Hero Roundtable London 2017: post event report
A few days ago now, I joined speakers and thought leaders from around the world in the centre of London for a unique conference - The Hero Roundtable. I first learned about the Roundtable from a friend who, having attended a previous event, described it as the most inspiring gathering of people he had ever encountered. So, when I was invited to present my ideas about everyday heroism at the Barbican, I jumped at the chance.
One of the challenges that the organisers of the gathering face in marketing the Roundtable is one I now share in writing this post - how on earth do you explain, in simple terms, the essence of the event? The vision that event creator, Matt Langdon, had in 2013 was clear enough; to create a forum in which those interested in promoting heroism and pro-social behaviour could meet and exchange their ideas. It has, however, become so much more.
In the weeks building up to to the HRT (I know, it's unfortunate that the acronym evokes the idea of menopause but that's part of it's charm!) I spent half my time trying to learn my speech, and the rest scanning the rostrum of other speakers while trying to stave off a rising sense of intimidation. There was Joe De Sena, founder of the Spartan race, Ari Kohen, author, lecturer and a man whose research into heroism had formed the foundation of my own thinking. Sally Kettle was on the line up - a professional adventurer who has rowed the Pacific Ocean, east to west, not once but twice! Lord Stone of Blackheath, former CEO of Marks and Spencer was going to be speaking there, for goodness sake!
Imagine a gathering of nearly twenty such presenters - writers, researchers, barristers, Charity workers, business leaders and those who have pushed back the boundaries of what human beings might be capable of. Then take a group of skilled volunteers who beaver away quietly in the background to make that confluence of speakers accessible to attendees through a series of workshops, breakout sessions and pithy keynote presentations. You are half way there! That covers the framework for the Roundtable, but the real magic happens in the corridors, cafes and spontaneous interactions that take place throughout the two day event. I quickly came to realise that those in the audience were at least as interesting as those on the stage, and the fluid and rich conversations that emerged between the talks are where the soul of the event is located.
I won't give you a blow by blow account of what I saw and heard at the HRT this year - after all, in a few weeks time many of the keynotes will be made available to a global audience, at no cost, through the organisation's YouTube channel and you can judge for yourself. What I would like to highlight is the idea that this meeting of minds was far more than just a chance to exercise our vocal cords. St John's Ambulance service were there, allowing any attendee to learn CPR and other essential First Aid skills. In the workshop I delivered, twenty people made a commitment to acquire real-world skills and address real-world problems by the close of this calendar year. Alliances were formed and seeds were planted that I am certain will positively impact those in need. The Roundtable is, then, a 'think tank' but also a 'do-tank' for making the world a better place and it was a privilege to be involved.
The movement is growing and more HRT conferences are planned internationally in the coming months and years. If you get wind of an event taking place near you, do yourself a favour and make the trip. If our heroic journey may be likened to a console game, then the Roundtable offers an opportunity to 'power-up' so you can kick ass when face to face with your next end of level boss. Nope, I am still struggling to describe it - come to the next one yourself and see if you can do better!