A chaotically awesome bubble of creatives: The four things I learned at my first Cannes Lions Festival

In 2018, Issa Rae told Stephen Colbert that the best advice she received from her mentors was, “Don’t be afraid to be a b**ch.”

This powerful message was brought up again at June’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity during a conversation with Issa Rae and Liz Taylor, global chief creative officer at Ogilvy.

This session was just one of my many favorite experiences at the festival — a place that I could only describe as a chaotically awesome bubble of creatives. I had the opportunity to attend this year to represent Bospar at the Cannes Lions Award ceremony. ICYMI, we were shortlisted for our work with NFT platform Neon in the Best Use of Events and Stunts category.

I was constantly inspired, and I learned so much about this beautiful industry of ours. So, to give the next first timer a real snapshot of Cannes, I’ve compiled a list of my four takeaways to better help navigate and understand the experience. At the very least, it’ll remind someone to bring earplugs for the club bangers they’ll inevitably hear from their hotel room.

1. Year 1 is for learning

Our amazingly awesome Cannes guru, Karen Cage from KLD Consulting, said it best: “Take it all in. This year is to listen and learn so you can be pros next year.”

There is so much to see that we spent a full day just getting the lay of the land. There are day-long sessions at the main venue, and big tech giants like Spotify, TikTok and Meta also sponsored beach cabanas with their own schedules. Notable brands like The Female Quotient and The Wall Street Journal had the same. In addition, there was a row of yachts rented by various companies who were inviting people to exclusive events and cocktail hours that overlooked the Mediterranean.

Since there is so much content to consume it’s difficult to schedule all the sessions you want to attend. And lines build up for big sessions. This year, the room was packed for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address on the power of creativity to promote change and on Ukraine’s bravery in their battle with Russia.

My advice: pick the sessions you want to see before you arrive, and make sure that they are spread out.

2. “That’s hot”

So, you may be wondering how one is supposed to dress “profesh” but also practically, so your hair doesn’t get stuck to your face by the time you get to the festival strip.

Because it’s over 85 degrees and humid this time of year, our guru Karen mentioned that people dressed more casually — I believe her exact words were that the dress code was “exclusive club chic” — so linen and short sleeves are the way to go. Check the weather app a few weeks before the event to see what you’re in for.

And bring whatever you know you would need in hot weather, including a hat, sunglasses and an umbrella or face fan if you’re fancy. It’s also vital to bring multiple forms of sunscreen. I brought a sunscreen face stick, Chapstick with SPF, and an SPF 50 sunscreen spray that I would spray throughout the day.

3. Be prepared

There are many little things to think about when packing and traveling to Cannes.

Here are a few things you should bring:

4. It’s one of the best places to network

Cannes is a top-tier place for networking and conversations. Between the sessions and various sponsored lounges/beaches, there are many people eager to network. It made the initial awkwardness of networking practically non-existent!

I recommend having one day where you are camped out at one location so you can meet new people. For example, on day 1, our principal Curtis Sparrer spoke at The Female Quotient’s Equality Lounge, and we spent hours ahead of his session in this one location, which ended up being the best idea. There were many people filtering through that one suite, making it easy to speak to a variety of people.

I also recommend signing up for the sponsored happy hours that happen all week. Something about being right on the beach with a cocktail in hand makes networking so easy!