Branded Youth Conference offers youth the opportunity to connect with a group of really amazing experienced industry experts through a networking mixer and informative workshops. The workshop settings are intimate and engaging. As a teaser we have asked a few of our lead Consultants to share a bit about their experience. We caught up with Emily Mills fresh off her wildly successful social How She Hustles. Emily is this years lead Consultant for The Million Dollar Pitch workshop and today’s Facilitator Feature Blogger. She share with us what she has learned by creating an event that filled a gap in Toronto’s social and business scene.
5 Lessons Learned from the How She Hustles brunch
By Emily Mills
Last week, we made HERstory in Toronto. With incredible support of a small but passionate team, I organized my 5th How She Hustles women’s networking brunch at the Eaton Chelsea Toronto hotel. Almost 250 influential, inspiring and diverse women attended the event to mix, mingle, share tips for success and enjoy. Tickets literally sold out in days. We welcomed brunch guests from Ottawa, Windsor, Detroit, Connecticut, Atlanta and even Antigua and Paris. We were joined by media personalities from CTV, CityTV, CBC and Rogers. During brunch, we were inspired by words of wisdom from a mother of 8 to an 80-year-old entrepreneur who is writing her autobiography. The energy in the room was electric. The event created so much buzz that #howshehustles was trending on Twitter in Toronto – and we became one of the platform’s top trends across Canada that afternoon. I don’t think our city had ever seen anything like it.
Although I won’t host another How She Hustles event for a while (instead, I’ll focus on raising my infant and toddler with my husband), it’s important for me to make note of lessons learned after organizing such a successful, large scale event. Here are a few highlights:
- Set objectives and encourage your audience to help achieve them.
Since this was the last How She Hustles brunch – our big finale – I wanted to make a measurable impact. To get noticed. To trend on Twitter. I wanted our collective buzz to be heard beyond the hotel walls and social media was the perfect vehicle for this. To get our message out. That proclaim that we were there. United. Hustling. Connecting. Building a better Toronto in unique ways.
So from day one, all my marketing and communications around the event were boldly and deliberately branded with the hashtag #howshehustles. All my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts? #howshehustles. All printed and digital signage at the event? #howshehustles. What was on the table settings for all 230 guests? You guessed it: a card encouraging them to tweet #howshehustles. We erected a live Twitter wall so guests could see their tweets in real time – as long as they included our hashtag.
We also asked questions like ‘What’s your hustle?’ as an icebreaker, and asked guests to discuss at their tables before tweeting their responses with #howshehustles. Further, we engaged hundreds of women who couldn’t attend brunch yet wanted to get in on the conversation. How? By using the hashtag, we could find their questions and comments via social media and engage a much larger audience seamlessly into our event.
Throughout brunch, we reminded our guests and online community that we wanted to trend on Twitter. Our collective focus, enthusiasm, and determination paid off. Before the event ended, we were indeed one of the dominant online conversations in Toronto – and apparently, Canada.
- Assemble an A-list team
Surround yourself with the right people, and give them with the right responsibilities. Look at their skill sets – and yours. What do they know, that you don’t? How can they help in a way that others can’t? Do they have as much passion for your work as you do? Do they share your vision?
Since I’m a new mom with two boys under two and a demanding full-time job, it’s been essential to have an “A-team” to help counsel, plan, promote and execute all of my How She Hustles events. In any venture, you always need a stellar supporting cast and I’ve been blessed to have one, year after year. I see their ongoing commitment as a key indicator of success. The women on my team are incredibly talented and busy, yet for five years, many have chosen to invest time, energy and ideas into How She Hustles. For that, I am so grateful.
I’ve learned that in order to lead the team successfully, I need to regularly ask for input and feedback. I need to be responsive and open to their ideas. I need to create new opportunities for my them to grow and learn. I need to continue expressing my appreciation for their hard work. And I also need to develop my own leadership skills to bring out the best in my team – and myself.
- Dare to be different.
I can’t tell you how many emails I receive before my event from women offering their services and suggestions. And I appreciate it. However, some of the most common pitches are exactly that: too common. Too unoriginal. Too predictable. Take for example, recommendations for keynote speakers. In five years, I have never had a keynote speaker at brunch. Not once. And I don’t plan on it any time soon. Everybody expects that. Especially at networking events for professional women. It’s a model that just isn’t for me.
When you attend a How She Hustles event, my philosophy is a bit different: We are all experts at something. We all have pearls of wisdom to offer. We all have something of value that someone else needs to hear. The trick? Is to find the best way to share all that insight. A way for a room full of women to share all that knowledge with each other.
So, for example, this year we created a “Wall of Wisdom”. Simple concept: We gave 230 women a colourful cue card. We asked them to write down a bit of practical advice, an uplifting quote or a helpful resource. Interesting discussions followed and, of course, lots of tweets with our hashtag! Then we displayed all the cards on a wall so guests could read, reflect and discuss some more over dessert. I was so excited by how well this worked at brunch. Such a little idea, yet such a big impact. Women felt informed and inspired. Isn’t that what a spectacular keynote is supposed to do anyway? Glad I trusted my gut once again and took a different approach.
- Share your success story.
No need to brag. But if you’ve hit – or exceeded – your targets, there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating your success with others. Briefly describe what you set out to do, how you did it, and the impact or end result. There are so many ways to document and share your success – from earned media to engaging digital content. It’s up to you to decide what works best.
It certainly helps to demonstrate that you can deliver the goods in creative ways when you are approaching future sponsors, partners or other parties of interest.
I find photos one of the most effective ways to express what How She Hustles is about and to highlight the success of our events. To show – instead of just tell – my audience a narrative about what we do and to illustrate how they can be a part of it.
If you look through photo galleries or videos from past How She Hustles events, you’ll see vibrant images of women embracing and smiling, listening and talking, shaking hands and swapping cards. Images of beautiful venues filled with women who are networking. Images of women on smart phones getting social with us. You’ll see women who are youthful, professional, diverse and tech saavy. That’s deliberate. That’s my core audience. (Although all women are welcome – and that’s what so many guests love.)
I want women to anticipate a warm welcoming environment, a place where they can share information, ideas and inspiration, and a place where diverse women can connect. To me, those are the cornerstones of a successful How She Hustles event. So whenever I use photography – on social media, on printed signage, or otherwise – that’s exactly what I aim to convey about my brand. Add some key stats, anecdotes and testimonials, and there’s a compelling story to tell. So far, it’s worked very well.
- Maximize your momentum.
Once you’ve met or exceeded your objectives, take advantage of your momentum. You’re probably coasting on positive energy and have a boost of confidence from what you’ve already accomplished. You likely have people around you who appreciate whatever you’ve done and want to tell others about it. Their enthusiasm – and yours – is a great opportunity. An opportunity that should be valued. An opportunity to do more for your brand, while you have the chance.
Maybe this is the right time to write a guest blog for a popular website to share your expertise? Maybe you can deliver a keynote at an upcoming conference? Maybe the supportive audience you have now can help you reach a larger one through word of mouth? Maybe this is an ideal time to promote another upcoming event or initiative? Or, maybe this is the right time to reach out to potential partners and new sponsors, while the buzz still surrounds you and your brand.
Yes, it’s important to take a minute and appreciate your success today, but keep your eye on the bigger payoff that may be possible tomorrow if you seize the moment.
To learn more about the How She Hustles brunch, see an event recap on Storify or watch our Youtube videos. Women of all ages and backgrounds are also invited to connect with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. How She Hustles is an online network that connects over 2000 women through networking events and social media.
Please join Emily Mills – along with a team of knowledgeable industry experts– at Branded TO on November 13 for a session about how to craft and deliver a winning pitch.