serrated edge tore into his shoulder to the point that he lost all sensation in his arm.

In true Chumbawamba style he got knocked down, but he got up again and completed his epic round trip journey on the second attempt with a lot of guts and a little ketamine.

(He proved his bravery yet again when he asked a Scottish audience if anyone in the room was a Morris Dancer!)

At the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh : "Is there a morris dancer in the house?"

Here then are the qualities required to help an original, adventurous idea see the light of day.

Optimism.

To me this auditorium is half full.

Infectious enthusiasm.

Tact and diplomacy.

Creativity.

And the occasional bit of bulldozer-style brute force of will.

These all apply equally to marketing communications and to fundraising events.

Thanks to The Adventurists (those lovely people that brought you the Mongol Rally) for making the evening happen in their own, inimitable, eccentric style.

Thanks also to Hendrick’s Gin for some splendidly curious libations with which we washed down the post-talk cake and sandwiches.

Inspirational stuff from the organiser, the sponsor, the venue and, of course, the speaker himself.

One Response to “Tim Fitzhigham on making adventurous ideas happen.”

  1. Speaking of channel crossing – a weekend work colleague accidentally let slip that he had swum the English Channel – it turned he’d done it more than 20 times! – more than anyother man (though a woman has done it more times).
    What on earth, I thought, are you doing here with me on a weekend?
    Is this how heroes live, I asked myself. Just like me?

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