I attended the inaugural Traverse City Young Professionals conference (Link) yesterday and I would like to congratulate the organizers for putting on a well planned, professional and successful event. I’d also like to thank the speakers, whose presentations are summarized below. The conference was rewarding in that I was exposed to community leaders I had not yet met and I had the chance to meet other young professionals in the area. I’m finding the Young Professionals to be, like many of the other events that are new to me, a vibrant group/event that adds texture and viability to Traverse City.
The conference was comprised of four speakers and a panel. My thoughts on each are below.
Onlee Bowden is the owner of Onlee Bowden and Associates (Link) where she provides professional speech training. Onlee’s presentation was excellent. She did a wonderful job of both showing and telling how even someone who is deathly afraid of public speaking could conquer their fears and “turn nervousness into excitement.”
Onlee made two points with regard to public speaking:
- Fear is misunderstood – you should set it beside you, not let it upstage you.
- Structure is freedom – you should have a basic outline, but allow room for your speech to breath.
I’ve never been a big fan of public speaking, and I’ve had some horrible experiences where I was ill prepared and performed poorly and was so nervous that my voice was quivering. I will take to heart her advice from the conference and hopefully be a better public speaker in the future.
Jodi Mallow Mass is the co-founder along with Michelle Corteggiano of ATI Attraction Marketing (Link), which is “your number one source for Integrating social media into your business marketing plan.” There is a lot of value in Jodi’s presentation. I have long been an early adopter of social networks and social media. At one point, Jodi put up a slide of what appeared to be the logos of 30 to 40 different social networking websites. I couldn’t find one that I have not, as some time, been a member of. Then she put a slide up that read, “We recommend you join three to four.” Ha!
In speaking with family, friends and business people, there is a growing curiosity and realization that Facebook and Twitter are legitimate sources of business. Jodi did a great job breaking this down by speaking about the value of having a Facebook page versus just creating a group. She also touched on where the value of Twitter lies – you get multiple answers instantly instead of waiting weeks.
There was one point that Jodi made that hit close to home. She complimented Traverse Legal on leveraging social networks to help build a legal practice and also stated that, traditionally, lawyers are slow to adapt such new methods. What she said is true, but I’m not sure it is because attorneys do not realize the value of tying into social networks. It may be because they recognize that the value is not yet there for them. As a young attorney, I see the value and will push for such a presence in whatever firm I become a part of. A small effort writing a blog, Tweeting links to legal articles, or developing a following on Facebook.
In sum, a few of Jodi’s points were:
- Ready. Fire. Aim.
- Alot a set amount of time to manage your social network presence, which hits close to home for me. It’s always seemed to take way too much of my time!
McKeel Hagerty is the CEO of Hagerty Insurance Agency (Link), which insures classic cars and boats. McKeel’s talk focused on branding and leadership, and was most like the presentations I saw at Pop!Tech and have watched in TED videos. There was a lot of substance that indicated depth, which is exactly what I am looking for in a conference. I want to be exposed to new books, ways of thinking, and experiences.
Some of the highlights of McKeel’s talk were:
- Make your brand savory – which is to say that, like Nike, Apple, and Vigrin, your brand should evoke a strong emotion, trigger a very precise memory, and provide a leading gut feeling.
- Step away from your company from time to time to evaluate what you are doing right and wrong. I am a huge believer in this through out life, and have found it good to “look at the big picture” when I need to bring things back into focus.
- Consumer trust was demolished post-9/11. I’ve heard this before, but haven’t revisited it. It’s an interesting concept to keep in mind and emphasizes how hard a company has to work to captivate its customer base.
- There is huge value in being the best in your category, especially over the long run when your customers perceive your quality to be better even if it is not. Again, strength of brand.
- Have a carefully crafted story about yourself. This reminded me of the concept of “elevator pitches” in which you have a soundbite to pitch yourself to a prospective boss in an elevator ride. But, it’s bigger than that. It’s about being able to tell your life story and be proud of who you are, how you got to where you are, and that you know where you would like to go.
- Eastern vs. Western Shepherding – or, rather, leading vs. managing. Be a leader.
- “Have a James Bond.”
- Writing is the most critical element in business. This resonated with me, being both a writer and highly valuing writing myself. It is lost on a lot of people. The skill goes far beyond what can be auto corrected in a word processing program.
- Annual goal setting – I’ve tried to do this, but have not stuck to it. A friend of mine does a good job of this, and I hope to do a better job of setting goals and then striving to achieve them.
As I’ve said, McKeel gave me a lot to think about. I found his life trajectory interesting. He grew up in Traverse City, moved away for many years and then returned to Traverse City. I’ve recently returned after having been away for school and work for nine years.
Joan Jackson spoke about how to get into community and political leadership. She has a few interesting anecdotes about being on campaigns in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but was hard to hear and understand. It would be interesting to speak with her individually, as I think I would get more out of that than I did from her talk. She led in to the panel session.
Panel: State Senator Jason Allen, Mayor Michael Estes, and incoming mayor Chris Bzdok.
I found what each of the panelists had to say interesting, but the questions presented were repetitive. It may have been beneficial to open up the panel to the audience and allow for some more specific questions beyond, “How can young professionals get involved?”
I enjoyed speaking to the panelists afterward. Each was approachable and eager to talk. Bzdok made a comment that being mayor means being a conduit for the public’s voice – as mayor you listen to the public then try to accomplish tasks set forth and deal with issues raised. To my surprise, it was less about achieving your own vision, which was my perception of national politics. I have no experience in politics, but would like to get more involved. I hope to learn more from experiences like the panel and from speaking with local representatives.