This is why I created Suits & Sneakers


I have had many ambitious dreams in my life but I have never been as obsessed with an idea as I am with Suits & Sneakers… To articulate what this “thing” is exactly is possibly one of the hardest things to do because it represents my heart and soul. Purpose and happiness is however most useful when shared and so I write to you with a sense of utter fulfilment!

The best way to describe Suits & Sneakers is that it’s a “human development” event series. The first edition takes place on the evening of Thursday, 23 July 2015 at an amazing venue called the Mosaiek Teatro near Northcliff, Johannesburg!

Mosaiek Taetro

There will be 5 different speakers broadcasting a unique set of ideas around an array of topics. Their brief is to tell a story about anything they choose but the audience must receive mass value. These talks will then be recorded and published online and those who didn’t attend the event can watch them after for FREE!

Our four confirmed speakers are Gareth Cliff, Brent Lindeque, Mike Sham and myself (Mark Sham). We will be releasing the final name in the next week!

The kicker of attending this event in person is once the speakers have worked their magic, attendees will have the chance to spend the last part of the evening networking with each other. This will be executed with some structure via “network pods” which help people avoid the need to awkwardly introduce themselves to each other and find out what they do!

A network pod will consist of a facilitator and between 5-9 attendees. Each person will have a minute to explain who they are and what they do and can swap details should someone be of particular interest to them. Attendees can participate in as many network pods as they wish but the rule is that they have to move to a different network pod each time so that they meet new people. Once a session has concluded, there will be a 5 minute break and then the next network pod will start again!

If you’ve met someone interesting at a network pod, you might wanna skip the next session and approach that person to discuss things in greater detail. You could skip all the network pods entirely if you choose and simply chat to some people you already know. You could go home straight away. We don’t think you will but it’s all up to you!

For some, this concept is hard to fathom because it’s so loose in its structure and most “conferences” have a central theme that speakers present around. But that’s just it, this isn’t your typical conference. In fact, I’m not sure it’s a “conference” at all and that’s the beauty of it.

This idea has been swirling in my head for as long as I’ve been public speaker (3 years). I say that loosely because I hate that term but in essence, I get paid by a lot of businesses (and some other entities) to speak at events around the country. This is what I’ve noticed about the speakers I’ve watched at these events: Most (not all) are on that stage because they are amazingly good at something and they get asked to share their knowledge and know-how. But that doesn’t make them good speakers or great story tellers and therein lies the problem.

To be good at this craft, your content must be amazing BUT EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, you must know how to present it. You can’t simply regurgitate the words in your PowerPoint presentation. You must understand how to tell a story and this is a rare but masterful skill.

Narratives are the ways in which we understand the world around us. As kids, we are told stories to teach us lessons about life and throughout our lives we create narratives to make sense of the world thus story telling breaks through all age barriers. So I’m looking to approach this event from that perspective. I’m looking for exquisite stories of substance that add value. Should we get this right with Suits & Sneakers, I have no doubt that the world will tune in to listen.

I know this for sure because the model exists in the form of TED talks… There may be some of you that are familiar with the brand but a lot of you won’t know what I’m talking about. I love TED talks and I believe everyone should watch a TED talk every day.

One of my growing frustrations with being asked to speak publicly is that it creates a “sugar rush” effect. When people are done listening to the talk, you can see they are greatly impacted and there is a deep desire to do something about it but after a few days, they’re back into the same old routine as before.

I am just as guilty. This used to happen to me at times because when you stand up on that stage and you impact people, it has an equally powerful effect on you as well but then a few days pass and you’re back into your same old routine.

So when I moved house a few months ago, I suddenly saw an opportunity to swap TV for TED talks in hope that I could negate the aforementioned sugar rush. The results have simply been off the charts. Instead of sitting on a couch vegging to Modern Family (which I love by the way), I’m watching all these different talks by the most fascinating people but they all have substance and they all tell cool stories. The talks aren’t always what you’d expect… In fact, most of these talks don’t have a place at a typical business conference yet every human should hear what these people have to say!

Here are four TED titles I want you to take note of: “Why are we happy?” by Dan Gilbert, “Your body language shapes who you are” by Amy Cuddy, “My stroke of insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor and “How great leaders inspire action” by Simon Sinek. Three of these four talks wouldn’t conventionally have a place at a business conference yet the world is the better for them! Why? Because they add value and they create a mentality shift! Watch one of these a day and your life will change!

The most watched TED talk of all time is called “How schools kill creativity” by Sir Ken Robinson and it sums up my argument perfectly. Every word he speaks has your mind running rampant and it leaves you begging for his next sentence. This video is the reason why I am absolutely obsessed with Suits & Sneakers! If you haven’t yet seen it, this 20-minute video may well change your life. It changed mine and it’s part of why I’m writing to you today!

Getting a formal education is of the utmost importance but the world has evolved. There is so much important learning that takes place outside of a classroom and a text book and we need to recognize its equal necessity. This is why I started this “thing”… Suits & Sneakers takes place on the evening of Thursday, 23 July 2015 and you can buy your tickets here!

If you would like to keep in the loop with all things Suits & Sneakers then please “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. We actively use social media channels to educate you and even entertain you!

Previous articleDo you have an idea worth sharing?
Next articleThe truth about entrepreneurship!
Mark is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker. He is the founder and CEO of Suits & Sneakers and also founder of the Impello incubation hub. Mark loves to travel the world and is hell bent on disrupting education for people of all ages.