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.

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.

Goal-Setting & Forward-Looking = KEYS to Success

Are you a goal setter? Of course, closing one year and embarking on another is always a time to reflect and goal set (notice it’s “goals” and not resolutions?). Here I’m putting a focus on five KEY things that will make professionals (those in events and beyond) more productive in the new year.

Sometimes we can also use a little boost to get our goal-setting kicked into gear.

5 Steps to Productivity

1) Keep self-care at the top of your list of priorities.

One of the reasons event professionals tend to be so stressed is because we’re traveling so much. Being a road warrior takes its toll, so it’s important we remember to make our own self-care a priority! Eating well while traveling can really be difficult, but here’s an article for busy event professionals that will help you make some better choices. Using your hotel’s gym seems impossible, but setting an achievable goal of getting in there for just 20-30 minutes every other day (of course, daily if you can!) will make a huge difference in how you feel (and sleep). These things are a bit easier when we’re home, but keeping them in mind on a regular basis will help make this self-care a HABIT.

2) Make at least one new professional contact per week.

We all receive regular LinkedIn invites from people we may or may not know. But are you a passive networker? What if you took the time to explore LinkedIn — and maybe even Twitter (#EventProfs) — in search of professionals you could be connected to? It will make you literally more connected within our community, and will also expand the resources available to you on both the planner and supplier sides of the business. We can learn from both sides, and having contacts provides us with resources when we need them! When I plan events finding vendors whom I can trust is a challenge. Having planner friends who can refer vendors to me is important, but it’s also important to keep a running list for when those opportunities present themselves (currently wishing I had kept my rental company contacts from “back when” as I wrote this).

3) Have your organization’s end-goals in mind, but also focus on your own personal professional goals.

When we work for a corporation or association it’s normal to focus on what the organization’s goals are, in addition to the goals that might have been set for us in our annual reviews. The best advice I’ve received is from friends who are life or business coaches, or have had their own business for a while: it’s key to also focus on our own personal goals. What is the average lifespan of a job these days? Fewer than five-years, depending on your age, is typical. That means your own personal professional goals should stay just as important to you as your organizations. We’ve all reached that point professionally when we’re ready to move on, but then we feel stuck… setting goals and priorities for yourself can help keep you focused and prepared for when it’s time for a change. It turns out having a “sense of purpose” also leads to getting better sleep, so this could help you there also.

4) Read at least one industry article per week that will enhance the work you’re doing.

We see the “top influencer” lists, “top 40 under 40,” etc. that come out each year. What these folks have in common is this: they share great content. Some of them are also writing/contributing great content with the industry, but mostly they are sharing the awesome articles that have been written by other individuals or organizations (each other in many cases). Unique spins on information we already read about is hard to find, but it’s out there! Taking the time to read about what’s happening in our industry will help keep your focus forward. There’s so much great content out there that can help us in our jobs, and it also helps us as individuals to focus on what’s important.

5) Use a project management tool to increase collaboration and efficiency in your planning.

Are you using anything that helps you and your team focus on what tasks need to be done in planning your meetings and events? Do you find that maybe you’re using several different programs or systems that don’t talk to each other… and then you wonder where your team is in terms of accomplishing tasks and goals? If you aren’t already using a cloud-based tool to help you collaborate with your team AND your vendors, now is the perfect time to consider making a change. Having a system in place that enables everyone to see what they need to see, while including the proper files (and most up-to-date versions!!) in one central place online, not only prevents everyone from hunting-and-pecking for the info, but makes the planning process more clear. Having a 20-tab excel matrix might be “comfortable” because you’ve been using it for so long, but expanding into a project management program will enable you to shrink those docs, and help get every stakeholder on the same page (LITERALLY).


Top Tool Suggestions:

Redbook has a very nice interface, enabling users to sort tasks, keep detailed productivity reports, keep visual project timelines, and hold teammates accountable. It has integration with Zoom so you can hold video meetings, email plugins from Outlook and Gmail, and integrations with Box, Dropbox, Slack, Google Drive, and more.

Time Doctor enables you to not only track time spent on specific clients or projects, but it also has integration with a ton of tools you’re likely already using such as Google Drive, Slack, FreshBooks, Podio, Asana, Basecamp, and more.

Proofhub is a great alternative to the “big” tools like Basecamp, Wrike, TeamWork, Asana, and Trello. They even have comparisons of their tool to each of these explained on their Website. It has project templates, chat, discussions, time tracking, a calendar, Workflows and kanban boards, and reporting. They also have some key integrations that will streamline your workflow!  

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start! It’s a way to get our minds brewing on some of the things we all struggle with as professionals, whether you’re working in the meetings and events industry or beyond.

What if you posted this list next to your computer? It’s likely it would help you focus on honing in on the goals you’ve set. Focusing, thinking, and executing on these things will also help you feel more accomplished… And that’s something we can ALL appreciate in our daily lives (both professional and personal).

Prioritize. Ponder. Perform… Repeat.


Time Doctor blog post with a TON of tools summarized.
Proofhub has also provided a great post with a tool summary.

Getting Real and Being Real – Is it all Rainbows and Unicorns?

It’s difficult, I think, for folks who have never experienced any turmoil or adversity in their lives to understand just what it takes to persevere. I had a boyfriend during an extremely stressful time in my life who had never experienced any loss — of a job or otherwise. He couldn’t relate, and all he could do was to tell me not to be stressed.

I just watched a vlog – Day 118 on his road to 300 – by Demian Ross. He had a different plan for the video, but it took a turn to a really personal story for him. A REAL story about the real, not-so-positive-life-turn for him a couple of years ago.

This video got me thinking about my own situation and low times for me in the past. Things are not always rainbows and unicorns, and it helps to share realness, because it shows people they aren’t alone.

Social media does tend to be this place where we show the good. People will assume all is well and perfect if all you ever show appears perfect. Clearly, everything is not always good!


In 2001 I was laid-off from a dot-com. I made it through three layoffs, but couldn’t escape the fourth. Three months earlier I had to be out of an apartment I was renting because our lease was up, and my roommate and I were both moving on. I was in the process of buying a condo, but hadn’t closed yet, so I stored my stuff and was living with my boyfriend for what was supposed to be a few weeks. Well, the sellers ended up taking it off the market!

Needless to say, it seemed I was “lucky” I didn’t get that condo, but now I was jobless AND homeless. It was the beginning of 2.5 years of my belongings being in storage, and me living with friends and family. I was unemployed or underemployed for most of that time before things finally came together for me. It was a daily struggle of trying to make ends meet. Of relying on others to help me.

People I’ve worked with since then can’t believe I went through that–that I managed to get to where I was, despite that. At the time friends would say to me “I don’t know how you’re doing it”… my response was I had no choice! I was simply dealing, continuing to look for work, and taking each day as it came (ending with having three jobs at once before finally moving into my own home again).

Cut to today…

I’ve had my business for nearly five years, and the past three months have been particularly difficult. The loss of a large client who shut down his company. Flakey potential new clients. Hopes being raised and then dashed over and over. Verbal agreement for new business, which was then taken away. While I’m not in the same spot I was in 17 years ago, I am in a low. Struggling financially is not unusual for business owners, this I know! It has had me wondering how much to share… do I remain optimistic or do I share the hardships?

I did just take a very big vacation — it was planned and about 2/3’s of it was already paid for (before losing the big client), so I went anyway. But I know how it looks… it looks like I’m flush!

I did try to make the absolute most of it, including soaking it all in as I am in this photo.


What’s the lesson?

That you never know what people are really going through. If you didn’t know Demian’s story before today (and he only shared part of it), you would never think such a funny, smart dude would have gone through what he has so recently.

If I only post the positive, everyone will continue to believe all is positive.

I know things will get better… I know there are some amazing businesses out there that will benefit from my skills and experience to help them improve their communication and sales!

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. If you need someone to lend an ear, reach out. We’re not alone, and support from others will help us all.

Best of luck!

Deep Thoughts on Travel

Inspired. Incredibly Inspired Again by Travel.

Lisbon is one of the absolute BEST cities I’ve ever traveled to alone! I love London (here now for the 5th time in my life as I write this post), but people never chat me up here like in Lisbon!! It’s extraordinary, really. So… I’m trying to put my finger on why exactly…

Lisbon is smaller, and so many of the people out and about are tourists looking to meet other people (vs. a bigger city where locals are out enjoying the bars)? Maybe. London locals I know have even admitted to me that Londoners tend to be a bit “colder” than people in other cities.

Portuguese people (aka, the bartenders/servers) are just friendlier in general? That is part of it. I will also say it was a ratio of about 90% men to 10% women. That probably worked to my advantage ?. It was likely a combination of all of that. Oh, and apparently because of the time of year I was like a unicorn (American woman! Named Megan! Was a big deal for one German guy).

I can say without question I had some of the most interesting, fun, and infuriating (< yes, you read that right, and it didn’t even involve politics!) conversations of ANY city/trip I’ve been on in all my travels!

Being honest, I didn’t see as much of the city or take day trips outside the city like I wanted to because my nights were LATE! But it was worth it. I’m so enriched by the city, and its people, and the other tourists I got to know that I would do it all exactly the same way again. Oh, and I’ll go back for SURE.

Solo Traveler

Many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around how or why I like to travel alone. I love my friends, and I have wonderful experiences with them, but I never meet people like I do when I’m alone! It’s just different (and easier)… I relish my solo travel because I rarely feel “alone.”

I know I’m so fortunate to live this life. And even more motivated to write the damn book already!!

Now, time for work while in London, which was the original reason for the trip! Thankfully my work is also incredibly fun.


Do. Do what you love. I’ve said it before… Be a doer. No matter what it is!! ✌?

P.S. It may or may not be worth noting that I wrote this while at a London sports bar waiting to watch Monday Night Football (they were kind enough to put it on for me)… after it was clear no one wanted to socialize with me! ?