FFF 2020 - Virtual Conference
Introducing our Fast Forward Forum ambassadors

This year we welcome back three very special speakers and thinkers from FFF 2018: entrepreneur Dhiraj Mukherjee, author and technologist Pete Trainor and marketer and innovator Matteo Atti.

Matteo Atti

Matteo Atti is the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Innovation for VistaJet, the first and only global private aviation company.

Robin Farmanfarmaian

Professional Speaker, Entrepreneur, Angel Investor and Author

Markus Hengstschläger

Markus Hengstschläger, PhD, Prof. studied genetics at the University of Vienna. He is author of 3 Bestseller books & the head of the Institute of Medical Genetics at the Medical University of Vienna.

Heather Mills

Heather founded the plant-based Vegan food company VBites. She has encountered an unusual life of extraordinary circumstances with an inert ability to defy and conquer anything that falls in her path.

Dhiraj Mukherjee

Co-Founder Shazam Entertainment. Recognised by the Financial Times as one of Europe’s Top 50 technology entrepreneurs.

Pete Trainor

Author, behavioural designer, technologist, accidental polymath, mental health campaigner and co-founder of US Artificial Intelligence in London.

Matteo Atti

What do you ask yourself when you look for innovation? Where to start to do things you have never done before?

Ask people you don’t know. People you trust are the best in their fields. Listen to their ideas. Listen to their thoughts. Their concerns. Their hopes.

Distil it and bring it into a new scenario – what does it look like now, under a different light, a different paradigm?

The Fast Forward Forum is a place for the ideas you were not looking for, and that would have not happened otherwise. It is a moment to open your ears and let your brain roam free into a pool of colourful, floating thoughts, that mix incessantly.

Meet people hand-picked for their energy and their willingness to look at the world with fresh eyes to change it for the better.

Be ready to expose your opinions, don’t play it safe.

Take back your time’s worth in ideas, and a new network of peopelt o develop them after the forum ends.

And why not – splash in a real pool, enjoy a glass and listen to opera while you’re there!

Robin Farmanfarmaian

The Fast Forward Forum last year was an amazing experience. I rarely get a chance to bond with other innovative and influential people in such an intimate and high-end setting. The series of 20 minute talks plus discussion was a step above other events, as we interacted as a group. One of the most special aspects that happened after the event is the community of friends that was created. We all keep up to date with each other on a group chat, even a year out!

If you are looking for a high end, exclusive experience with innovative people, FFF is the way to go.

Markus Hengstschläger

The Fast Forward Forum is unlike any conference you’ve been to before. It is a small, beautifully curated weekend of thought-provoking lectures from world-class speakers, with interaction from a select group of delegates – or ‘thinkers’ – whose aim is to challenge or add to the discussion at hand.

Speakers and thinkers alike come from a diverse mix of industries, professions and academia, with a brief to defy the status quo and imagine the best possible future(s) across such topics as education, technology, nutrition, creativity and more.

As a speaker I hope I encouraged the audience to ‘think again’ about how we educate our youth and as a thinker I know I came away with opinions on and questions about issues I had not yet then considered.

Heather Mills

It’s an ambitious idea: bring together a small group of innovators and thinkers from across various and varied fields of work to talk about the future as we see it. I was asked to speak and couldn’t resist – and I’m glad I didn’t. Bringing together experts in very different areas led to what on paper would be very unlikely synergies.

Here was a bunch of like-minded people who all wanted to make a difference by doing something, not simply talking about it. And we’ve all had a positive effect on each other within our own industries.

Come with an open mind; come ready to listen, to learn, to contribute – come prepared to change minds, and to have your own view of the world challenged. Come prepared to step defiantly outside your comfort zone yet in an environment that is as inclusive and inviting as it is demanding.

Come with the expectation that this is not – as is modestly billed – a three-day ‘anti’ conference but a springboard for all your future thinking. Together, with each small step, we can help change the world!

Dhiraj Mukherjee

As the co-founder of music discovery service Shazam I am often asked to speak at events the world over on my thoughts on innovation, entrepreneurship and emerging technology. So often, in fact, that I have joked to my wife and colleagues that I need a digital ‘me’ – a hologram that would allow me to be in two places at once.

The opportunity to speak at the Fast Forward Forum, however, both intrigued and terrified me. This was no keynote on a stage in front of hundreds or thousands but an intimate almost tete-a-tete with a curious bunch of business and academic minds just metres in front of me. I was, in fact, to be the first Fast Forward Forum speaker at the inaugural event.

I had little idea of what to expect, or how my talk of ‘Why Thinking Like a Kid Can Help Seal Future Success’ would appeal to this diverse group of bright people.

As it happens, the potentially cliched business talk I could have given naturally gave way to a much more personal, almost confessional, speech on my hopes and fears for my own children and how they could – or should – find their way in today’s fast-changing world. I had as many questions as answers: this speech quickly became a conversation. Suddenly we really were all in this project together.

Yet my role as a speaker was only part of the experience. Session over, I too became a thinker – interacting intently over the course of the seven remaining, inspiring slots, and over the coffee breaks, lunches, dinners and outings that comprised the rest of the programme. I can honestly say that I was inspired by each of those sessions, some led by people I knew either personally or by reputation, others who were strangers to me. I didn’t agree with everything that everyone said, but that isn’t the point: it got me, us, thinking and challenging our own views as well as those of others.

Would I do it again? Well, I intend to be back for Venice as one of Fast Forward Forum’s first ambassadors, where I hope to learn, share and help keep the conversation going.

Pete Trainor

About a year ago I was contacted by the organisers of the Fast Forward Forum, to see if I wanted to speak at their inaugural event in St Tropez. It was ambiguous, to say the least—many unanswered questions, and no clearly defined brief—nothing in terms of a theme or objectives. Just a request to come out to France and talk about something I’m professionally passionate about. It made me nervous. I’m a control-freak. I like to know what I’m signing up for when I’m invited to speak at an event, not to be awkward or complicated, but because I want to do the very best job possible for organisers.

‘Fast Forward’ 5 months since the event, and after agreeing to go on the journey, I’m looking back fondly on an experience that helped me grow not just as a speaker, but as a person. The whole adventure and the people I met on the way made me realise that it’s the times when I am far outside my comfort zone that I experience myself the most. The further I get away from myself, the more challenging it is. It turns out that not being in your comfort zone is actually great fun. It wasn’t that there was no structure to the event, it was that it wants to be something new, something different, something more akin to a festival-of-thinking than a conference of presentations.

I’ve never really a lot of value on my unstructured thinking, I always assumed people were buying my structure, so stepping outside of my comfort zone, taking those unsure steps, and throwing myself at this new challenge, I discovered a smile I didn't know I had and uncovered feelings that I didn't realise existed… It’s been and continues to be an enriching experience.

At its heart, Fast Forward Forum is all about people. People using the power of communication in a myriad of ways, both simple and extraordinary. This can be a combination of many things — to help redistribute power, give agency to people, help people make more informed decisions, create ways for people to connect, participate, address issues like health or creativity. It’s a bridge between different modes of thinking from all the various attendees, who on the surface conflict in many ways, but underneath all share the same drive to leave the world in a slightly better place than when they found it.

At the end of each session there is an opportunity for everyone to input, discuss, feedback, even criticise what has been said. It reminded me that contained within every effort, every step, and every so-called failure draws us all closer to our goal  —  to broaden our knowledge and keep progressing forward. Nothing is wasted. No attempt has been in vain. Even when the feedback comes (and trust me it can be brutally honest), it’s done in the spirit of progress. Building these connections with people, feedback, discussion and candour is the heartbeat of the Forum and something that works in surprising ways.

I spent a lot of time sitting on my own, thinking about each session, and also on the feedback I received from my session. This quote by Lao Tzu kept popping into my head on many of those occasions as a reminder to allow the process of life to unfold: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be a reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Which is to say, if you do decide to come into this experience at the Fast Forward Forum, the only way to do it is to accept that this is not something you have never done before, regardless of age, seniority, or perceived wisdom, and embrace that uncertainty. Wear it like a blanket.

Heimo reminded us that it is our responses to life are paramount to the level of personal growth we undertake. Words so wise when applied in the context of this event. Most people thrive in ideal situations, although this does not test one’s character. Over those few days in a safe environment, with good food, good scenery, and outstanding people, something profound started to occur— I began to let go, and embrace a situation that I had perceived to be unideal. As it all unfolds you begin to trust in that process of uncertainty. To realise that actually, chaos can be a beautiful thing. Like any journey, we all have the intention to reach one’s destination, which is typically heralded by a goal or a plan, and I think we’re all smart enough to realise that you can’t anticipate the rough waters ahead. That is, we know we might have to sail our boat in uncharted waters to reach your final destination.

Of course, you could go to one of the many other conferences across the world, and sit in a room with a really fantastic presenter, talking about how they conquered adversity or discovered a new formula for success. But sometimes familiarity keeps you safe and frequently stuck and stagnant. Most people are quite content to sail through life impervious to their potential. They would instead not take risks in the event the outcome does not emerge as they hoped for. If you are one of those people, then perhaps a trip to the Fast Forward Forum is not for you. But if you are someone willing to embrace change, do something unexpected, then it’s possible that these few days will give you much more than you’ve experienced before.

Oh, and before I forget, you’ll laugh a lot -- you have to laugh in these awkward, unusual situations, it’s part of the coping mechanism, and we definitely had a lot of fun.

What the Fast Forward experience gives you is a group of like-minded people who understand you’ll need support one day, and are all there to be that support when you get lost, but also upon leaving the event itself, you start to understand that we’re all on the same uncharted journey and that we’ve all experienced uncertainty. It just gets more comfortable when it’s done together.

That’s why I’m proud to be an Ambassador for the Forum. Because I’m proud of what we achieved last year, and I’m confident the next Fast Forward Forum will only be more significant, better, more uncomfortable and more rewarding. I’m so pleased to be one of the many pillars that hold up the roof for all the attendees to shelter under in the future. See you in Venice.