I’m over the jet lag but still overwhelmed by the tremendous feat of the London Olympics. In addition to the games and festivities, there were plenty of good communications to observe on the other side of the pond. London’s integrated communications program included a terrific app for updates on the latest competitions, giant screens broadcasting live in parks across the city, and bright pink signage directing visitors to every event venue. It was easy to find out where to go and how long it would take to get there.
But signage and online communications didn’t create the festive mood and welcoming spirit that London exuded. For that, London relied on the oldest form of communication—people talking to each other. Thousands of British volunteers donned purple jackets and spent days on street corners, in underground stations and around event venues. They were the cheerleaders for the city, welcoming guests, answering questions, and smiling nonstop. As a visitor I felt the love, Olympic size. No technology could have replaced those folks.
Of course, they were human and thus not at all perfect. We got some contradictory answers when looking for a place to watch the opening ceremony. From that standpoint, volunteer training could certainly have been improved. But for this communication strategist, it reinforced the fact that no slick product can replace a warm smile from someone offering you help.