VK 2012 – Not your avarage conference

I slept fifteen hours yesterday and still today I was a little out of sync’. Maybe I’m catching a cold, maybe I still haven’t recovered from the annual Nordic Choice Winter Conference in Stockholm last weekend.

VK isn’t your average conference.

But then again, Petter A. Stordalen, owner and chairman of Nordic Choice Hotels, isn’t your average leader.

That he appears on stage to flashing fireworks, blasting party music and sprinkling confetti doesn’t shock the 2300 management teams and co-workers that have gathered at Hovet, next to the Globe Arena. That he holds an hour long almost religious revival speech in true Nordic Choice spirit; with energy, guts and enthusiasm is to be expected. Not even the fact that he launches a “VK on tour” – a mini conference crew in a party bus, going to the major cities in Sweden and Stockholm, surprises anyone.

Nordic Choice Hotels has a business culture that is open, progressive, engaged and personal.

And I think much of the core values and guide lines for the hotels are transmitted during VK. When Petter Stordalen highlights single co-workers out of the 10 000 staff members, speaking about their accomplishments, underlining that his fortune (of at least $1 Billion) isn’t his, but the fruit that each of the Nordic Choice Hotels bears, and expressing over and over again how proud he is of everyone, it creates a team spirit that other companies only dream of. A whole evening is set aside for awards, ranging from the hotel that has done most for the corporate social responsibility project WeCare, to the Employee of the Year.

I represented the employee from my hotel, Clarion Collection Hotel Savoy, which was a great honour and I felt very excited and fortunate that I got to join my General Manager and Hotel Manager to the event and see for myself what everyone had been talking about.

We arrived on Saturday and checked in to one of the three hotels that had been booked entirely for Nordic Choice Hotel staff. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and got into the mood of the weekend with some wine and drinks.

In my case, a lot of drinks, because I wanted to seize the opportunity to meet up with my old room mate Micke and his friend, so we went to Skrapan Sky Bar and finished off the night with quite a few drinks in the hotel bar.

The next day the conference began at Hovet, with different lecturers, talk shows and performances. The one that inspired me the most was definitely Mike Walsh CEO of the innovation research agency Tomorrow and author of the best-selling book Futuretainment.

For a fast-paced, full-on 1,5 hours he let us in on the future realization of technology and advised us that companies willing to fill in the knowledge gap with anthropologists and the ones that pay attention to the behavior of the next generation of children and consumers are the ones that will be successful, because when it comes to the future, it is a matter of change, happening today.

Here’s a good intro to Mike Walsh:

That evening there was huge party at the Clarion Hotel Sign, offering a delicious buffet, dance lessons with TV-star Tony Irving, great live acts and the best floor fillers until late. I mingled around with many of the people I know in Oslo, like my colleague Elin and room mate Charlotte and our friends from other Clarion Collection Hotels, but I also met some new, fun people.

The next day, the conference started at 8 a.m, and just like the day before it was packed with interesting information and inspiration.

The theme for this year’s conference was Face 2 Face: face to face with reality; the challenges of today, face to face with the future; cultural changes, travel patterns, future technology, and face to face with our dreams and fears.

And on the subject of the latter, professional free-skier and base-jumper Karina Hollekim, offered a very inspiring perspective on dreams. In kindergarten, when asked what her dream was, she said flying, to be able to feel free as a bird. Her teacher told her she should choose something more realistic. But Karina fulfilled her dream in base jumping and was on top of her world, when she suffered a terrible accident that confronted her with her biggest fear. She had hit the ground at over 100 km/h (60 mph), and her legs had been crushed in 25 pieces. She miraculously survived but the doctors told her she would never be able to walk again. And that’s when the real struggle began. To get up in the morning when it felt pointless, to hold on to the dream that she would be able not only to walk, but to be back skiing. It took her almost four years but she succeeded. So, she concluded: don’t let anyone tell you what is more realistic; flying or walking.

VK 2012 ended in the Globe, with a huge banquet dinner and award ceremony and lots and lots of great entertainment. I had a fantastic time with my friends and colleagues and wasn’t back at the hotel room until 4.30 in the morning.

Before talking our flight back to Oslo on Tuesday, me, Elin and Pernille from Savoy, took a stroll around Stockholm with lunch in the Old Town.

Now, we’re back in business.

Only, with more energy, guts and enthusiasm! 🙂