It's taken me a while to get this post up because I've been so intensely focused and re-energized these past few weeks since returning from Orlando that I've scarcely had time to do anything but completely redefine everything I thought I knew about running my business. Seriously.
I've been asked several times to share what I've learned from Engage! People ask me what tips and tricks I was told to implement, what strategies and processes I was told would bring in more business, and they've ask me, "was it worth it?". The only one of those questions I can answer succinctly is the last one... and the answer is a resounding YES YES YES!!! It's SO worth it. So worth it, in fact, that trying to describe what I actually "learned" is almost impossible. Instead, I'll share a single story from my personal experience and how it impacted me (there are SO MANY experiences that impacted me... but I'd have to make this into a 20-part series to get through them, so I'll just share one):
I flew out to Orlando on the first day of the event... the "First Timers" session wasn't until 2pm and my flight was scheduled to arrive in Orlando at 11:30am so I figured that I had lots of time... Well, long story short, I missed my connecting flight in New Jersey and arrived at the Four Seasons Orlando at 3:20pm. UGH!
Luckily, the Four Seasons was AMAZING! They took my name at the gate and by the time I arrived at the main entrance of the hotel a lovely young woman stood waiting for me, room key in hand, to let me know that I'd been checked in, my bags would be taken up to my room, and she would walk me to the conference room so that I didn't have to miss even an nanosecond more than I absolutely had to. WOW! I relaxed instantly... these guys had everything under control (PS: this isn't the experience I wanted to share as I could do whole post on this interaction alone... but I digress).
I rushed my way through registration where I was handed a large tote bag, a white mailer box, and the prettiest conference lanyard I've ever seen in my life! (Again... not the experience I'm trying to share... but I promise, I'm getting there). My arms suddenly overflowing again, I opened the door to the conference room where the general session had already been going on for some time. I tried to sneak in as quietly as possible, but instead of slipping in unnoticed, I caught the attention of a vibrant, red-headed woman sitting in the back row who swung full around in her seat, smiled the biggest most sincerely welcoming smile I'd ever seen, and waved me into the room. Marcy Blum had no clue who I was but somehow she looked at me with the recognition of an old friend and once again I felt totally at ease. Boom! That's the experience I'm going to focus on. Now it might seem like a small thing... but do read on.
For the next three days I sat through sessions and filled my custom "poppin" notebook with mini epiphanies, sparks of inspiration, and even a few catchy quotes. But the real magic happened when you walked around the hotel or sat down to eat... every single person at the conference was friendly, and happy, and sincere. It was like a great big community of wonderful humans sharing, learning, and engaging. But no one could do this more sincerely than March Blum. Every time she walked past she would look me in the eye, smile, wave, and say hi. Seriously. I never stopped her to introduce myself and she still has no clue who I am... but I mean it when I say that it was the most sincere interaction each and every time.
So how did that one small experience affect me in a practical sense? Well, if you bare with me a moment longer I'll explain:
When I returned home from the conference on Saturday my husband's company was participating in the local Christmas Parade. We were going to be joining his co-workers' families on the float along with our daughters.
I felt pretty confident in my parade-float-riding skills since I had just watched the Christmas parade at Disney and I'd seen all of the pretty princesses smiling and waving at everyone... I mean, I was practically an expert now. So as the float started down the road I smiled and waved at the crowd and it took exactly 2.5 seconds for me to feel like the biggest idiot in the world. I felt like I was pretending to be the Queen of England... I wasn't cut out to be a Disney Princess. Dammit! This was going to be the longest parade EVER!
And suddenly, it dawned on me... Marcy Blum would be THE BEST Disney Princess ever! No seriously... hear me out. Marcy wouldn't just smile and wave absent-mindedly... Marcy would look each and every one of those little kids (and adults) right in the eye and wave, and say 'hi', and really mean it. So I followed suit. The difference was astounding... not just for the kids I was waving to, but for me! Every time I caught the eye of a little boy or girl who was waving at no one in particular, and they realized that I was looking at THEM, their eyes lit up, their hands shot up a little higher into the air, and they waved with excitement and enthusiasm. And their excitement and enthusiasm was CONTAGIOUS! I may have looked like Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, smiling and waving with such childlike glee, but I didn't care. I had a blast!
My Marcy story is just one small experience out of many. Each experience and interaction had the potential to create a major impact. For me, many of those experiences translated into a tangible list of action items or into a new way of looking at my life and my business. Sounds profound, right? It is.
What I took from the conference can't be explained easily. I've listened to clips of the general sessions in the past and while they were inspirational all on their own, they were not a substitute for attending and immersing yourself in the whole experience. So for me, the takeaways are these:
1. If you want to learn about how to create a strong brand you have to experience a brilliant brand first hand. What you take from that depends on you,
2. If you want to learn about how to make your clients feel like they are part of something really special you have to be roped into something really magical yourself, what you take from that depends on you; and
3. If you want to know how to make more money you have to call Sean Low 'cause I still can't help you there. But in large part I'm willing to bet that it depends on you in some way as well.
Rebecca, Kathryn, and Team Engage go above and beyond to create an experience like no other for their attendees and I soaked in each and every moment... Thank you all so much!
As for me, I'm officially addicted to Engage! and plan to attend again and again.
Until next time...
Special thanks to the entire Engage! Photography Team for sharing these beautiful images!
Photographers: Love Life Images, Garrett Nudd, Laura DeCarlo, C10 Studios, Carla Ten Eyck
Event Vendors: Event Design, Floral + Decor: Jose Graterol Designs, Mixology: The Grand Bevy, Location:Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, Specialty Chairs: Luxe Event Rentals, Lighting + Production Stage, Dance Floor and Banner: PSID Group, Escort Cards, Menus + Table Numbers: Lehr & Black, Entertainment: West Coast Music, Highlight Film: Cloudless Weddings, Sound: DesignSound, AV Support: PSAV, Ice Bars + Tables: Wizard Connection, Bar, Custom Furniture, Lounge Seating + Tables, Escort Card Table: M&J Custom Events Furniture Rental, Floral Support: Virgin Farms, Floraology Market, Table + Glassware: A Chair Affair, Backline: Red Rocket Studios, Custom Linens: Nuage Designs