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Saxton Speaks with... Naomi Simson

Farah Parkinson
20 Dec 2019

We sat down with the Founder of Redballoon and Shark Tank investor Naomi Simson about her experiences in the Speaking industry and her perspectives on online retail & the experience economy.

Q: What is the unique perspective you, and Aussies in general bring to the US events industry?

Naomi: To be Australian is to be an innovator. So far from everywhere, with limited resources we are a nation of invention. This raw passion of coming from nothing, having an idea, persistence and courage is a universal story. But as Australians we do it with humility and humour. Never taking ourselves too seriously – loving life and having it love us right back. My personal motto is, ‘if it is meant to be it is up to me,’ and this Aussie trait has allowed me to create an incredible entrepreneurial success story that landed me on the set of Shark Tank Australia helping other Aussie start-ups get to scale too.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you foresee in online retail & the experience economy in the next 5 years?

Naomi: What we did yesterday to be successful, is not what we will be doing this year to be successful. There has been an inversion of leadership styles so that businesses must operate with an ear to customer, employee and community. The experience economy will continue to prosper – and more businesses will move into the ‘experience’ game. Understanding that customers, and employees value the ‘experience’ how they feel, over the transaction. We will continue to see disruption – as customers vote with their feet. It is not technology that creates disruption, although that is how it is achieved. In reality, customers wanting a different relationship with the businesses they deal with is driving disruption.

Q: What inspires you about the future of online retail & the experience economy?

Naomi: Our world is changing – there has never been a time of greater change. Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by the end of the next decade. Work is changing, how we work, why we work and even the need to work. People are looking for signposts, insights and understanding to help them navigate this world. Business is different - disruption is inevitable. Who will win and how is the exciting question. The experience economy is an idea, or term put to the changing nature of consumerism. That people are looking for utility (access) rather than owning things. There is a movement of minimalism and this is having a dramatic impact on retail and other industries. I’m inspired to explore these ideas, share what I have learned and influence a generation of leaders who are learning to be agile, adapt and listen.

Q: What made you want to become a Speaker and share your story?

Naomi: I am a pioneer in the online world – and I almost never meet customers face to face. Initially I started speaking because I wanted to meet ‘real’ people. As the years went by, I found that people were curious about the ‘rags to riches’ story, from ‘start up to scale up,’ and I also knew that I had a responsibility to our community to share what I had learned. Ultimately, I speak because I never know who, or how I will make a difference to someone else’s world. My purpose is to ‘shift the way people experience life’. As a Speaker I can do that – and I get the feedback in real time. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that because of what I do, who I am, and what I say – others see what is possible for themselves.

Q: What is your most memorable event experience as a Speaker?

Naomi: I’ve had big events, and intimate ones…. I listen intently to the brief – and always ask ‘how do you want your audience left?’ It is when I get an unclear answer to that question that I have to dance in the conversation. The most memorable experience was after winning an ‘Best employer of Asia Pacific Award,’ being asked to present to an audience of 5000 from across Asia in Singapore. It was a large room – think exhibition hall. My first challenge was to build rapport - and also to put into context for the culturally diverse room – what worked for us, but more importantly, what was some clear steps that they could take that would work for them. The audience was not as animated as I am used to, however I knew I had done my job when people quietly would stop me at the event and ask me more – and my LinkedIn email was full of nice messages of thanks.

Q: and a quick bonus question, How do you eat your Vegemite?

Naomi: Sparingly! Fluffy Turkish toast with wads of melted butter, with a thin scrape of vege! – oh now I’m hungry…

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