New Year Bringing New Lessons from Life

We’re approaching episode 100 of the Making a Marketer podcast (!!), and this season I decided there will be occasional episodes where it’s just me–this is the second one of this kind (check out episode 89 for the other).

Taking what seems like just circumstances and seeing it in a different way! There are so many lessons in everyday life–we need to look for them. The lessons in this one didn’t creep-up on me, y’all – they just about slapped me in the face!

Holiday adventures, lesson from football, and new year / new work are all covered.

Could This Snowed-In Story be a Metaphor for Life Choices?

Have you ever been snowed-in? As someone who grew up in silicon valley, we only had snowPhoto of my car snowed-in in the lower Sierras of Northern CA after Christmas 2021 once in my childhood – and though it was just a dusting, we lost our minds, it was so cool!

I’ve had people tell me they would absolutely love being snowed-in and cut off from the world, a sort of forced tech detox, if you will. But, here’s the thing… without knowing when it will end? 

The day before I was supposed to leave my brother’s house (the day after Christmas) in the lower Sierras of northern California, the snow began to fall. It was so pretty and I was really happy about it! I did not think through how I would drive away from there in my front-wheel-drive Honda Civic, but it had never snowed enough to keep me there in year’s past.

Being without power for a day and a half is also disconcerting. Thankfully, my brother and his wife have a wood burning stove that heats the house (primarily), so we stayed warm!

I found myself being so grateful for my charging brick so we could at least listen to music. I also realized I had downloaded a movie from Netflix and had some shows on my iPad, so we ended up having some entertainment! I read a lot. I colored. I slept well.

My car being hooked up to be towed out of the snow and iceBy the time I was five days into being STUCK, my brother asked if I have AAA?

Aaahhhh, and there it was, my attitude improved – I felt the grumpiness leave my body, and I was able to enjoy our quiet little new years eve (with power, gratefully!) with a renewed sense of hope for getting my car towed out… and home the next day. Now, the getting out process wasn’t easy, but I did it!

Looking back, I’m playing Monday morning quarterback on that six days! I wish I wrote more. I wish I got more introspective. It’s the whole “If I knew then what I know now” kind of thing… But that’s always easier said than done, right? 

Lesson learned: I don’t do well feeling I don’t “have a way out” in any situation, so this was perhaps a metaphor to drive home this point – we should all get out (of whatever it is) earlier than we do. I didn’t want to drive on Sunday because the traffic was going to be nuts. Looking back, I should have spent the extra 2-4 hours driving home on Sunday so I wouldn’t have been stuck for almost 6 days! 

So I think we can do this in our business and personal lives. 

Exiting, saying goodbye — letting go of relationships, letting go of jobs, letting go of clients, whatever it is. Doing that sooner than it might feel comfortable, I think, is almost always going to yield more positive results. I think a lot of people who make change look back and say to themselves, I wish I had done this sooner.

Never. Give. Up. – Not a Cliche, y’all – But a REAL Thing!

I’m a huge sports fan, as many of you have come to realize over the years. Nothing makes me quite as happy as my team winning or as cranky as my team losing. My non-sports-fan-friends, please bear with me on this one–the lesson is life and business-related, I promise!

2019 was a dream year for my football team – the San Francisco 49ers. We started out 8-0,Photo of me and my sister Maureen after the 2019 Divisional Round win over the Vikings clinched home field advantage in the playoffs early, and it was so insanely exciting because they had been terrible the previous five years. This was our year! Of course, it ended with a Super Bowl loss to my co-host Jen’s Kansas City Chiefs, which was soul-crushing, but that season was such an amazing ride.

2020 was full of “you know what” and a TON of injuries. We were terrible, which got us a high draft pick for 2021. What came with that was all sorts of quarterback controversy this year.

Think whatever you like about Jimmy Garoppolo’s abilities as a quarterback, but he has led this team on and off the field with so much grace. A rookie quarterback came in and cast a shadow in a way, but it also lit up a competition the fans took to crazy levels. Jimmy never let all the noise seep in and destroy his ability to lead his team. They believe in him 100% because of his leadership.

Coming back the last week of the season from being down 17-0 to the LA Rams (winners of theMe in front of Levi's stadium with a Playoffs towel during the NFL Playoffs in 2019 NFC West division) and winning 27-24 in overtime is epic! It really was the last 2-minutes that were so extraordinary. A monster drive that ended with a touchdown to tie the game made overtime — and a chance to win, sending us to the playoffs — a reality. 

The pastor of the church I grew up in had a saying “Never give up” (I realize it did not originate with him, but that’s where I learned it). Sounds simple, but it is aPhoto of my church with the words "Never Give Up" on the outside of it challenge in the face of adversity (he also had it put on the building, as pictured to the right!).

No question, every human on this planet has been through plenty of adversity over the past couple of years.

If we’re able to keep our eye on what we’re working towards, the key is to stay at it. If I had given up on my business when my biggest client decided to shut down his business, I would not have had all of the great experiences and new relationships built over the past four years. Simply put, it hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t be where I am right now, which is exactly where I’m meant to be.

Lesson here: Keep your eye on the prize and keep a never give up attitude because doors will open that you did not expect. If you give up, you don’t know what could have been.

Quick Starts Are Deceiving (aka, good things come to those who wait)

That’s actually an awesome segue to my third and final lesson for this episode.

“It takes courage to begin. It also takes courage to end.”

-Mark W. Schaefer

In the last quarter of ‘21 when people told me “it looks like everything is going great for you,” I thanked them. And then I went on to explain to them “I’m a duck.” I wasn’t a duck because the water rolls off my back, but because on the surface things look cool – like I’m guiding across the water easily… but you know what’s happening under water, right? 

What you can’t see is all the kicking to keep moving and find my way to what is next. 

I spent the better part of 2021 – especially the last six months – searching in earnest for a new full-time professional “home.” 

While also knowing podcasting is something I wanted to lean-into further, I was in search for other opportunities there also.

TSNN's "Trade Show Talk" podcast logoAs I shared on the last episode, I’ve found a new professional home at Event Marketing Partners! This month it was also announced I am the host of Trade Show News Network’s new podcast, called “Trade Show Talk.” That show will also have two episodes per month, focusing on a different theme each month. We started out talking about Community and every person listening to this will benefit from the wisdom of the first two guests.

Did I mention I’m also hosting trivia weekly at a neighborhood bar/restaurant? I am.

All of this news caused someone on my Facebook page to comment “Congrats on a fast start to 2022!” to which I replied, “ ‘Fast start’ after many many months of working hard to make everything happen!!”

This brought to mind famous people I’ve heard commenting about people saying they are an “overnight sensation” – when it took them years of hard work to “get” that break!

Final lesson: Oftentimes it looks like things are just happening / coming together for people, but know that it’s extremely unlikely it happened overnight!

What’s Next for Making a Marketer?

Jen and I recorded episode 100 on Jan. 14th to accommodate our VERY amazing guest’s schedule and we can’t wait to share it with you (it will be published on Feb. 23)!! We’re keeping the person under wraps at the moment, but we will be dropping some hints in the lead-up to see if we can get any accurate guesses! 

Next up is Chad Illa-Peterson and we will talk storytelling – he’s going to help us learn how to discover our stories and the emotions that connect us with customers…

Do you have any examples of things you learned like I did over the last few weeks?

Here’s this podcast episode if you want to hear me talk everything in this post!

Business Lessons Pulled from Life

In 88 episodes of the Making a Marketer podcast I had never done a show with just me! I have been toying with the idea of creating a brief third episode each month that’s just me sharing what I learned that week, so perhaps this is a “toe dip” into that — I’ll see the feedback I get and maybe this will become a regular thing.

If you’d like to listen to it, this is it… and this is the transcript.Promo image for the Making a Marketer podcast with guest Megan Powers

As I entered into my recent BIG birthday week, it hit me that it’d be fun to have my friends and family share things they have learned from me throughout life that can be applied to business. Well, among the merriment, not thinking about work, and all the activities we had planned… that never happened.

SO! I thought I’d share things I learned throughout the week from these friends, family, and experiences that aren’t just business related, but SELF-CARE and personal-related. 

You get out of relationships what you put into them

I had three friends fly in who I have known since kindergarten and 5th and 6th grade. We don’t see each other super frequently, but these friendships have been nurtured over the years. You don’t still have friends for that many years by accident, though, right? It takes work! We do pick back up right where we left off because we have so much history, but we have been making an effort over the years to stay connected. I know I can count on these people for anything I need. One of my newer friends said that’s a testament to me as a person, but EVERY relationship takes 2!Four childhood friends celebrating a BIG birthday year

I fully believe this is the same thing in business. Relationships we build with co-workers, colleagues, and clients are worth continuing to nurture, regardless of whether they have something FOR you. There is a huge chance you all will be able to help each other in the near or distant future, Especially given the environment we’ve been in for the last 18 months through this pandemic where we aren’t having those in-office conversations like we used to, right?

Reach out to a couple of former bosses or colleagues, and set up a coffee or drink meetup — even if it’s over a video call! I feel super fulfilled every time I do — and we both get ideas for how we can help each other.

Having a plan is crucial, and being flexible about everything not going just as you planned is equally important

As I set out to celebrate this milestone birthday I wanted it to be a big deal. I’ve traveled to New Orleans, Vegas, Mexico, and Catalina for significant birthdays of friends, so I wanted mine to be a trip too. The MAIN reason for that was to get people to commit–to really commit to spending some quality time with me and our other friends. Combine still being in a pandemic with having some friends in education, this wasn’t the ideal time to have everyone travel.

I had the idea to have it be local — to get a beach house here in San Diego — and I sent out a preliminary survey to get the pulse… and no one was anti-SD (surprise!). I figured those staying at the house would go to everything and all the other events would not be over-crowded, so I’d have a chance to get QT with everyone. This didn’t go exactly as planned, however. There were some no-shows, surprise appearances, quick visits, some wrong directions taken (on me!), and we rolled with it.

The best laid plans as we plan events or do anything in business are just that – plans. It’s important to be flexible and understand (as hard as it might be in the moment) everything will work out as it should! You might not get the client you want, or as big a deal as you want, or as many participants as you want, but ultimately there will be a lesson at the end. When I worked in AV production I had several events in-a-row where there were failings of equipment or people that were totally out of my control. It was the most stressful time in my career.

Ultimately, my team pulled off what I felt was a really clean event. When I handed the recordings to my client at the party and asked her how she felt… she blamed us for some failings on her part. This “I just can’t win” moment is ultimately what pushed me toward a different career path. BOTTOM LINE: If something isn’t working for you? Make a change. I was over feeling that way and complaining about it, so I took immediate action and made a change.

Paddling against a strong current is hard, but worth the payoff
Megan on a Stand Up Paddleboard in Pacific Beach, CA

This house on the bayside in Pacific Beach had stand up paddle boards we could use and I had never done it, so I was super excited! One of my friends went first and she went far, really fast… And it took her a long time — and what looked like a circuitous route — to get back to where we were on shore. I was a little worried about trying to stand up the first time, so I started on my knees. I also started to turn around what felt like very quickly because it looked like it would be difficult.

A few days later I started out standing — had a better paddle — and a plan to stay close to shore. I didn’t fall and all was going according to plan until the current I was going against got stronger and stronger. I felt like I wasn’t moving there for a little while, despite how hard I was working!

It hit me this is a metaphor for my current professional journey. Sometimes it’s easy going and the wind is against our backs. And sometimes it feels like we aren’t moving forward or making any progress at all. The key is to not give up, but to keep paddling, no matter how hard it is. I was close enough to shore that I could have given up and walked the rest of the way, but I didn’t — I talked to some guys on shore who encouraged me! If you feel stuck or like you can’t move forward, talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend or a trusted colleague, or even a coach… someone else can help you through the rough spots and get you to shore.

We can all see business lessons that come from our everyday lives… Do you have any you’d like to share? I’d love it hear it!

I’d love to hear what you thought about this episode! I’m glad I was able to do it for this show.

Relationships Matter – An Open Thank You Letter

I’m not alone in calling Jessika Phillips a soul sister, but my (core) reason might be a bit different Photo of Megan Powers and Jessika Phillips at SMMW19 from others. It’s a little unorthodox to write a thank you letter openly as a blog post, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought there are some killer lessons to be learned from this gratitude.

So, here we go!

Jessika, I’m pretty sure I saw you speak before (I knew) we had mutual friends. Your talk was about relationship marketing and I had to be there to see if your viewpoint was in line with mine. I used to be in sales in the event space — first in a venue and then in audio visual production. I happened upon sales by accident, but I was pretty good at it. One thing I never did, though, was cold call or what I like to call “dialing for dollars.” 

See, I learned early on that I could attend industry conferences and networking events, and meet people who could become customers. I was strategic in which events I went to and with whom I (intentionally) spoke, but I never overtly sold to them. I established a relationship – they would learn what I do – and one day we might get an opportunity to work together (I built a $2.5 million book of business this way, btw).


Of course they matter because that’s how you build trust. A highly respected consultant in the AV space said once that people who claim they are “relationship sales people” are kidding themselves (I’m paraphrasing). Now, of course there was more dimension to the discussion, but I’ll never forget reading that and thinking – nah, not if you do it right.

THANK YOU, Jessika, for articulating the C.A.R.E. approach: “Capture Attention, Articulate Message, Relationships (for repeat and referral business), and Exceptional Experience” in your talks.

I was delighted to hear this was recognized as “a real thing” in marketing also, as I had seen it work for me first-hand in sales.

RETURN on Relationships

About 11 years ago I read a book called It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding. He talks about “relationship economics” or “relationship capital.” There are many levels to this (too much to get into in a thank you note!), but at the heart of it is what you teach, Jessika. One quote from his book highlights it well: “…it’s never been more important to figure out how an organization can give more than lip service to the idea of building a culture that values authentic relationships, because relationships have become the currency of the modern economy.” 

I know I’ve heard you say a version of this, and it’s remarkable how you not only walk the walk yourself, but you have built a culture in your company NOW Marketing Group where everyone is on board with this concept. And as an event professional myself, I was beyond impressed earlier this month to see how you built this concept and feeling into your conference, Social Media Week Lima (SMWL).

Your company, your event, your personal brand — they have all expanded because of who you are. Because you not only live in authenticity, empathy, curiosity, and gratitude, but you make those around you want to live in these too.

THANK YOU for proving that relationships matter, but also that we need to nurture them.


The Memory Jog slide from Chad Illa-Peterson's talk at SMWL21As Chad Illa-Peterson gave his talk at #SMWL21 on how we all have stories within us, he shared that our stories are our unique selling proposition. He provided some exercises we can do to work our creative storytelling muscles. After one of the exercises he shared I found myself thinking about how, exactly, I ended up in that event center in Lima, Ohio.

In brief (succinctly going back ~9 years)…

    • I worked for a non-profit where I needed to learn more about social media
    • I joined the San Diego Social Media Club 
    • The club had an event at a restaurant owned by a group I had worked for
    • I approached them and won the business (managed their marketing for 6.5 years)
    • Club members talked about an event – Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) in ’13
    • I attended SMMW14 where I made a ton of friends I still have today
    • I met Phil Mershon (SME’s SMMW Director of Events) in ’15 at the Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) Summit, and shared I had attended his event for the past two years
    • I got to know Phil and helped him with his audio visual production selection for the following year
    • I volunteered on the SMMW Community team, working under Jen Cole in ’17, and a wonderful friendship was formed
    • Jen and I started a marketing podcast with our friend Elizabeth in August of ’17
    • Jessika Phillips was referred to have on the podcast–and our relationship started
    • I got to know Jessika and this extended group of amazing friends over the years
    • Jessika hosted a networking event she invited me to at SMMW
    • I kept hearing about what a great experience SMWL was, but wouldn’t make 2020
    • 2020 happened and #SMWL20 did not
    • Jessika hosted me at #SMWL21
    • I made a handful of new contacts & friends – new relationships… What’s next?


Margo, Ali, and Megan holding Mark Schaefer's Cumulative Advantage booksAnother cool thing that happened at SMWL — Chad gifted me a signed copy of Mark Schaefer’s new book Cumulative Advantage. As I read this book, I can’t help but think it’s these relationships I’ve built over time that are cumulative. Those relationships I built while in sales? They are exactly what led to the success of my own business for almost eight years now! “Success is a collision of events” is one section of the book (in chapter two). I was able to build and maintain a successful business because almost all of my clients came by referral from this accumulation of relationships.

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about it in this exact way at the time, but I built relationships and did good work… Looking back, Mark has also made me realize I took specific actions to “sway serendipitous fate” in my favor. I intentionally built relationships, hoping they would bring me business in the short term, while knowing it was about more than that (even back then).

THANK YOU for bringing this incredible group of people together.

EVENTS In Person – They Hit Different

I nurtured existing friendships. I have a dozen new friends. I have several new podcast guests. And I have some potential for new business relationships. This happened because you brought us together and you enabled me to be there! 

Jennifer Watson on stage at SMWL21Jessika, you also put together a rockstar speaker lineup. I didn’t leave with a long list of tactics to put into place, but almost every speaker got me thinking — truly thinking — about how to move forward on goals I’m setting for myself.

Relationships are only as good as the work we put into them — we have to nurture them. Environments that meetings and events afford us provide the framework, but it’s the people who Chad Illa-Peterson on stage teaching about storytellingtruly make experiences memorable.

THANK YOU for all you do to teach about relationship marketing and for what you do to bring people together. I look forward to speaking with you and Mike Gingerich LIVE on Magnet Marketers on September 28th to explore exactly how events bring us together, and enable us to establish and nurture relationships.

I think this quote by Priya Parker from her book The Art of Gathering puts your event perfectly:
“A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others.” 


P.S. For those of you who are reading this (who aren’t Jessika)…

If you aren’t yet convinced relationships have a HUGE role in our marketing (nee, business), then you should sign up for this cool relationship marketing managers thing she has going.

Increase Profit and Innovation Through Inclusivity

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.

These are all words that have become part of our lexicon. They should have always been important and common, of course, and in recent years they have been amplified.

Never before had I heard someone put it in dollars and cents… In easy to understand terms where we not only have a better appreciation, but we also get true clarity on inclusion… Someone who clearly articulated we should show ourselves grace.

Melissa Majors is that person!

Behind the scenes image of Megan and Jen hosting episode 84 of the Making a Marketer podcast with Melissa Majors

BTS view of us recording the show using!

Melissa spoke at Global Meetings Industry Day this year and I knew in a matter of minutes that I wanted to have her on my Making a Marketer podcast. While my podcast is “for marketers,” just about every episode has value for those who work in business in any capacity. We made a concerted effort starting with season four to bring more diversity of look, voice, and thought to the show.

Which makes Melissa the perfect person as our final guest of season four.

“Growth-minded leaders recognize that inclusion is much more than a moral obligation; it’s a competitive advantage.”

Melissa shared a stat from Mackenzie and Company, which has been conducting research “to isolate the impact of inclusion on the bottom-line for businesses.” What they found is businesses that are the most inclusive are outperforming their competition with 49% higher profitability.

Wouldn’t you take almost a 50% higher margin for doing the right thing? Any company that wants to remain (or get) successful would.

Differences Between Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

“…it’s over engineered; everybody kind of lumps it all into one big thing… Diversity is variety. Equity is making sure people have what they need to thrive. And inclusion is involving others equally. Inclusion is action.”

Breaking it down like she does helps us to better understand how DEI should be viewed.

“So I am a big believer in not making people feel guilty for who they are, and their inherent beliefs. And I think at times, also, we have a tendency to vilify people who are in power right now. And so I’m really intentional about trying not to do that.”

This perspective from Melissa is so useful to those people who feel guilt.

When Hiring or Looking for Work

Just as I need to show myself grace in the process, Melissa helps us understand we need to show grace in understanding the pace of things. AND that we can make a difference from the inside of organizations that still might need to make change.

One of the seven categories of leadership where true change can happen is through the hiring process. I’ve written about hiring for culture over skill set because “anyone can learn a skill,” but it turns out that’s how people are typically excluded.

“So our brain is naturally wired to prefer familiarity… we like to be comfortable, we like to be surrounded and build teams where there’s going to be camaraderie and people fit in. But what we know is that more diverse teams are outperforming homogeneous teams, because they have different perspectives and viewpoints.”

It turns out this also makes for more innovative teams! So, the moral of that part of this story is to hire forA lightbulb graphic difference and not familiarity. *Light bulb*!

Keeping Unconscious Biases at Bay

This brings about the topic of biases–we ALL have them.

“So embrace your bias, don’t deny they exist. And when you do that, you’ll be able to mitigate those biases from controlling your actions.”

Being aware of biases and making incremental changes based on these realizations will help each of us — and the organizations we are involved with — become more and more inclusive.

“But when you embrace your bias, you can start to identify patterns of your bias and who you might be prejudiced toward.”

Bottom Line: This is Content We All Need

On Making a Marketer we really love evergreen content, so no matter how long ago we recorded an episode, you can listen back! Or new listeners can find any topic they are interested in and benefit from it regardless of the timing.

The advice and information shared on this show is absolutely one of our most important. Not only one of the best, but the most important. Every human should read Melissa’s book! I reached out to get her scheduled before I even knew she had a book coming out, and I was delighted she did.

It will be one of the most important books we read this year. Listen to the show – or watch the video – and you’ll be motivated to get the book too: The 7 Simple Habits of Inclusive Leaders.

What are you doing in your organization and circles to promote inclusiveness?

Business Cards Carry Memories

There are two camps these days. Business cards or no business cards. Some people would rather just pull out their phone and add you on LinkedIn right away.

When looking at my first 900 LinkedIn contacts I could tell you exactly how I met all but about 20 of the people. Do you know why? Because I actually met them! Real and in person… And was handed their business card on which I wrote how/where I met them. Sometimes I even wrote a further note about our conversation or interaction.

Writing that down, seeing the logo, seeing their name? It all helps our brains process the experience — here’s some research on that. And, yes, I said experience. For me, meeting people face-to-face is an experience.

Business Cards Tell Stories

In going through what appears to be one of the many Covid rituals of cleaning out a closet, I found a bag of treasures. These treasures don’t all tell complete stories, but many of them do.

Let me tell you about Linda.

Meet My Friend Linda

Myself (left) & Beautiful Soul, Linda

When I met Linda I was working in sales for AV Concepts, and I had the opportunity to attend the PCMA Leadership Conference in Austin, TX. I reached out to her in advance of the event, and she agreed to meet me for a drink… We became instant friends. We both had “business to do” for our respective jobs (she on her association’s planning team with AASA), which may or may not have resulted in business, but it didn’t matter. I saw her in person a few times after that — one of which was when she and her (and now my) friend Kim stayed in my home on a mini vacation in San Diego.

Linda’s life was then cut way too short, suddenly — before she had even turned 30. She would have had a birthday today, and yet she’s been gone for nine years. Unreal. Finding her business card in this bag took me back to that night in Austin – what a gift!

Business Cards

Linda and Kim

Put the Social in Social Media

Let me be clear – I am a marketer! This isn’t to say there’s no value in going ahead and connecting with people on LinkedIn, but I typically don’t have a story with these people who reach out to me out of the blue.

I admit to having a bevy of people who are in what I call “purgatory” because they didn’t give me a valid business reason to connect.

It boils down to this: I’m not “collecting” people. I am collecting stories. I am collecting valuable relationships that might help me in my business pursuits, but I’m hoping they’ll also help me as a human, and add value to my life… and me theirs.

Human Connections Matter

Remember that – we’re all humans, not just business people. 

I look forward to the day when I get to meet new people again in person (post-Covid19). And I look forward to receiving their business cards, and creating more stories. Developing more new connections, and nurturing the ones I already have, are things I yearn for.

Business Cards

Original Treasures From Now Friends & Collaborators, Elizabeth and Tamela

This experience of receiving a business card is more than a transaction. This experience could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It might even be one that ends way way way sooner than it should. But still so valuable nonetheless. 

It could be the beginning of a rich AND profitable collaboration. 

As I leave an event with a pocketful of business cards, I’m leaving with a pocket FULL of stories. These stories might be brief or they might continue for years… But they will always leave an impression.

Business cards are more than a little piece of paper. They have a story to tell. 

What do you think? Do you still give and get business cards? What stories do they tell YOU?

Are You Experiencing Inspiration Frustration Like Me?

Finding inspiration is a fickle thing. This fickle pickle must be figured out.

I feel like I used to be inspired to write MUCH more than I am these days. I’d have a fleeting thought and it would hit me — I should write about that! I think it’s partly because I’m not traveling as much. For some reason I do some of my best writing when I’m flying!

So, as I write this, I’m sitting at the bar of a local brew-pub just before 5pm. On my laptop. I had a business meeting here for lunch and brought my laptop, as I thought the change of scenery might do me some good.

That darned Marie Kondo has me all sorts of distracted in my home office these days!! #sparkjoy

Other than the woman next to me who needs to be introduced to her inside voice, I’m strangely motivated. I simply popped in my earbuds once she got going, and I’m focusing better than I was at home.

Why is this!?! There’s got to be some sort of neuro reason for it, right?

A simple change of scenery might be all it takes to take your thoughts to a whole other place. I have a HUGE list of things I need to get done for my own business and my clients. At home I also didn’t feel quite the sense of urgency I’m feeling now.

I told this prospect at lunch today that I’m a writer at my core. Writing is my superpower… in addition to parallel parking, of course. And I really need to get going again!

To get inspiration to write I’m hereby pledging to do the following things on the regular:

  • Get out of my home office more often.
  • Write quick notes when things hit me (no novel needs to be written on a fleeting thought).
  • Take at least 10-15-minutes per day for some quiet time–getting off my computer and into only my HEAD should spark some stuff.
  • READ MORE–good writers are good readers, and I tend to turn the TV on much too frequently. #damnnetflix

What about you? What inspires you? Of course, it doesn’t have to be about writing… have you also gotten into an un-inspired funk you need to snap out of? I’d love your tips!

Here’s to being 1/12th into the year and getting at it.

Would You Prefer a Conference or an Unconference Experience?

As I head into one of the most fun, most inspiring, most-learning-filled conferences (and weeks) of the year, it’s caused some reflection about Social Media Marketing World (SMMW), and what makes a conference great.

I also attended an amazing UN-Conference not too long ago, so I thought I’d write about what this un-conference is all about… and what the KEY things are that make #SMMW18 great.

This is my 5th year attending SMMW, and as someone who has worked in the meetings and events industry, I think I’ve attended upwards of 75 conferences in my career. I know what makes one great. Here I’m offering four ways this one does it right.

THE SMMW Conference

SO helpful. Of the utmost importance for this show is helping every single attendee make the connections they’re looking for while they’re there. This effort starts in earnest before anyone gets to the convention center… WAY before. There’s a LinkedIn group for those who are registered, there’s a Facebook event where any attendee or prospect can engage with each other and the team. There are dozens of Slack channels. There are people managing the hashtag via Twitter and Instagram. There’s a dine-around sign-up to give folks an opportunity to connect with others in their space before even arriving at the conference. There’s an army of people dedicated to making sure everyone knows what they need to know, that they feel included, and feel welcome before they even arrive. They also have networking tables during lunch where everyone can chat with each other about their area of interest.

In abundance. The company that puts on the show is Social Media Examiner (SME). SME does have a staff, but they also have a HUGE army of volunteers who engage with the community via all the different channels. Different staffers oversee the volunteers, and it all seems to work like a symphony. The volunteers are involved in managing the different channels in advance of the show, but they’re also the “boots on the ground” getting you registered, acting as human signage, overseeing each breakout room, etc. Needless to say, SME is also incredibly engaging via every single social media channel and Slack. It’s what they do, so it should go without saying, but so many conferences get this wrong (still)!

High quality. 
This actually goes hand-in-hand with resources, but it’s worth its own place in the list. Listen, this social media business is all so new, and EVER-changing. No one person can claim they know it all. We’re (in large part) at the mercy of the platform owners like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat, to name a few. Social Media Examiner’s business is to stay on top of it, and they do throughout the year with staffers like Erik Fisher and Jeff Sieh hopping on Facebook Live sometimes several times per week to break the news… and discuss what the implications are for all of us. They then parlay that into VERY carefully curating which speakers will provide the content at SMMW. You can’t really apply to speak–they ask those they see making a difference out there in the industry. Like with the most recent “Facebook apocalypse,” for example–they determined Brian Fanzo was the one who should speak on this in recent weeks, but it wasn’t on the original schedule. Being able to pivot like that is crucial in this business, and they do!

Taken seriously. I met the Event Director Phil Mershon a few years ago at the Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) Summit. I shared with him I had attended the previous year, and he asked me for my feedback on the event… he has continued to ask for feedback from me and others, and I regularly see our suggestions implemented. They also survey all attendees, and I know they take it all to heart. This is only the 6th year SMMW has been held, and it’s improved incrementally every year because they care what the attendees think. As someone who has attended SO MANY conferences, this is unusual, and is probably the key reason it continues to be so good.

Haute Dokimazo

At the other end of the spectrum of a conference like SMMW is Haute Dokimazo (HD). Sounds like a Japanese meal, right? This is what some will refer to as an “un-conference,” which was created to throw all ways of planning a conference out the window. Equally awesome! And let me tell you why.

Inspired founders. The three founders of this event are all event industry veterans. As one of them–Liz Lathan–said about it, “It occurred to us one day that the best part of conferences is the coffee breaks.” In other words, the moments you get speaking to people between the content often times is where there’s the most value. So they set out to create a unique event that’s all “coffee break”! They also decided to keep it to just 100 people, with the goal of having an even split between “brand” people and “suppliers.”

Curated content. We were all given the chance to write topics that we were interested in exploring on giant post-its, in addition to offering to facilitate anything we are interested in/informed on. There were a few sessions pre-arranged, which were held while the event organizers mined through all of the post-its to determine our sessions for the following day. All of the content was exactly what we all wanted to explore. Brilliant!

No pretense. Part of the magic about HD is that we’re all wearing name tags that have just our first name on them. There’s no distinction between who’s a “buyer” and who’s a “seller.” As Annette Gregg stated, it was nice to be in an environment where there were no “sharks and minnows.” We all spoke to everyone and interacted because we were all after the same thing–simply making connections and learning from each other. I’ve never felt such a warm and inviting environment at a conference prior to this.

Genuine joy. The event started with lunch… And rather than waiting in a line to get our badges for the conference, we put our first name on a “Hello my name is” tag, and were guided to a table where our host introduced us to everyone at the table. Instantly we got to know those at our table before we eventually made our way to the Children’s Museum–an incredibly fun and inspirational venue for a “conference.” At the end of the second day we then had the opportunity to share with everyone all of the positives and negatives of the event. It was incredible to give feedback in real-time vs. filling out a survey! We all left this event better people and professionals than when we arrived.

You can also listen to the Making a Marketer podcast to hear two of the founders of HD talk about its origin, and what it’s all about.

These two events are so VERY different, and equally amazing in their own ways. If you have the opportunity to go to either — or both — I highly recommend it! You’ll leave both events with new contacts and new friends. I guarantee it.

Helping you with Social Media Basics & Beyond

Many individuals think they can “do social media” because they’ve been doing it for themselves personally for years. The fact is it’s different for business, and there are some basics that can help you on the right path. Things are constantly changing, and this is how I see it today.

Develop content in advance

There’s some time savings in not staring at your computer each day you set out to post, trying to figure out what it is you want to say. It’s also a way to be more strategic about what you’re posting. When creating your content it’s key to not only promote your organization and events you might be having, but to also promote other orgs.

Are their businesses or organizations that have a similar mission to yours? Are there individuals doing great work in the space you’re working in? Use their content in your posts. Also seek out their posts, and engage with them on their platforms. Let them know what they’re doing is awesome!

  • Put that content into a written plan of consistency using a tool like CoSchedule ( or PostPlanner. This will help you get an even spread of the different kinds of posts you’re sharing with the world.
  • Use a scheduling tool, like Buffer (better) or Hootsuite (fine), but don’t rely on it completely. It’s still important to mix in organic, active engagement with both YOUR account, and accounts you are following.

    Cross-promote content between platforms…

    But word the posts differently. I suggest writing for Facebook so that it’s natural and descriptive… and then pare it down for Twitter. 

    On Instagram there’s no real character limit, but most people aren’t there to read — they’re there primarily to see your images. Write a quick caption, and refer your followers to a link in your bio if you’re trying to drive them to register for an event, read a blog post, or donate money, etc. Also follow “thought leaders” in your industry who aren’t tied to a particular organization, but from whom you (and others) can learn.

    LIVE Video is hot hot hot.

    The videos don’t have to perfect, and they don’t have to be long, but Facebook is putting live video at the top of the feed and increasing the organic growth (that’s mostly gone away). If you “go live” directly in Facebook, your followers will be notified that you’ve gone live, and they are more likely to see the video. They might not see it live, but they are likely to see the replay.

    Special events are a great opportunity for this (create fear of missing out / FOMO for next time!), but your team / board can go live also at any time, so long as there is something of value to be shared! You should have a strategy, but have no fear because you have to start somewhere. Consider a weekly show at the same time each week… And just press RECORD.

    Good images are crucial.

    People aren’t very forgiving of images that aren’t appealing. This is important on all platforms, and especially important on Instagram. Your images should have a consistent look and feel. The algorithms on the platforms work based on people liking your content, and you’re likely to see more content similar to that which you’ve shown an interest (which means your account will be suggested to the “right” people also).

    Consistent voice is important.

    You might have different people writing your content, but it’s important that the “voice” sounds consistent. This can be accomplished by having the same person editing the calendar that ultimately goes out. You might also consider developing a style guide that everyone on your team follows, ensuring that the branding, verbiage, and look is consistent. Having consistent types of images is also important.

    Don’t be afraid to repeat content that does well.

    While you don’t want to always be “self-serving” when you post, you also don’t want to miss opportunities to promote the big events you have going like fundraisers or product launches. If you’re partnering with sponsors, this is a great opportunity to tag them and give them love for working with you! It’s also an opportunity to re-post evergreen content that has had a good response before.

    There’s no “one-size-fits-all” regarding frequency of posting.

    Even some of the experts disagree, but everyone agrees that it “all depends”! Your followers are different from the followers of other organizations, so you should test to see what times / types of posts get the best engagement. This might sound like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. If you post and no one engages, it’s not relevant, right?

    * Twitter tips: Use to test best times to post for your followers (it works well with Buffer too). It also makes sense to use the hashtags appropriate for your industry to be found, but don’t use more than 2-3 in a single post.

    For example, in the events industry, use #eventprofs to make sure you’re seen/found by others in that space. In non-profit world, there are a bunch, but #socialimpact is a big one, and #givingtuesday is a good one also (more on hashtags in a minute!).

    * Facebook tips: Research has shown recently that posting more frequently will hurt, rather than help. More than likely you can get away with posting 4-5 times per week — just once per day. However, organic visibility is extremely difficult, so if you aren’t going to “pay to play,” you should have a tribe of people who are liking, commenting, and sharing what you’re posting! This helps increase the visibility (along with LIVE video posting).

    It is worth targeting VERY specifically in Facebook and spending a little bit of money to increase your reach. DO NOT use the boost button (even though they put it in your face all day long), but use the Ad manager instead. Within the manager you can get very specific on target demographics to maximize your spend (even at as little as $5 per day).


Pro TipHashtagging is an art – learn it.

You should develop appropriate hashtags, be consistent, and tweak/re-tool as you go. Use them somewhat sparingly in your initial post, but strategically. Figure out primary ones in your industry—use them, and experiment with others.

Some platforms “require” them, while others use them less liberally.

Facebook– You can search by hashtags, but it’s not done much here.
Twitter – Important here to be found – no more than 3 per post.
LinkedIn – Hardly used here, but they are searchable.
Instagram – Crucial to be found – used here religiously.

Some sites will tell you what’s trending…

In Conclusion

There’s no one right way to do things, but you will find the right way for your business or organization. Hopefully these tips and guidelines will help you to discover what works best for you. The tactics of how to use the different platforms will continue to change on a regular basis, but  you should be consistent with your strategy.

Need any help figuring out the right direction for your social media? Reach out to me, and I’ll see if we can help you with your strategy!

Just Do Something

Are folks online who don’t agree with the women’s march feeling threatened or are they uninformed? Is everyone yelling so loud they aren’t actually hearing each other? 

I’m seeing a lot of people online questioning the women’s march with regard to “what good is it doing?”… “Quit your belly-aching – your candidate lost, so just deal with it”… another person who I consider to be a friend said “Marching with signs and creative hashtags don’t make real changes. DO SOMETHING!!”

Do something. 

That’s the point, right? The marches that happened worldwide (not just in our backyard) were a gathering of like-minded people to show solidarity for HUMAN rights (women, yes, but not exclusively). They DID something that day that is pretty remarkable. It’s not a contest for which event within two days had a higher attendance. Anyone getting caught-up in that rhetoric is completely missing the point.

I think it’s part “stop being so negative” / “just get on board already”… and part “stop talking, start doing” from those who feel like they aren’t personally affected. They’d appreciate a flip of the switch to our social media spaces going back to being all cat videos and pretty pictures, but just like their platform is a place to say this, it’s also a platform to try and initiate action.

What action? 

Personally, what I’m most interested in, isn’t bashing individuals or comparing this to that. I’m interested in holding on to rights that so many people have fought so hard for all these years. A friend of Hispanic descent posted this morning that no president has ever changed his life. Now, while he’s a minority, he is a man. He went to private school. He also has a brother and sister who are gay… One of which could potentially be “unmarried” with the newest supreme court justice. He thinks we’re getting too caught up in what the new president says–that we should just ignore it, and there’s no real risk there because what he says and does are two different things (it’s just “fear-based ideology”).

The risk is real. 

I’ve been waffling between wanting to hide my head in the sand and not watch the trainwreck, and speaking up — like with this post. I never get political on Facebook, but felt compelled this morning to engage in the conversations. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’m going to try and make a difference other than signing petitions, and trying to explain what the movement is in ways those who are threatened (or don’t understand) can

understand. But it’s a start.

I’m so proud of, and impressed by, those women AND men who marched on Saturday. Sometimes just showing up is enough, but plenty of them spent a TON of time preparing for the day. Whether you appreciated their “clever” signs and hashtags or not, at least they took some literal steps to try and not just improve women’s rights, but also to voice they’d like to help preserve some human rights.

It’s worth mentioning this day was a start of something new–those who showed up are now feeling empowered to do something when they get home, so January 21 wasn’t “it.”

And it’s not just about ranting about one powerful man with whom you disagree, or being mad your candidate wasn’t elected. It’s about all sorts of rights that are on their way to being overturned. Just this morning Trump signed an executive order withdrawing funds to international organizations if they provide safe abortions. No matter your religious views, this is obviously one of the most contentious things — access to services that have to do with reproductive rights. These rights have been in place on the federal level for 44 years for a reason.

It’s not just complaining. 

To those who wish everyone would just quit their complaining, I say it’s highly likely you won’t have your marriage overturned. Or lose your health coverage. Or need services to do with reproductive rights. But what about your daughter or your sister-in-law? There are so many issues involved, but I just wanted to make a point…

There’s a lot at stake, so folks (not just women) are trying to be heard. It’s a reality that this executive order was put forth today, and more like it can happen, so speaking up is the only power we have as CITIZENS to try and change that.

We aren’t trying to threaten anyone else’s way of life or rights to believe a certain way. One-by-one, in their own individual ways, many are doing what they can to keep rights we have in tact, and not lose others… oh, and perhaps also trying to even the playing field while we’re at it.

One step at a time.

Insight from a Former Event Industry Sales Person

When I worked in sales I never really felt like a sales person. I always felt like I was helping people – because I was – I never ever tried to sell anyone something I didn’t think would benefit them. This was an internal struggle for me… I was building relationships that turned into business–people I met face-to-face gave me the chance to bid. As soon as someone made me feel like a salesperson, a chill would run through me and make me wonder why I was doing it.

Buyers have a tendency to do that from time-to-time — to treat suppliers as less than. I’ve never understood why. Until now.

Now, I’ll preface this by saying everyone should remain KIND, no matter what. I have remained kind, but through what I’ve experienced as a buyer this past week, I feel like the fundamentals of sales are gone… Five different sales people were the offenders of the following challenges I ran into recently.

Unsolicited Inquiries are a Gift 
If you get an email with a request for a quote, respond to it as soon as humanly possible. Shouldn’t the requestor know right away their message has been received? Even if an email only says “Thank you for your inquiry. We’ll get to work on this, and reach out with questions.” Boom. Right away, it turns out, anyone who did that instantly had a better chance than the others. Inbound sales is a gift, and should be treated as such, despite how busy we all are. I shouldn’t have to email again inquiring whether you actually want to bid on the business.

Being Given a Budget is Also a Gift 
As someone who almost NEVER got a budget when I was selling, it’s magical when you get that number. There’s more than one way to do things, so having a number to start from will help you steer the project in the right direction. If I don’t have a two-story booth kind of budget, you should know that. Telling me what I’m asking for will be $6-8K more than my budget without even asking me any questions? Big mistake. Back-and-forth email messages without asking me anything of substance related to my request? It’s short-sighted, and you will likely lose the opportunity.

Differentiate Yourself with a Phone Call 
The same salesperson who didn’t email me back for four days claimed he had been doing some work on it, and was sorry he hadn’t checked in with me yet. I indicated if he had any questions for me I was available to talk. Instead, he sent me an email back with three questions. The first person I spoke to — the very next day after my email went out — instantly had an advantage because we clicked. All things being equal, we’re more likely to go with the supplier who we know we get along with, right?

If you do call the prospect, be sure you understand the request before you do.

Prime example… 
I sent an email asking for a quote, and they sent me an email reply indicating another sales person would be in touch with me (he’s copied on the email). Later that day the salesperson left me a voicemail about the inquiry. I called him back the next day and got voicemail, but his voicemail doesn’t include his name, so I left no message. He called me back right away saying “I just had a missed call from this number”… He had no idea who I was.

So, I awkwardly gave detail on who I am, and he replies with “Oh, right. How can I help you?” I then had to indicate “All my needs were in my original email; I assumed you were calling me because you needed more information.” To which he says “Oohhhh, okay, well I’m not in the office right now, so I’ll need to take a closer look at the email, and I’ll let you know if I have any questions.” My response? Absolute wonder. 
We’re in a Visual Business — Include Visuals 
One of the suppliers sent me tons of visuals over a few different email messages. I expected to eventually get a consolidated proposal with all the pricing in one place, but I didn’t. I did get a quote with the numbers (with errors that had to be corrected twice), but I never got it all in one nice package. You should make it as easy as possible for your prospects to pick you. I was trying to help her by telling her what I needed, but she just didn’t get it. The other two just sent me numbers, and never sent me any visuals until I asked more than once!

Bottom-Line — These Things are Bare Minimum
Being communicative once you’ve been given an opportunity to win business is crucial! I helped an event planner colleague review three audio-visual bids not too long ago, and it was remarkable how different the quotes were. One thing they all had was great visuals. What ended up winning the business for one company was they were the only ones who actually took the time to call the end client and ask them questions about their show! Insanity. Even if you don’t think you have questions, ask questions – make the call.

Are there any other things you think sales folks should keep in mind? If you’re in sales — is there anything I’ve touched a nerve on?

P.S. When I asked one of them for the shipping and handling fees that were missing from his quote, he said he “figured one of the other bidders had already given me a quote, and it’s all going to be similar if they’re bidding on the same stuff.” One word: lazy.