Hello listeners! This podcast was recorded at Coworking Europe in Warsaw in 2019.
Our guest is Marc Navarro who runs the Coworking Academy in CU Asia Conference and is head of content for the long-running annual Coworking Spain conference. Marc is a well-known consultant and friend to the coworking industry in Europe.
In this podcast, Marc talks about how coworking can connect with the local area and how his team did this with a space in Barcelona back in 2013.
He also chats about the role conferences have in promoting and cultivating the Coworking industry and how the content that is being presented is more important than ever.
Marc also is big on equality. He encourages an equal number of female and male speakers with the conferences he manages. And how he has a strict plan on making sure that these speakers in the Coworking Spain conferences have great talks and slides.
On why Marc insists of having great content on Coworking Spain Conferences, he shares:
“I really, really care about people. When you are organizing a conference. I mean, in this case, because I’m the content manager of Coworking Spain conference, this is this will be my fourth edition.
On the top is that people are spending a lot of money to come to a conference. Right, so it’s not just the people.
It’s a ticket, the flight or the train or whatever transportation method he or she takes, but it’s also the accommodation, it’s the job he or she’s not doing his/her business.
So somebody has to do that and maybe he’s hiring someone or asking a favor to a member that he will need to pay after, whatever right so it’s a lot of money it’s maybe from 6- 800 to 1000 depending on conference location etcetera.
So as a Content Manager, you must respect that. Right. So, let’s say, for the easy way you cannot offer shit. Because our job as Content Manager is to guarantee that was being offered is top quality.”
You can get tickets to all the conferences mentioned in this podcast here
Bernie J Mitchel 0:07
Welcome to Coworking Values, the podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of accessibility, community openness, collaboration, and sustainability.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:19
Thank you so much for listen to the Coworking Values podcast. Also thank you to Cobot, which is a coworking software company. They build really slick, gorgeous bouncy software that helps you organize everything human space from meeting rooms to renting desks to opening the door. They’re one of these companies that have been around and grown with coworking. They started out by running their own coworking space and built some software to run that coworking space, and that’s how they ended up in the coworking space software industry.
Bernie J Mitchel 00:48
I was at a Coworking Europe Conference a few years ago, and there’s a big panel discussion, and someone said, “I don’t know how you can run a space without software”. So, if you’re one of those people with spreadsheets, apps and bits of string all taking up your time, sign up to Cobot, go to firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll get a one-month free trial. Cobot integrates with lots of things you use already like included in slack and Mail Chimp and you can do everything in one place. Thanks to Cobot and thanks for your time spent listening to our podcast here today.
Bernie J Mitchel 1: 21
Hello ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got to say this podcast is overlooking the Great National Football Stadium in Poland because we’re here for the Coworking Conference. As my esteemed guest and I talk to you, we’re actually looking at the football pitch. Marc for this episode of the Coworking Values podcast, what is your name? What are you known for? And what would you like to be known for?
Marc Navarro 1:57
Wow, difficult question to start with. First, I want to say that this is not my normal voice, I have a huge cold. So, if you ever find me in any event, please do not talk about this interview. What I’m known for, and for what I would like to be known for? I think that I’m known for my coworking career, if I can say it like that. I have been working in one of the first coworking spaces, big ones in Barcelona, which was founded in 2013, and I’ve been working in the industry since 2011. I’m also the Content Manager of the Coworking Spain Conference. I have been organising the Coworking Academy in the CU Asia last edition 2019. I would like to be known because I help people, I guess.
Bernie J Mitchel 3:05
That’s so beautiful.
Marc Navarro 3:08
Maybe it’s a little bit silly, but that it’s how I feel.
Bernie J Mitchel 3:10
You do help people. I feel helped already, 3 minutes into the podcast. So, with all that how did you get into coworking? That’s a really good story as well.
Marc Navarro 3:22
I was raised as an industrial designer. I was working for several companies in Barcelona where I live, and I told them I was really tired of that environment. I mean some companies do not treat their workers well so yeah, I was really not happy with that. The opportunity to manage the Control Department of our Community Centre in Barcelona just appeared. It would mean for me to get 33 % of my current salary at that time, not 23% less, but 23% of the salary. I was really unhappy, and I decided to quit and go to work as a Control Manager then the company I was working for decided to start several projects, one of those was coworking space.
Marc Navarro 04:27
So back in late 2011, we started as a group of people looking for space and looking for all the information which was few around that time about coworking spaces, and the rule was that nobody from the group will work on the final project at the time, and they clearly broke the rule, and I’m happy they broke the rule because it made me become part of this industry at a time when it was not even an industry. It allowed me to become one of dinosaurs of coworking.
Bernie J Mitchel 5:22
Marc Navarro 5:25
Yeah, I like that. Okay, let’s use that word.
Bernie J Mitchel 5:32
This is interesting to me because I hate people think of you as like, another guy who talks about coworking. As we’ve talked about the conference and stuff that you’re very concerned with the role that coworking space plays in the local community. Yeah. You say that, rant about that if you like.
Marc Navarro 5:50
Yeah, back in those days when we started, it was something very different than it is now. Some people act like coworking space was like in a spaceship. I love this metaphor and you cannot act like spaceship lands in a certain place, and it’s completely isolated from its surroundings. You are going to a neighbourhood which is full of people who actually live there, and their lives have been there much earlier than you arrived there. Probably your activity becomes significant, it will affect their lives in some way. Maybe making the neighbourhood look cooler, so then prices can start rising. It’s not because of you, but you are a part of that situation, right, so when you’re moving somewhere, I think what you have to do is to understand what’s going on, to understand which kind of organizations are in that territory, and try to work with them and try to, put your small piece of sand in that pile, which is a neighbourhood.
Marc Navarro 07:23
The first thing we did when we opened the space for example, in 2016, it was open doors, so we had some activities, we explained to people in the neighbourhood, what was coworking, what we were doing there, and it was nice, and It’s also good for the business because both things can be developed. So, for me, one phrase I love, it’s a business with soul. So, I think we can do business because we have to be sustainable, we have to make money, but on the other hand, we can do that in a nice and good way and help our partners, neighbours, etc.
Bernie J Mitchel 8:07
When you opened that space and you had to open doors day, can you talk about how you got people to come into the space and what they thought? I know that’s a very long time ago now. Connecting with the local areas, really, it’s an art
Marc Navarro 8:14
It was not just me, it was a group of people managing the space. We came from a company that was managing those community centres, and so we were quite brutal to the territories in which we have operations. First, we did leaflets, and we sent them in all the post boxes around the neighbourhood and then we called it a leaflet drop. Yeah, we did that. We were not doing that every week, we did it once.
Marc Navarro 09:06
On the other hand, I personally went to some restaurants, so I had an excuse to have nice lunch in the neighbourhood and leaving the leaflets there. We talked to the restaurant owners, explaining that we’ve arrived in the neighbourhood. It was back in late 2012, early 2013, almost nobody knew what coworking was. So, it was a question we asked a lot around the neighbourhood, we asked a lot about how it was in the past few years, which was the evolution, which was a feeling of people about it, about the next future of it. We have all those conversations.
Marc Navarro 09:54
I’m against fast networking. I mean, if you like it, it’s okay. Any situation in which you end up with a bunch of contacts and you’re not able to form a sentence about that person, which makes sense, and you have just a flat view of that person, for me, it has no meaning.
So what I wanted it to have depth and if I talk with someone, and I really care about what’s her life, what she’s doing for a living, host her business and what kind of people she hosts, is basically encodes a feeling of the neighbourhood, you know, and I’ve got a complete picture of her and she will probably end up having a complete picture of me. We did all that process.
Marc Navarro 10:51
On the day of the event, there was a pedestrian street full of bars, so we went there, well I was not doing that, a colleague of mine was doing that, she went there and was giving leafers and telling people, hey, we’re presenting a new coworking space, which is in the neighbourhood. People were asking “what’s a coworking space”? She said go there, and they will explain, and people had queries about it, and it was a huge success. I think it was like, four or five hours, and yeah, maybe in the morning it was not very full of then until the end. We have not only the staff of the space helping us, but we have like plenty people from the whole company helping us to explain, otherwise we cannot handle that. So, it was a pretty nice moment.
Bernie J Mitchel 11:54
Oh, so then this happened. Awesome. So, what did you take from that, that you apply today, that is a valuable piece of experience as you’re going out and connecting with people and a couple of projects? What do you take from that and teach to people nowadays? Because there is this mixture of like I’ve got to get more leads and you know and all these things, getting people to come into your space and hand over their money, and be part of what’s going on for the benefit of their own thing is really important but it seems like this mystery of how to.
Marc Navarro 12:32
The industry changed a lot, you know, and that is my opinion, it’s not to say that is it the right thing, it’s just what I think. I’m more into the let’s get good leads than let’s get obnoxious amount of leads. The industry right now, as far as I know, and experiences I had later, showed me that the people are really obsessed with the amount of leads they got, and they are trying to get huge amounts of leads and they are working proactively in getting leads and it’s kind of crazy.
But atleast for these spaces, like individual spaces, which are now part of a huge plan, and maybe you have two or three locations. For me it was having good leads, and I used to, and I’m known for that. I used to spend like something between 60 minutes and 90 minutes with someone who was visiting the space after an email saying “hey, I want to visit” .They normally proceeded with emailing you saying they want to visit and it really worked.
Marc Navarro 14:03
I remember one conversational with one member, she became a member, you reminded me of that situation and she told me, well I thought that if this guy spends 90 minutes with me and I’m nothing for him right now, if I become a member, he will really let his face be broken for me, right? It is like that because I care about people. So, the point was that, right now it’s much different than what it was before. I prefer getting quality leads. I prefer treating people as real human beings, not just numbers and just forwarding a PDF with an offer which they can probably find on your website. I would say that I am more on the qualitative side than I am on the quantitative side let’s leave it like that.
Bernie J Mitchel 15:17
I think that more time you spend researching, and meeting people, and connecting, people give you as much time as you give them, that type of thing. Well, I want to leap on to the Coworkers Spain conference, you can tell me about the history? because something I love the way you make everybody send you their presentation before they do it. That obviously contributes to the high standard of talk and content on there.
Marc Navarro 15:55
The thing with conferences is, I’m quite picky with everything and especially with what I do and that there’s something also relating to the way I see life is that I really care about people and when you are organizing a conference, and in this case, because I’m the content manager of the Spain conference and this will be my 4th edition doing that job, what’s important is that people are spending a lot of money to come to our conference. So, it’s not just a ticket, it’s a ticket, the flight or the train or whatever transportation method he or she takes, but it’s also the accommodation, it’s the job, he or she’s not doing his or her business. So, somebody has to do that, and maybe he’s hiring someone or asking a favour to a member and that he will need to pay after whatever, so it’s a lot of money. It’s maybe from 600 to 1000 depending on the conference location, etc. So as a Content Manager, you must respect that.
Marc Navarro 17:08
So, let’s say it uneasy way you cannot offer shit, because our job as Content Managers is to guarantee that what’s being offered is half quality. Right? So first of all, what I do is, I have a conversation with someone, which I think is maybe interesting for the conference. In that conversation, I have a previous idea about what I want to talk about, I may change my mind and discover something even greater than that, which is much more interesting for the people. After having had that conversation, afterwards I send a briefing to them and they must confirm or ask me for changes in that briefing until a point in which we agreed that was the subject that it will be discussed in the conference.
So, then it’s the point where they send me the presentations, and then sometimes I have to make a call and say, “hey what did you sent me, it does not matter briefing”, well, maybe, in some cases, it’s even better so, I don’t make the call, but if I think it is good content and it matches our goal with that panel, but if it does not match, and I think it’s not good, then we will have to make a phone call. We did it. And to say that we didn’t do it a lot because all these processes guarantees that the presentation is good in most cases.
Marc Navarro 18:53
We did it two times, I’m not going to say with whom, one was a very small organization, one was a really huge organization, and they both agreed and showed a really good attitude. Because at the end, if you are not taking the hand of the person who’s having that and I don’t mean that they are children, I mean helping them to understand what you want, what you are looking for in that talk, if you’re not helping them through that, you cannot expect them to do it right. So, it’s a matter of communication, right? So, it’s like, hey, Bernie, I want you to talk about this and then say “okay”, and then you go home, and you have thousands of questions. But, if I send you a briefing, then it’s like okay, this is the frame, these are the main points he wants to talk about because it all is written there. If there’s something wrong, you say “Hey Marc this is wrong”, you know, but it’s about this process. I think that people deserve that.
Marc Navarro 20:18
There’s something I would like to add, we are in a part of the human history, in which a lot of factors like, diversity, gender issues must be observed. In my case as the Coworking Spain Conference Content Manager, I have to take care of the men and women speakers balances as a speaker. Last year by the way, I got a 55% of women speaking. It was not easy, because a lot of the top positions in the companies are male, so we had to work harder for that, but it was worth it. We cannot expect women to fight this battle alone.
Marc Navarro 21:13
Then I also had to take care of the territory breach. So, it’s not the same in the case of big cities and small towns, I have to care about new operators and old operators. I have to care about small spaces and big spaces. So, there are a lot of breaches, there are a lot of different publics and possible combinations, which you have to take care of, also there’s the national Espanol scene and the European or international scene. Last year, we had speakers around Europe and around the US. I mean last year we had half of the conference, this year we are going for 100% of the conference translated. So, there will be headphones.
Marc Navarro 22:13
We are working to have 100% of it in English. I cannot confirm it yet, but we’re working for that. Last year, Cobot sponsored the translation, and we hope this year we can do a full translation for everything. We would like to invite people from abroad, people listening to this podcast to come to the Coworking Spain Conference because it’s much more than just our country. By that we are talking about things which are meaningful for at least all of Europe, and in some cases, all over the world.
Bernie J Mitchel 22:56
Yeah, I think it was it was a very intimate and I got to speak to everybody, I was really impressed, one, the quality, in fact, there was translation there. The little touches like that made it feel more inclusive anyway, and it made it feel like a lot of effort had been gone into it. And I brought that up about the talks because I read a tweet at the top of my Twitter that says, “I was going to organize a conference for privileged white men in London for coworking but it’s a saturated market”. It’s amazing how so constantly on this podcast, how many conferences you go to, like white men, people like you and me. I don’t put myself forward for speaker conference because I get a lot of airplay anyway. But we don’t need another white man talking about coworking. The public conscious effort like with you at Coworking Spain and Misha seeping into that is a really important thing. How can I say hysterically, I’m amazed at how bigger, more established industry conferences like sleepwalking into allowing rows and rows of privilege white men to.
Marc Navarro 24:28
Yeah, I mean, it’s my job at the end. I have a friend. He has a bike shop in Barcelona. He told me once it’s not true that doing a good job and a bad job means the same effort. It’s much harder to work on the right way. So, making sure that last year’s figures were 55% women speakers was tough. It was tough to get that feeling, and we must do it. It’s an effort that is worth it and getting 55% of the content related to spaces in Madrid and Barcelona. Getting 45% all over the world and the rest of Spain is cool. On the other hand, getting like 74% of the speakers were new speakers to the conference, they had never talked before, it was tough.
Marc Navarro 25:55
I mean, you have to work to get those figures and it’s not easy, but it’s my job, and I want to do it well because people deserve that I care about these things. It’s not just me, it’s Emmanuel, the CEO of the conference and he’s responsible. So, at the end, it’s a puzzle of people who work to make a community of people come to the conference, enjoy. Yeah, it’s a place to meet. I have also been part of the CU Asia last year, and I also learned a few quite good things from Stephen Row about caring about people, about how people are treated I mean need to be treated. What they do deserve. Which only makes my will stronger to do a conference in Spain.
Bernie J Mitchel 27:12
Awesome. We’re going to wrap up now, and you can shamelessly plug Coworking in Spain. I also encourage you to go back a few episodes to meet with Eric. So, when we also talk about inclusion and diversity and echo what he said there about people. He said some people come to him and say, “do you know anyone in your space that does this”? and he’s a white guy. The first few people that pop in his head are white guys, because, you know, we know a lot of white guys. He’s conscious of the effort he has to put in to go and find people of a different gender and race than him, and so, it’s like a little bit of mental effort, but there’s a lead that has to be made, and being prepared to put in lead is what makes a difference.
Marc Navarro 28:01
For me, before, before is one year and a half ago. My approach to the situation was, I don’t care about your gender, I don’t care about your sex, I don’t care about your sexual orientation, you weight or your looks, because you’re a human being and I will treat you the same. But then a few things happened, a colleague of mine showed me and out of Google that the track where he had been thinking was on some sort of Google Map setting, and I was like, why do you have these? I mean, we know all the places you’ve been? she was like, well, I prefer these then if something happens to me, maybe they find will out what happened.
Marc Navarro 28:54
I was like, what the fuck? I mean, we’re in the 21st century. Is a woman still worried about this? And she actually was. So, I started to change my mind this way, so, for me, it was silly to have that discussion because for me, it’s silly to think that men or a woman or white or whatever, is on top of the others. But then I realized that if women feel unsure, feel a lack of security, if there’s a few people who are enforcing that kind of conversations, then this is not a silly subject. This is not something which is not worth discussing, because it’s clear it needs to be discussed., because for some people, it’s not clear.
Marc Navarro 30:03
All of us have the obligation to put ourselves in the position of the people that are treated differently, otherwise, we will be failing as human beings. This was why I changed my mind and I’m much more active and much more fighting all these. If you’re listening, and you think it’s not worth the discussion, because it’s clear, I will invite you to think about what we have been discussing, because if you think there’s no discussion, but there are people who think and act like if it’d still s discussion , it’s worth for you to fight it. I mean, it’s a battle again, it’s a battle that we cannot leave women and minorities to fight alone.
Bernie J Mitchel 31:06
That’s an attribute I really appreciate from you my friend.
Marc Navarro 31:07
Bernie J Mitchel 31:08
Where can people find you in Spain?
Marc Navarro 31:13
People can find me in Barcelona. So, if you ever visit drop a coffee.
Bernie J Mitchel 31:16
You can’t drop a coffee, is it like throwing beer glasses down?
Marc Navarro 31:25
Sorry just come, I will invite you to have coffee. You can find me at marcnavarro.com, and Twitter I’m @Marcnavarro and on Instagram I’m Marc.navarro but not liking Instagram a lot, so better Twitter. Drop an email or go through to my website and drop me an email. My phone is also there. Feel free to let me know what you think, if there is something that I have been talking about. in this podcast made sense, let me know if you
Bernie J Mitchel 32:17
Any idea when Coworking Spain is going to happen? Time of the recording. We can link share notes when it’s announced.
Marc Navarro 32:22
Yeah, that’s a very nasty question. The thing is that we have a location it’s not 100% confirmed, so I cannot disclose, and we have dates which are linked to our location, they are not 100% disclosed. I will risk a bit, and what I’m going to say is that it will be on the 23rd and 24th of April, still yet to be confirmed. I cannot tell the city until it’s confirmed.
Bernie J Mitchel 33:04
Somewhere in Spain. If you’re going to fly to Madrid or Barcelona, it will be really easy to get to somewhere wherever it needs to be,
Marc Navarro 33:17
It will be easy to reach if the location is the one which is confirmed, that’s like 90% confirmed but not 100%. It’s a location which has a lot of international flights. Yeah. So, from most European capitals
Bernie J Mitchel 33:38
Is it Pacha in Ibiza?
Marc Navarro 33:44
No, no, no, it’s not. It’s not Pacha. It’s a nice location. We need to confirm it 100%, and we are going to confirm it, I hope next week, but it’s not., It’s something that cannot be told yet. We are really happy enough that we will have a date and a location for public knowledge.
Bernie J Mitchel 34:17
If you listen to this after the event after that announcements been made, you can find it on the Coworking Assembly website for sure, and you can also have a link in the show notes. So, that is it.