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The Festival - how we turned a vision into a project

By Florian Mueck • Aug 5th, 2010 • Category: The Project

Albert Einstein said, “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

The idea to bring millions of Europeans together in one place - The Festival - where they can live, experience and enjoy Europe together - you might call it absurd.

But after almost four years of spinning the European wheel the number of supporters rises more and more every day.

The Festival vision has turned into a project.

How did we do it?

Here are eight buckets that helped pave the way.

If You Have A Vision Share It With Someone Who Has Vision

How many times you have a great idea, even a vision, and you go around the corner and share it with a friend sitting in a not so cosy bar sipping on not so cold beer. Do you think that is the place where you will find your partner in crime? No, you won’t.

Most people we know want to maintain the status quo - their status quo and, for sure, your status quo as well. They will do everything to bring you back to the ground THEY are standing on.

When I came up with The Festival idea the first person I talked to was the German Ambassador to Spain, Mr. Born.

Mr. Born had served a shaky diplomatic round in Ankara, Turkey, before that, hence I could be assured he would have a vision of Europe far away from the one my family and friends would ever have.

After a one hour meeting on October 11 2006 he said to me: “You have to do it!”

Look for visionary people to share your vision with. Odds are much higher to receive a first uplifting blow.

Exude Passion, Exude Enthusiasm

On July 21 2010 and following the TEDxBarcelona talk about The Festival two weeks earlier, I received this tweet: “KeeptheBounce @the7minutestar just watched your TEDx Speech. Well done, Flo your vision and passion is infectious”

It is true - the speech went well and many people told me that they loved my enthusiasm.

Another friend, Christoph Reisner, once told me that he couldn’t understand how I could be so passionate about telling the same story over and over again.

The answer is obvious: there is no alternative to passion and enthusiasm when it comes to selling your vision.

I just loved to be an Erasmus exchange student. That one-year-long European get-together was the time of my life and I love to talk about it - at least the parts I remember. When I talk about my Erasmus experiences, my European son, my European life in Barcelona, The Festival idea as the direct outcome of all that - this is what inspires people.

Because it is built on passion and enthusiasm.

There are no alternatives to P&E.

Make Your Vision Tangible!

Once I walked through the hallway of a HP plant in Barcelona and on a poster it said, SEEING IS BELIEVING.

This is so true - especially if you want people to believe in your vision. You have to make it tangible by any means.

In our case we follow a two-sided approach.

First - we use visualizations like this one here:

Virtual Tour of The Festival
click on image

It doesn’t really matter how the final picture will look like.

What matters is a first positive impression. The idea of the actual event becomes tangible: “Ah, OK, a European mega party on a 2.2 km strip in the center of Berlin right in front of Brandenburg Gate. Now I see!”

We also produced a first theme song and video for the movement - I AM EUROPEAN.

Second - we use people, stars, talents, faces to make our European story tangible. Every testimonial, every story, every picture, every video add to the full circle of our vision - to create a platform where people from all over Europe embrace a European idea together.

Do It One-On-One Even If It Takes Time

This is tricky! You remember the watch? 24h only?

Not every project evolves like The Festival which has been running for almost four years now. We have time, we take our time.

But a crucial lesson we learned is that you can only sell your vision on a one-on-one basis.

We are talking about face-to-face meetings. Many of them - at least with your stake-holders. In our case we deal with brands, politicians, diplomats, the City of Berlin, operational partners, artists, cultural activists, Europeans…

This takes time.

What does not work at all is to create a fancy presentation and send around PDF files. Conversion rate: zero. At least in our project. You have to go and meet the people, look them into their eyes and inspire them to see what you see.

And social media? Gary Vaynerchuck, a successful online entrepreneur in the US, constantly repeats his message of absolute client orientation in our social media driven world. You have to answer all those emails, each one of them and tweets and follow up on Facebook posts. When a new face shows up that we want to post at thefestival.eu - this takes an hour every time, plus the time you need to gather all the background information, etc.

It takes time to sell a vision - sometimes years like in our case.

When Everyone Tells You To Stop, Keep Walking!

Here comes an amazing statistic:

100% of all my employed friends said at the beginning, “Don’t do it!”

100% of my entrepreneurial friends said, “Do it!”

It’s obvious who you should listen to if you are burning to start your own project.

But then with the time - we have been doing this for almost four years now - voices become louder. Voices telling you to quit.  Voices you trust.

It’s tough.

It helps to have a girl-friend who tells you that success comes one step after failure.

I don’t know what you would do, what you have done or what you will do. But I know that in our case failure is not an option.

We will keep walking because it’s the right cause and the right time.

Turn The ‘BUTs’ Into Improvements

People love to say “BUT”. Sometimes I think it’s the only word they really learned how to pronounce well. “Yes, it’s so sunny, so shining, so sparkling, BUT…” - How many times have I heard it in this project.

People always love to say “BUT”. Now - imagine what they do when you come up with some weird, intangible and visionary idea?

They would love to tear it apart in 1000 pieces. But they can’t do that with our project. No one can really deny the beauty of bringing together a multitude of people from all over Europe to create a bottom-up European team spirit.

What they do instead is they say their BUTs with more emphasis.

What we do is we take each criticism and try to turn it into something that helps improve our project.

Example: A high-ranking Blue Chip media representative told us the other day that he really liked the idea, BUT didn’t see this project get off the ground without the backing of the EU.

Since we had this on our mind for a while already and reinforced by this constructive feedback, we now turn the project into an NGO and go for public co-funding.

Potential improvements are hiding behind many BUTs. BUT be prepared - your next conversational partner will find three more BUTs.

If You Don’t Hear Your Partners Anymore Stop And Turn Around

There is one big danger of being “too visionary.” You might be losing track of your partners.

For you that carrot you are going after will always be juicy and orange. For your partners it can turn skinny and grayish. Motivational ups and downs in long-term projects are unavoidable. Make sure you always synchronize your perceptions.

Otherwise you keep running and running and running, then suddenly you turn around and… they are all gone. Make sure you always hear your partners. If you don’t, stop and turn around. You can only walk this path together.

A visionary has only a vision. A visionary with a team has a project.

Stick To Your Core Idea

Last but not least, you should always stick to your core idea, your vision. Feasibility is key to make it happen, yes. BUT ;) not at the expense of your core idea.

The core idea is what makes you exude passion and enthusiasm.

The core idea enables you to inspire others to believe in something big.

The core idea is what you can always fall back on.

The core idea is the seed. Without a seed there is no tree.

Stick to your core idea - in our case to create a platform where people from all over Europe get together to live, experience and enjoy Europe together.

About The Festival

Initiated by seven Europe fans from Berlin and Barcelona, The Festival is a bi-annual event in European metropolises where more than 1,000,000 people from all over Europe come together and find inspiration to create and share the European experience. Together - we will see Europe, eat Europe, dress Europe, live Europe, hear Europe & play Europe! The mission of this exceptional European movement is to promote a pan-European feeling.

More information about The Festival you’ll find at thefestival.eu, facebook.com/thefestival, twitter.com/thefestival2011.

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Florian Mueck is European, initiator and co-founder of The Festival: "Passion for Europe maybe does not exist in the media. But it does exist in many hearts of many people."
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