Ignite Minneapolis: A Hot Ticket to Perfect Hair

There are some fairly predictable hot tickets in town. Ignite Minneapolis is one of them. So hot that it came down to the wire to score my ticket. It happened via Twitter. Three hours prior to the event, six DM’s with @micahvono (an attendee with an extra ticket), one PayPal exchange of $10 and one email with a pdf’d scannable code later and I was golden. Thanks, Micah!

IgniteMpls8 Secret Sauce(s)

#IgniteMpls has been a happening for six years. I remember the events at the onset — $5 entry, a few kegs of beer that ran dry within the first 30 minutes and presenters who talked over their alotted time. Ignite has evolved since then. Their venues have grown to support their following (an audience of 600+), while they’ve kept the ticket price affordable at $10. The sponsors (now an impressive 11) continue to support Ignite. And anyone who knows the secret sauce to a great event (craft beer and food trucks) could suss out Ignite from miles away.

If you missed that Ignite was making it’s first of two appearances in Minneapolis in 2015 (next up is IgniteMpls9 in October 2015), you’d have no doubt noticed the long lines leading up to The Riverview Theater for last night’s event. One was for entrance and the other was for Stanley’s, event food truck of the eve and event sponsor. Upon entering was yet another line. This one was for Surly.

Eclectic Mixing

I attended solo and quickly sought out one of the 18 presenters I knew, Jenny Floria. Our daughters went to daycare together and we’ve kept in touch ever since, sharing stories over our commonality as bloggers (note to self to see Ignite speaker @JenJamar‘s talk, Why Your Blog Sucks). I ran into Cecily Sommers, author of Think Like A Futurist, met a photographer and blogger Tracy Blowers @usoulphoto, dished about My Little Pony hair (JenJamar’s fabulous ‘do!) and met two male 30-something Ignite virgins by my personal phone charging station in the lobby.  So to your question, yes, it was an eclectic mix.

Ignite Speaker BubblesEvent Math

The event, promoted as 5:00-10:30, started around 7:06 and wrapped up with the last presenter around 10:06. When you do the math on the three hour presentation (18 speakers + 5 minutes each = 90 minutes), it doesn’t add up until you take in account intermissions, sponsor vids (plug here for my alma mater UST’s giveaway #FindYourAnswer), emcee Todd O’Dowd’s colorful intro/outros and beerruns. My new friends John and Wells and I, were up and down in our seats, allowing first-time, enthusiastic Igniters Tammy and Greg their Surly refills throughout the eve.

A Rockin’ Recap

On to the good stuff. Thanks to the Strib’s Julio Ojeda-Zapata, you can see one excellent recap here. He captures the presenters up-close (I was like 10 rows from the back) and covers the highlights in tweetable fashion. If you’re still wondering how this 5 minute, 20 slide with :15 sec auto advance format works and what the heck do people talk about in that short of time that’s meaningful….  well you must make a date to find out in October (or cheat here and view all Ignite speaker archives). It’s quite random, very specific, somewhat in-depth, highly quirky, humorously mundane and sometimes morbid. That is the beauty of it.

Within each presenter, we only scratched the surface of learning, but that’s okay. We all took away new insights and mantras from clearing out clutter (say no to fear and guilt and yes to joy) to treating people (yes, even your waitress and black men who may look angry) with empathy and consideration. In addition to Jenny Floria‘s path to in-line greatness, I walked away with a solid to-do inspired by Jen Jamar (of My Little Pony hair fame) and Erica Hanna‘s Cutting Remarks: 5 Minutes to Hot Hair, which Julio summarized simply as, “f@#$ all that hair-pro advice and just be you.” So my to-do? Go for blue hair.


MHTA’s High Tech, High Touch CIO Panel

Minnesota High Tech Association’s (MHTA) annual CIO panel brought, as promised, a wide-ranging discussion of the year’s top developments, along with challenges and opportunities they see in 2015. The event, held on December 11, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, covered tech perspectives from the sports immersion experience (Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings)) to expanding the social experience to enable a digital workforce (Accenture).

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of MHTA (@MAKMinnesota) and moderated by Dee Thibodeau, CEO of Charter Solutions and MHTA Board member, kicked off the event with an overview of MHTA’s ACE Leadership Program. ACE, accepting applications now, is an eight-session program covering public speaking, effective negotiation and adaptive leadership in tech.

MHTA's Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA’s Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA does a well-rounded job of covering all types of events throughout the course of the year from their Spring Conference (May, 7, 2015) to membership-building events like golf outings. My first MHTA event was their October 21, 2014, Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) panel, where four top tech women in our local community shared their stories specific to their career paths and overcoming challenges.

The CIO panel offered yet more insight into the Minnesota tech community and drove home that fact that technology is so prominent and integral to any business. Interestingly enough, three of the five panelists were women. Kudos! Panel members’ industries included restaurant, medical, construction and tech services and management consulting. The diverse range of topics and insights covered delivered at least a few nuggets that each of the audience members could walk away with and directly apply to their own business and role.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Karen Bird, VP of Information Technology at BWWings, shared how they’re using tech to drive customer experience in their restaurants with tools like tech at each table enabling games and more. Eventually, you might be able to order your adult beverages with one tap. Emcee Dee, a recent visitor to BWWings, recapped her positive experience.  As a mom who’s brought her two kids (ages 9 and 11) to BWWings for eats and not necessarily a “immersive sports experience,” I can second that. When I visit, I appreciate the atmosphere, service, wings and most especially my Guest Experience Captain, an individual skilled in conversation and catering to your needs who doesn’t need to rush off to wait on 10 other tables. Karen’s leading the tech charge to take their concept internationally with restaurant openings in Dubai and more in 2015.

St. Jude Medical
Mark Murphy, VP and CIP of St. Jude Medical, touched on big data, security, managed services and the cloud, citing the extreme petabytes of information collected hourly from companies like Walmart. A word of caution: the current systems an average business has in place are not going to cut it. One mammoth challenge, also brought up during the end Q&A session, centered around what do do with all of the data companies are collecting. Too many companies are suffering from analysis paralysis. Mark stressed looking at data and building cross partnerships in other industries. This type of approach ensures relevance and deliberate research to support innovative ideas, like St. Jude Medical’s Quadripolar Lead.

MHTA's CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

MHTA’s CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs
Anita Scott, CIO of the Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs, shared insight on the process of bringing medical marijuana to Minnesotans. The forms and process flow chart she presented for players from facilities to care providers to the individuals was highly complex. Twenty-some companies invested a significant, non-refundable application fee to submit their companies to full the manufacturing and distribution roles statewide. Two were selected. Anita shared the video from Channel 12 TV, highlighting Maple Grove as one of the sites. One of the players happened to have their facility already built. At this news, my new friend next to me leaned over to note how interesting that was. We stifled our laughter.

Mortenson Construction
Robin Brown, VP and CIO of Mortenson Construction, from what I could gather, brought a breath of fresh air to a privately held, exponentially-growing construction firm. Mortenson, a respected name in construction in Minnesota since 1954, to its founders and leadership credit, has sought out expertise not only in construction, but other verticals. Delving into solar and wind power, for example, has helped them build relationships and value with their clients. They’re also using new technology (3D SketchUp) to bridge the gap in remote locations and job sites to bring more onsite manipulation of blueprints, process, materials and scheduling. More adaptable information and its quick dissemination is critical to solve some of their toughest challenges.

Andrew Wilson, CIO of Accenture, one of the world’s leading organizations providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services, with more than 305,000 employees, is British. I mention this because I could listen to his accent no problem, which is made possible by Accenture’s own TV channel with weekly content. What I found most exciting was Andrew’s discussion surrounding how they share internal content through online company communities via software like Lync and Yammer. He said blogging, for him, is obsolete. He places content on their community-driven page and engagement goes through the roof.

Overall, MHTA inspired great tech conversations through this diverse panel and set the stage for programming and content we can look forward to in 2015 with events like Tech.2015, the WLiT quarterly series and the 15 years and running Tekne Awards (Nov 18, 2015). Here’s to heightening the conversation surrounding tech in Minnesota!

Networking is the New Leadership

We’ve been defining leadership and what makes great leaders for 75 years. But networking? Well… that’s a little nebulous. What makes a great networker? What are the top five things they do and don’t do? How much time does it take to do networking right?

Keynote Marcia BallingerThe Unraveled Network, hosted by Pollen Midwest on November 6th at the Weisman Art Museum, got to the heart of this challenge. Their aim? To delve into the concept of networking through research and behavior to uncover what’s at the core of a great networker then share that learning with aspiring networkers.

Efficiency, Etiquette and Ownership

Keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20 Minute Networking Meeting, and Pollen co-founder Jamie Millard kicked it off with a networking etiquette and strategy Q&A. They covered efficiency, etiquette and ownership with scenarios like someone the phone card, not the coffee card (it’s okay!), setting expectations with a beginning and end time for meetings (20 minutes is all that is needed!) and coming prepared with an agenda that highlights connections and brings value to both parties.

PopUp Speaker PointsPop-Up Presenters

The event continued by building on Marcia’s message with pop-up speakers. I love this concept. In a room full of 200-some people, everyone may want to talk to the main speaker(s) that delivered the message. Sometimes that isn’t possible. The pop-up style presented four speakers’ expanding views on networking in brief 2-3 minute format.

They were diverse and made very memorable points like Levi Weinhagen, Co-Founder of Comedy Suitcase, who suggested people ask mentors about their most challenging tasks and Pahoua Hoffman, Policy Director of Citizen’s League, who encouraged people to find the humanness in networking. She likened her networking approach to making friends rather than networking as a necessary evil solely for career gain.

Pollen Program + Connect CardIntentional Ice-Breakers

The match-up for attendee seating assignments (8 per table) was intentionally aligned by the event planners. The methodology (think LinkedIn and online search) is a secret, but even before that was revealed some of us discovered how we were connected just through the natural course of conversation.

The more orchestrated ice-breaking technique for the event began with a 3×4 card designed with a simple question about our daily routine and a specific networking question for each person to answer. When shared around the table, the answers brought insight into personality and networking style, strategies and tactics which stemmed further discussion.

On the flip side of the card there was a “connect card” — a business card to the plus — where you could check the variety of ways you’d like to connect including email, social channels and going to an event together. We couldn’t select just one person to give our one connect card to, so we all exchanged business cards.

Part 1: Recap

For part one in a series of two (to be continued on January 28 from 7:30-10a.m.), this event had the educational component, interactivity in subject matter (all attendees completed a 35 minute survey on their networking habits) and meaningful connections dialed in. I’m looking forward to building on the connections I made at the event and Pollen’s assessment of feedback (in collaboration with the Carlson School of Management) yet to come during Part 2.

The New Leadership

Networking is the new leadership. As a communications person who attends a lot of events and event planner driven by research and behaviors, I can’t help but be drawn to discovering networking best practices. Some subscribe to the theory that the more people you meet the more opportunities you have to make connections that translate into career value. But it’s not necessarily about quantity, it’s about quality… and time, resources and value for your personal life and career.

Fellow Pollenites: Did you find value in this event? Networkers: What value do you give and receive through networking? What do you love and hate about it?

Effective Networking

Are you too busy to make business/ social engagements you rsvp for and have earmarked in your calendar? How do you choose which seminars or events you attend? Where’s the most value in networking and business to fun-factor balance?

Networking at the Launchwise Event

Networking at the Launchwise Event


As an event planner myself, I always marvel at the number of people who would RSVP for an event and never show up. Events can average around 25-50% no-show rate depending on the event’s cost, exclusivity and communications. And with the explosion of social media – specifically Facebook Event Pages and other rsvp services like EventBrite – there is increasing potential for false positives. People want to support a cause and in the case of Facebook, click to “Join” and it’s automatically assumed you’re going. Event planners are taking these new factors into consideration and coming up with new equations to predict an event’s success – writing off a higher amount of the one-click rsvp’s as no-shows, for example, but attributing those “likes” as promotional.

We’re all busy. We’re also optimistic. We rsvp and add events to our calendar in hopes that we can attend, then give them a re-evaluation the day of and might have to bow out. There are unforseen business or personal conflicts to manage plus there are no shortage of events. Here are some of the things I consider when rsvp’ing.

1. Time commitment
2. Location/ convenience (additional events to attend)
3. Potential business / personal connections to be made
4. My level of interest in the subject/ content
5. Exclusivity – annual, or reoccurring monthly
6. Cause to support
7. Entertainment factor and structure of the event
8. Cost

Where’s the Value?

I carve out time in my schedule to make events a priority. There might be one main event I want to do (Thursday nights seem to be good event nights for networking and it generally works with my schedule), so I might seek out additional events in any given evening while in networking mode. For me, this is easier than having several events spread out over the course of the week/month. And, depending on the event, you can typically get in and out in 30 minutes if you’re on a time crunch and still make it worth-while and effective. This means pre-networking via social channels (following the host company/organization and event speakers/participants), enjoying the event itself (meeting people, making connections) and doing your follow-up online (LinkedIn) or personal networking in a timely manner — like within 1-2 business days. More on this in a future post.

The events I find most valuable to attend include some sort of short program – 15 min to 45 min – that is educational or inspirational in some way for business or personal reasons. Typically there is some social time before and after – 15 -30 minutes on either end is plenty. I also really appreciate it when the hosts are mingling and ready to be engaging. There’s nothing worse than walking into an event alone where no one greets you or takes a moment to find out why you’re there and make a suggestion or introduction. And sure, a lot of people come to events and already know each other, but as an event planner, wouldn’t it be beneficial to attract a new audience to your event/cause to keep it fresh and interesting?

Good Event Examples

I recently attended an event hosted by DTZ Global and Knoll at the Minneapolis Club in downtown Minneapolis. In my book, they scored highly on their program structure (national thought leaders on Change in the Workplace), educational/inspirational value, number of people from different yet related professions and industries and being great hosts. It was a more intimate event with about 70 in attendance, which meant easy access to the hosts and keynote presenters.

Another group, Launchwise, which I discovered in June, is solely for networking purposes. They have reoccurring bimonthly events around a wine and chocolate theme. Oh, and there’s a cool, new property for its location too as in the VUE in June and the Elan Uptown in August. It’s low key and easy with creative types and entrepreneurs in the mix. I met an art gallery owner and graphic designer who is also AIGA Minnesota’s President and caught up with my architect and writer friends too (pictured above).

A Networking Plan

For some networking is work. Getting into a positive mindset and having a plan can make it effective for you. And remember new people can spark new creativity and perspective and that’s important. Choose one to two slots a month for networking and attend events by good hosts you can count on and try out some new events with an open mind after doing your research, of course. Happy handshaking.

What events have you attended that were really well done?