Signal speaker Peter Schwartz said it best: “We still face uncertainty, but this is a time to reimagine and reinvent the future.”
The ninth annual Signal conference — our first virtual edition — was in many ways uncertain as the pandemic unfolded around the world earlier this year. But we reimagined and reinvented our program, and in the end Signal delivered a powerful live online event that drew a global audience, with more than 9,000 registrations from 80 countries. Speakers from leading businesses dialed in from their living rooms and home offices, giving attendees literally a front-row seat into their worlds. Our first-ever Asia Edition brought both Greater China and AMA into the conversation in real time. And the event had a timeliness we couldn’t have planned for, as news broke around speakers almost in real time.
“Reimagine and reinvent” were persistent threads in conversations throughout the two-day event. From embattled media and social platforms to cries for more social good, diversity and inclusion, speakers opened up about their challenges and their plans for stepping forward into what comes next.
Here are some of amazing moments from Signal 2020:
The Role of the Pandemic
Early in the event, Peter Schwartz, Salesforce’s senior vice president of strategic planning and futurist, brought the pandemic into the foreground, looking at different contexts where COVID has had more of an impact and consumer trends have fluctuated. “Many people need to look at more resilient supply chains,” he said, “and retail will become less about selling and buying and more about entertainment.”
Connecting with Consumers
One of the world’s leading entertainers, actor and director Ron Howard, helped to kick off the event. A master storyteller, he tests his work with consumers, something brands do every day. “I want to know how the messages are connecting with the audience,” he said.
That connection is undergoing massive change. “People have too many options,” said Rich Greenfield, a partner at LightShed Ventures. But as he noted that audiences are declining for traditional television watching, media companies are expanding ways to reach consumers and advertisers are following consumers wherever they are. NBCUniversal chair of advertising and partnerships Linda Yaccarino joined Signal in a conversation on reaching consumers through a range of channels on the same day her company rolled out its streaming network, Peacock. And the CEOs of Twitter, Snap and Twitch also appeared to discuss what’s ahead for their platforms. Dorsey’s appearance came amid Twitter’s biggest security breach in its history.
Force for Good, Force for Growth
Doing good in the world took center stage at the event. P&G announced plans to be carbon neutral by 2030 and youth activist Clover Hogan cheered on businesses that are taking action to address climate change.
And as America wakes up to an awareness of a need to improve diversity and inclusion, several speakers shared views on how these changes can happen. Irma Olguin Jr., CEO and founder of Bitwise Industries, talked about how when companies hired immigrants put a focus on diversity they can stabilize cities, while also increasing profits. And speaker Queen Latifah, rapper, singer, songwriter, actor and producer, is driving an increase in diversity behind the camera in the entertainment industry.
At the end of the day, said speaker Amy Chang, Cisco executive vice president and P&G board director, the changes reflect a shift from a stakeholder focus to heeding shareholders. “It’s a really critical conversation,” she said “Employees’ and team members’ interest are being brought to the forefront and that’s so critical because we exist to serve our employees and our team members as well.”