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I’m excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.


Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Yesterday’s Brainzooming mega-post was about how an introvert can go solo and still comfortably meet new people at a conference. I’m happy to report my initial audience of one for the mega-post used it with great success yesterday.

Before the event was set to start, she messaged me: amid her thanks for the post’s help, she mentioned planning to skip the opening keynote because it didn’t seem as if she’d learn anything. Thanking her for her graciousness, I asked if I could offer one more piece of advice.

She responded, “Don’t skip the opening keynote?”

“EXACTLY,” I replied.

She offered several reasons why she couldn’t make it. I suggested going for the last 30 minutes of the 90-minute talk. The reason? Part of the whole introvert trying to meet new people at a conference strategy depends on creating as many shared experiences with others as possible. Shared experiences are bonding opportunities and future conversation starters. People will be talking about the opening keynote at the next session. If she missed it, she’d already be left out of the conversation, reinforcing any views that this conference would be a lonely experience.

My cajoling worked. She attended the opening keynote.

And guess what? People were laughing, enjoying it, and she learned things!

Uh huh.

If you can avoid it, NEVER skip the opening keynote. Beyond the reason I shared with her, here are five others:

  • Getting there early allows you to scout the best spots to sit. You can also size up the crowd and see if there’s anyone you know that you can hang out with from the start.
  • If the conference is a good one, there should be a snazzy opening. Sure, there are plenty of conferences that DON’T have snazzy openings. If your conference does, though, you won’t get to see it again if you skip the opening keynote.
  • The conference opening delivers the setup for the entire conference: the key themes, flow, and take-aways to look for during your time there.
  • In all likelihood, the opening keynote will be one of the top two or three speakers: maybe the best one. Even if you think you won’t learn anything, the speaker’s energy and message will likely be worth going.
  • If the opening keynote sucks (which I’ve seen happen plenty of times), you can always write a blog post about how not to be a big-time speaker!

Trust me: NEVER skip the opening keynote at a conference! Mike Brown

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A friend is heading to a business conference by herself today. Over the weekend, she mentioned she is nervous about going because of “everything: driving there, being there alone, not knowing anybody, whether or not to do the dinner cruise thing, just imagining walking into any of the socializing stuff, what to wear, what to do in my down time. Will probably just hide in my luxurious hut.”

I told her she needs to make herself socialize and meet new people at the conference, suggesting she find a friendly face that also doesn’t know anyone and become buddies. She was skeptical based on her most recent experience of showing up alone. As she recalled, “I stood around, walked around, smiled, said hi, introduced myself. Nothing. Except an angry nerd attached himself to me. No grownups were interested.”

I suggested additional ideas, then realized: I was writing a blog post on how I, as an introvert, force myself to meet new people at conferences and business events. Granted, there are LOTS of other sources on this, but this one is based on my personal experiences.

Speaking is a central part of my personal conference networking strategy to meet new people. Speaking helps tremendously in getting people to approach you to chat. If you’re the type of introvert that is fine getting up in front of groups and talking, that’s my number one recommendation.

23 Ideas to Meet New People at a Conference

Here are things I’ve tried (or experienced) to meet new people at conferences where I am not speaking:

Way Before the Conference

#1. Try to convince someone to go with you so you know somebody.

#2. Do whatever you can to scope out the attendees and speakers upfront. Figure out if you have connections to any of them (or even to people in the city where you are headed), and arrange meetings. That’s how I met Diane Black (who has done such great inforgraphics for us) and Mess Wright, both of whom inspired ideas that could re-shape the future of Brainzooming.

#3. Try wearing message clothing. By that, I mean wear a shirt that creates conversation, which may require pre-planning. I met this young woman at Inbound2016. With a shirt like this, I HAD to ask why she was looking for a new boss. I took photos and tweeted them to help her get attention. What message clothes can you create and wear to start converstations?

Right Before the Conference

#4. Pack the clothing or jewelry you own that most often generates comments from others. Wear those as conversation starters. (Orange socks, an orange watch, and all the other orange stuff I have prompt many comments and conversations. Even from other introverts! That’s how I got to know Claire Denbo of engage5w.)

#5. PACK BUSINESS CARDS. ENOUGH SAID.

#6. Find out the conference hashtag(s) ahead of time, and begin monitoring them. Reach out to other attendees and speakers using the hashtag. Ask and answer questions to start building relationships.

#7. If there are free times for lunch or dinner, book a reservation for four at a nearby restaurant and start asking people you meet to join you (and bring friends). I tried this the first time at the GasCan conference; long-time friend Kathryn Lorenzen became my anchor guest, bringing two other friends, while I invited Mike Farag of Fervor. We had a fantastic lunch!

#8. Prepare a few open-ended, easy-to-answer multiple part questions to ask. Prepare to use them. Try, “Is this your first time at the conference?” If it is, ask why they chose it or what they are looking forward to at the event. If they are returning, ask why they came back, and what you should not miss. This helps you uncover experts you can depend on or refer others to for meet-ups.

Onsite Before the Conference Starts

#9. If the registration is informal, chat with the people handling registration. Let them know this is a new environment for you, and you’d love to meet new folks. Maybe even give them a card or two that includes a way to track you down onsite. Tell them if they come across anyone looking for a buddy, you’re interested in hanging out with others.

#10. Arrive early and get the lay of the land in and around the conference facility so you can easily answer questions. Take on the role of being an informal conference concierge since answering questions is a great way to meet people. Be ready to point people to where meeting rooms and bathrooms are, know how long it takes from the elevators to the conference area, figure out fun things to do, where to eat, and the closest convenience and drugstores.

#11. Get up to speed on the agenda in a deep way. Understand the event flow, themes for the day or evening, and when things are. This positions you to pipe up with answers and meet people that will be at your table and ask general questions about the conference hoping someone can answer them.

During the Conference

#12. Wear your nametag. Make sure it’s visible. If it keeps flipping around, rig a binder clip to hold it in place.

#13. Be deliberate about your seating strategy at sessions with round tables. You can join a group and have people to start talking with right away (asking if a chair is free, introducing yourself, asking a question, etc.) Alternatively, you can scope out a table where no one is sitting. You then “own” the space and can play the role of a host. Either one works. One may suit you better than the other, though.

#14. Serve other people at the conference. Stock up on cough drops, mints, phone chargers, an extension cord, pens, and paper. Know how to download and use the conference app. Sit near the water pitcher at a table so you can offer to pour water or go get a drink for someone that just sat down. Be the one to get the Uber or car pool arranged. Those are easy ways for an introvert to meet new people and seem as if you are one of the most engaging people at the conference.

#15. Compare schedules with others. Learn what sessions they are attending. If it makes sense content-wise, give preference to sessions where you suspect you’re going to find people you have already met. (While it wasn’t a conference, this is why I, as a political science undergrad major, took a summer school accounting class: a woman I was interested in was going to be taking it, and so I just happened to be taking it, too.)

#16. Take advantage of social media to reach out and increase your visibility. Live tweet the sessions you attend (I’ve had people change sessions and meet me based on live tweets that made where I was sound more interesting.) Change the profile pics on social networks daily so they show what you look like and are wearing. This makes it very easy to spot you in a crowd.

#17. Type up your top ten take-aways from the day’s events and publish a blog post that evening or before the conference begins the next morning. Share it using the conference hashtag so people notice you are there. Invite conference goers reading the post to reach out to you at the event to request your full set of notes afterward.

#18. Unless you are actively using your phone for networking with social media (be honest here), leave it in your purse or pocket. Don’t make it look like your phone is your date for the event.

#19. Be careful with how you approach uber-confident, uber-outgoing, and uber-interested in telling everyone how great everything is people. I don’t know about you, but they can suck away what networking energy I have and leave me beating myself up for not being more outgoing and successful. That means I, at least, must be very careful about how much time I spend trying to hang out around them.

Networking Events

#20. Sign up for networking events and excursions. Make yourself go. Boost your confidence that you can enjoy these events on your own, while you look for opportunities to share experiences with others!

#21. Know how much alcohol gets you to where you start being engaging. Be careful if you need to drive afterward, but get to that amount of alcohol early on at a networking event to loosen up your conversation skills.

#22. Find other people that are alone and appear uneasy but hopeful. Reach out to them, essentially offering them an opportunity to be a part of a posse. Invite them to the group lunch or dinner you are planning!

#23. Look for small groups at networking events, ideally with people you’ve seen at sessions during the day. Find a way to join them through proximity, listening, smiling, and shared interests (i.e., you all are at this event, were in some of the same sessions, and have drinks). Being around the crowd can be the right opening to start meeting other people on the edge of the crowd.

That’s Not All the Ideas

I’m sure there are more ideas than this for an introvert to meet new people at a conference, but since this is probably the longest Brainzooming post ever, that’s all for today! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence profiled a Bloomberg Businessweek story on Fanatics, the sports apparel manufacturer and marketer, in its Inside the Executive Suite. Fanatics introduced disruptive innovation to its marketplace with an agile strategy. It employs technology, focused creative teams, new manufacturing processes, and communications to remove time and waste when creating post-sporting event apparel featuring the winners and exciting story lines. For NCAA basketball tournament games, Fanatics can put a newly approved shirt on its website within 15 minutes. It also uses its agile strategy to market apparel for niche opportunities where it might sell as few as ten t-shirts.

Along with the recap, Inside the Executive Suite offered sixteen strategic thinking questions inspired by the Fanatics case study that you can use to explore agile strategy options within your own organization. We thought the list was intriguing, so we secured the go ahead to share the strategic thinking questions with you here.

16 Strategic Thinking Questions to Explore Agile Strategy and Disruptive Innovation

via Shutterstock

Developing an Agile Strategy

  • Where can your organization realize the greatest leverage from improved agility – cost savings, an improved customer experience, sales opportunities, greater financial efficiency?
  • Beyond making investments and process changes to increase agility, are there other opportunities to cost-effectively manage demand?
  • How can you develop a super-agile process that disrupts other industry players’ competitive advantages?

Identifying Process Changes for Agile Strategy

  • Where can you aggressively remove steps (especially low-value ones) from today’s process to boost agility?
  • How can you completely redesign today’s process from scratch to create a super-agile approach?
  • What roles do you need on your agile execution team to move from idea to market with previously unheard of speed?
  • What characteristics and behaviors are important for agile execution team members to display?
  • What resources (even if they are redundant or eventually discarded) are critical to enable rapid execution?

The Interplay Between Flexibility and Agility

  • How can you improve your organization’s ability to pre-plan and anticipate the uncertain?
  • In what ways can more / better / faster data access increase forecasting accuracy, and your ability to delay decisions without compromising agility?
  • What are the various types of reviews, approvals, and decisions you will need during crunch time? How can agile decision making happen in an easier and more timely way when speed is most important?
  • What does the time window around peak need look like?
  • Is there additional flexibility you can create / exploit in lead times, the length of the selling opportunity, and / or the long tail of demand?

Strong Relationships Enable Agility

  • Who are the outside people and entities vital to ensuring your agile processes perform as expected?
  • What foreknowledge, training, and support will outside parties require to perform their duties at peak levels?
  • What do agile relationship-building skills necessary for supporting your process look like?

Across these questions, you’ll get a start thinking through how an agile strategy can push disruptive innovation in your industry.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater agility and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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How are you boosting your creative thinking skills in dramatic ways for 2017 and beyond?

If you haven’t thought about it, fortunately for you, there is an opportunity coming up April 2 through April 9, 2017! It features forty-five creativity and innovation experts! And it’s available online and FREE!

The Innovation and Creativity Summit 2017 is a virtual event running from this coming Sunday through the following Sunday. Your FREE registration includes access to at least forty-five all-new interviews with global creativity and innovation experts.

Register TODAY! FREE 2017 Innovation and Creativity Summit Virutal Event



Nick Skillicorn, blogger and host of the Idea to Value podcast, is the host for each interview. The featured experts include several Twitter friends I’ve never had the opportunity to see share their ideas in person, including:

  • Alan Iny– Head of Creativity at Boston Consulting Group
  • Jorge Barba– President at Baja California Innovation Cluster
  • Paul Sloane– Author of Think like an Innovator
  • Gregg Fraley– Author of Jack’s Notebook
  • Holly Green– Founder ofThe Human Factor

Other interviewees include:

  • Karen Dillon– Former editor of Harvard Business Review, Co-Author of Competing Against Luck
  • David Burkus– Author of Under New Management & Myths of Creativity
  • Max McKeown– Author of The Innovation Book
  • Ralph-Christian Ohr– Founder of Integrative Innovation

I neglected to mention: I’ll also have a segment in the summit talking about the value of strategic detours for boosting creative thinking skills throughout strategic planning.

Register TODAY! FREE 2017 Innovation and Creativity Summit Virutal Event


Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity! Register in advance, and you’ll receive updates with the FREE video interviews released for that day of the 2017 Innovation and Creativity Summit.

We’re looking forward to you joining and learning new innovation and creative thinking skills from all these great experts! – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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While we are whole-hearted proponents of fun strategic planning activities, that doesn’t mean every strategic planning workshop we design and facilitate has exactly the same type of fun. In fact, in some situations, we never get out the fun squeeze toys.

And we all know that toys are a universal signal that a strategy workshop is supposed to be fun.

Not really; just kidding.

There is a lot more to making a strategy workshop fun so that people want to participate the first time and in subsequent years. We detail all those ideas in 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.

4 Times to Avoid Toys during Fun Strategic Planning Activities

But back to strategy workshops and skipping the toys – here are four situations where we do not rush to put out toys:

1. The dynamic with the group doesn’t feel right

Sometimes, it is obvious that the participants are not jelling and funny is not the best thing to get them comfortable with each other.

2. It’s too cramped and cluttered in the room

We want a lot of square feet per person for a strategy workshop. Often, we wind up in a tiny room because it’s convenient, and everyone is on top of one another. In those situations, the last thing we need is to add to the clutter with toys.

3. The people may kill each other

Toys are meant to be fun. They are not meant to be weapons. When the strategy workshop participants are a little TOO aggressive with one another, someone could put an eye out by zinging a squeeze ball at a co-worker. If people can’t play nicely, NO TOYS.

4. We’re told “no funny stuff”

We have talked about situations where a client came to us before the workshop to say there was to be no funny stuff. In those cases, we don’t go to the toys – at least not right away!

Other than those four times

Beyond those four times, we’re all about the toys. And everything else that REALLY makes strategic planning a mentally stimulating experience! – Mike Brown

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fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”


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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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The folks over at “Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed an important aspect of customer experience strategy this week: turning your organization’s claims of customer focus into real actions.

The following ideas (condensed from the original Armada article) highlight four ways to bring your aspirational customer experience strategy to life.

Customer Experience Strategy: 4 Ideas for Creating Customer Focus

In a Bloomberg Businessweek interview with GE CEO, Jeff Immelt, he comments, not surprisingly, multiple times on GE embracing a customer focus. He mentions that even GE narrowing its business portfolio ties to its customer focus: managing unrelated businesses is challenging and demonstrates more of a brand-first than customer-first perspective.

Immelt also discussed the GE transformation toward becoming a digital and software player. Immelt ties the strategic shift, without using the phrase, to the Internet of Things: GE jet engines have hundreds of sensors streaming performance information. Rather than standing by, GE wanted to play a vital role in modeling the data, turning it into actionable knowledge for customers.

Decisions that Benefit Customers

The idea of customer focus is easy to say, but challenging to implement.

To make the concept more actionable, however, let’s posit this idea: one meaningful way to demonstrate customer focus is through helping customers improve their own situations – whether or not it helps a company’s own prospects.

This implies looking at business decisions from a customer’s viewpoint, not the company’s view. While that is natural for some organizations, it runs completely counter to business practices in many others. To stimulate your thinking about what this approach could look like in your organization, here are questions and potential responses for boosting your organization’s customer focus.

1. Making Customers Better Buyers

Think about the price comparison tool Progressive Insurance ads feature. To keep potential customers from third-party sites, Progressive offers competitive price comparisons, even though it does not always win. This is scary for companies. It seems unnatural to boost a competitor’s visibility, but consider how it could improve both customers’ situations and your brand.

Questions to Explore

  • How can we facilitate easier and more accurate buying comparisons for customers?
  • In what ways can we help customers buy ONLY what they need ONLY when they need it?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

If you suspect your brand will not fare well in competitor comparisons, explore product and / or service enhancements to improve your position. You can also identify other features and benefits to incorporate into the comparisons to show the true benefit of your brand relative to the competitive set.

2. Creating Smarter Customers

In Immelt’s example with GE, jet engine sensors provide the opportunity to boost customer knowledge in myriad ways. They offer current diagnostics, forward-looking indicators, and long-term trend data. Can the Internet of Things or other information flows provide the same types of insight benefits for your customers?

Questions to Explore

  • Where can we inform customers with performance and exception data they do not currently have access to with our products?
  • How can our products provide visibility to customers where they cannot easily get it right now?
  • In what ways can we deliver predictive information to customers?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

These questions challenge you to deliver better information to customers. This can improve their effectiveness, productivity, and growth potential. For your organization, it opens possibilities for new services to interpret the slew of data, further increasing the customer benefits you deliver.

3. Making Customers More Productive

Organizations seem increasingly open to radically different ways of accomplishing basic and advanced business functions. Look beyond your company’s own boundaries to imagine new ways you can enable customers to improve their productivity levels.

Questions to Explore

  • How can we take on new functions for customers to allow them to extend their reach and impact?
  • Where are steps we can remove from our processes that don’t provide value to customers?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

Simplification can be a very attractive market position. Simplify life for your customers, whether doing more for them or making them do less when they work with your organization.

4. Providing Greater Value

Many organizations bundle products and services to sustain higher price points. Too often, that’s accomplished through including features that are inexpensive to provide yet offer little additional impact for customers. This is an opportunity to rethink your approach.

Questions to Explore

  • What are ways to unbundle what we offer so it better fits with customer needs, usage, and buying preferences?
  • Are there more attractive bundles from a customer viewpoint?
  • How can we cut the market price of what we offer by ½ to dramatically boost customer value?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

These questions cause you to decouple market price from the cost to produce what you offer. Building your price around the customer and the marketplace forces you to re-engineer what you do to achieve the lowest possible cost. That’s a competitively strong way to increase margins vs. simply tacking on an increase to current prices.

A Starting Point for Your Customer Experience Strategy

Not all these areas apply to all companies. If your organization is truly customer-focused, however, tackling these questions will do more to move your brand in that direction than simply telling people you focus on customers. – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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