CONCEPT DESIGN meeting German Chancellor and Dutch Prime Minister

concept design

What do you do if you have 5 minutes to leave a memorable impression on a world leader or a CEO of a multinational? Two months ago we were asked to design the concept for a meeting between two prime ministers- Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and Mark Rutten, the Dutch Prime Minister. So how? You do so as with any other message- make it stick.

People remember 3 to 4 sentences and an emotion as soon as they leave the room after a presentation.

So that’s half an hour to an hour’s talk with god knows how many slides with text and graphs boiled down to 3 facts and a sentiment. Luckily the region in this case prides itself on 3 pillars- technological innovation- manufacturing and design, these were my 3 themes. The emotion I used was speed. What the industries have in common is that they are ongoing processes- they cannot afford to sit back. To illustrate this the facts about the unilateral ties between the two nations that had to be presented were placed on chalkboards. Current today, ready to improved or updated the next moment.

To let the content get the attention the boards were made out of transparent,  polished, plastics. Along a walkway iconic products and innovations were displayed and finally in the plenary meeting rooms design objects were featured to complement the interiors. We even created a side table for the occasion with integrated wireless charging besides two private meeting chairs.

The point of all this?

  • Getting the message across. Orchestrating an event however condensed to create an impression.
  • Treat each meeting as though you’re meeting a Head of State- it’s easy to do a check on Linkedin to find out a little about the person. You’d be surprised how far genuine interest can go to sealing the deal.
  • By creating a plan or scenario you’re not limiting possibilities- you’re identifying opportunities that will allow you to connect- break the ice- or make one of those 3  key points stick. Try plotting out your next meeting on a timeline, we use this tool extensively in our Conceptual Thinking training.

Which brings me to the following urban legend. At the meeting, at the end of the red carpet before the customary ‘family photo’ was a bright orange Mini Cooper Works. Here’s the story on how it got there.

A multi million dollar deal sealed by a penning it down on a single sheet of paper.

The story goes that when BMW was considering moving production of Mini to the factories of VDL in Born, the Netherlands they asked them to present their bid. VDL’s CEO, Wim van der Leegte showed up and took out a sheet of printing paper on which he had written down some basic calculations. He said- “this is how much it costs to produce the car, this is what I understand your margins are, this is what I believe a fair margin is for us…”

Silence- they were expecting a thick file with legal texts, graphs and detailed figures. Here was a napkin sketch representing millions of dollars.

As the photo above illustrates- the rest is history, the deal was sealed and when BMW’s CEO commented on the new partnership he referred specifically to the personal connection with the van der Leegte family that inspired confidence in the project. To think that it started by jotting down the essence on a simple sheet of paper.

Sources/ credits: 

My thanks go out to Susan Janssen en Anne Verhaag at Brainport Development for letting us be part of this great project. Photo credit for the leading image- Bram Saeys. Remco Claassen for his insights into presenting and speaking.