Spark.me day one has come to a close, and I cannot help but feel as though I left a family gathering. One of those where there is a greeting, a time to catch up and say hello to everyone. A bit of chaos because the crazy uncle just burst through the door. (Thank you, Jon Burkhart!) And then a time of storytelling and intimacy that takes you deep into the evening and leaving full.
An experience just occurred. An experience that rivals previous years as the best, and by the numbers, was the best. The room was packed from beginning to end. The energy filled the room and ebbed and flowed at times throughout the day. creating a symphony that, if all gos well, will crescendo and be brought a close in style tomorrow. But we will see…
For now, here are 5 takeaways from day one. I cannot say these were the most interesting points made or most radical, that honor goes to a recognized cyborg, but more on that later.
1. Become a person. – Mark Schaefer
Mark Schaefer delivered on the topic of personal branding and the art of becoming known. Over and over again, he pushed the crowd to think about what they were doing and was it viable as a business // brand, or were they pursuing a hobby. He quipped at one moment, “A passion without a plan is just a hobby.”
However, at the center of the talk, which really set the stage for others, was his point of “Become a person”. In the brand and message that we seek to create, how we operate, and the interactions we create, people should feel and know that hey are communicating with a person. A person that cares not only about the product they hope to sell, but a person that seeks a real connection with the customer.
2. Have good questions and use your imagination to answer them. – Jon Burkhart
This was the second year, Jon has been a speaker at Spark.me, but when he comes it is so much more than a gig. He seems to approach everything as an opportunity to connect and begin asking questions. He does it with an overwhelming amount of energy. His self proclaimed “child-like” is like that of the uncle every kid loves. The one who will get on the floor and piss of every other adult in the room just for laughs.
And faithful to the approach, Jon encourages his audience to ask questions. Question everything, and do not stop at the first answer. Think imaginatively to find the solution. Ask the craziest questions of all regarding topics that will likely end up in the FBI knocking on your door, and create solutions. Create content from such a framework that brings an audience together in laughter, or creates a new audience that is unexpected. No matter the purpose, ask good questions to spur creativity in your work.
3. Stereotypes will be broken when influencers speak out against them. – Xenia Tchoumi
Xenia is an influencer leveraging her past as a first runner up in Miss Switzerland and education to build a campaign empire. While she spoke of her achievements and how she was able to scale her work, she highlighted the important roles that influencers have as voices for equality.
She spoke about breaking stereotypes across industries and creating equal work environments. What surprised me most, was where she leveled responsibility. For Xenia, the responsibility lies with influencers and marketers across industries that have built their platforms. When someone succeeds and creates a voice of influence, it should be used to silence the stereotypes holding others back. In this way, true communities that care for one another are created, supportive, and begin to flourish.
4. We should not only have empathy with our customers, but with our employees. – Kerry O’Shea Gorgone
We are always taught about the importance of taking care of the customer, meet their needs, and go the extra mile for them. “The customer is always right,” has been the mantra for longer than I can remember.
However, what happens when the care for the customer exceeds the care for the employee? Or a work environment that focuses criticism of the employee goes beyond truly understanding the needs of the employee for growth and development. I remember working for a lady who taught me quite a bit about trusting the employee, caring for them, and seeing them grow so the business grows. Demonstrating care and understanding for our employees and teams will have a positive impact on the business as a whole.
5. Once something finishes, take what you learned and accept this new stage in life. – Mike Massimino
One of my favorite quotes from the whole conference will be this one. Thee importance of accepting the time something ends and something new begins. The whole point of these transitions and changes is to apply what we learned previously and continue to grow. Every experience we face, even when it comes to an unexpected end, is a time to learn and explore.
In another memorable moment, Mike spoke about the value of passion, following your dreams, and perseverance. He was honest in his assessment that all we can do is try. We cannot always control the outcomes, but we can try. This may be the most important thing we ever do. Just make the attempt.
#SparkMe 2018 exceed all expectations which is getting more difficult to do. I told one of the organizers, Natasha, that to imagine such diversity in speakers, it is hard to fathom the cohesiveness which it achieved on this first day.