Brand Building Lessons Learned At Spark.Me Conference

Brand building; Spark.me; MattLambert

On my birthday in 2015, I found myself walking on stage at the Spark.me Conference in Budva, Montenegro. A few months prior, I had applied to be an official blogger (I also had purchased a ticket because I didn’t expect to be accepted as a blogger) at a conference I had never attended and only learned about the prior year. I had met some of the organizers over the preceding months, yet there I was receiving a cake and being wished “Happy Birthday!” in spectacular fashion.

I fell in love with a brand because I realized quickly, the people behind it CARE.

What is the Spark.me Conference?

The conference describes itself as “one of the most carefully curated business/internet conferences in Southeast Europe.”

Spark.me has been organized each year since 2013 as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility program of Domain.ME.

While it may not be the biggest conference, I am certain it is one of the most intimate conferences allowing the participants close access and networking opportunities with leaders, pioneers, and top thinkers in the realms of marketing, tech, startups, and entrepreneurship.

(You may also find an astronaut or cyborg roaming around…)

Since I love this brand(-ed event), here are a few brand building lessons I learned over the 4 years of attending the conference.

Be personable.

“We can’t love a logo. We love a person.” Mark Schaefer

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

Brand building is founded on connection and relationships with our audience. We tell stories that allow people to love and trust our brands. Mark Schaefer, a globally recognized top marketing strategist and speaker, spoke in 2018 about the need for brands to become more personable to succeed in their marketing. Mark spoke about the decline of mass marketing content centered around the digital identity of a company.

Instead, brands must focus on the community that they are building. Brands must give their customers and audience a story to tell and an experience to share. User generated content and community shared content are some of the best brand building resources out there. It is up to businesses and companies to activate the potential of their audience.

Set yourself apart.

“What are you known for?” Mark Schaefer

During Mark’s talk in 2018, he spoke a bit on personal branding, but hit points that I believe can extend into our businesses. In fact, it is an age old branding lesson. The need to be known for something. The need to differentiate.

Whether it is a personal brand we are building or our business brand, we need to carefully consider what we want to be known for. Is it already saturated with content, or is there a market to saturate? We find our niche, and focus there with persistence to make our brand known.

Look Inside.

“It’s a lot easier to change what you say about yourself than changing yourself.” Denise Lee Yohn

Self assessment can be difficult for anyone especially businesses and organizations that see something going wrong, but not sure what it is. Denise Lee Yohn, a brand building expert, recognized that strong, healthy brands are strong and healthy internally first.

“Good brands start from within.”  Denise Lee Yohn

The priority of businesses in developing the far reaching brand must be building something special and strong within their own ranks prior to looking outward. Creating hero stories for the employees creates a greater opportunity for hero stories for the customers. In fact, brands have a strong reach because they have strong employee engagement with their brand.

Start at the core.

“Brand values = meaning” Peter Kim

In 2017, Peter Kim, VP of Digital Consumer Engagement at The LEGO Group, spoke about the story and essence of the LEGO brand, and more importantly how great brands make things awesome. They do this by pursuing brand values which bring meaning into the lives of the employee and consumer.

Much like Denise’s reminder that amazing brands begin from within, Peter emphasized that amazing brands are so because of their values and the meaning those values bring. “In the case of the LEGO Group, their mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Everything they do goes back to children and how to support the children.”

Collaborate with your community.

Timo Vuorensola, a Finnish filmmaker well known for films such as Iron Sky and Iron Sky: The Coming Race, has also become known for his achievements in crowdsourcing and crowdfunding his work. During his talk, he discussed both areas heavily and how he was able to leverage the help of the community that bought into his ideas to create something special.

For brands, the ability to not only engage them as an audience, but then go deeper by collaborating with them moves them into actually being a community. Communities much like families are not necessarily born but forged over time.

As a brand how do you collaborate with your community to create greater success and draw them deeper into your brand story?

Be mindful of the process.

“Show up! Follow up! Close!” Steli Efti

To say Steli Efti is high energy is an understatement, but with that energy he can deliver so much value in such a short time. He has been launching companies and building brands since the age of 17. He is currently the CEO of Close.io.

In 2015, Steli forced his audience to think about the basics. He challenged those around him by acknowledging the solutions to their problems are known, but not convenient. In the end, solutions are left undone.

One challenge brands face is consistency and follow through. Steli points out that when startups and brands show up, follow up, and deliver, they will win. It’s a day to day process, but it forces consistency by the brand. In today’s media savvy world that disseminates information quickly, being inconsistent once can kill the brand.

Spark.me 2019

This year the organizing team has already made some exciting announcements! 2018 saw the conference surpass new heights in participants and interest. This year the conference will move to a larger venue in Porto Montenegro in Tivat!

The Spark.me conference is not only about the keynotes and speakers. It also includes being a part of a transformative and engaging community. Tickets have gone on sale. I recommend grabbing your friends, team, or business partners and become a part of the community in 2019!

Experience Spark.me and experience Montenegro!

(For tips about what to explore in Montenegro in May check out my post here. And let me know you’re coming.)

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Designing an Employee-Centric Experience

I remember starting a new job when I was fresh out of college. I worked for an insurance firm. The application process was long and interviews even longer. However, by the end of the process, I felt as I had achieved something simply by being hired. Training lasted six months. Then I was released to my desk. But wait. Where is my desk?

The walk from the training area, which was a direct route into a bright open room, became a maze of hallways and crowded sections of tall cubicles. Openness was transformed into a dark, closed space. The design of each area stood in stark contrast, and left two different feelings on the employees who would spend eight hours a day in an already high stress work environment.

Companies talk about the importance of human centric design when it comes to products, but are they asking the same questions about human centric design for employees?

I look back and think about that job. Overall, the company was good. It had excellent benefits and bonus structures. I had two direct supervisors that I enjoyed, one of which transformed my thinking of leaders and the employees that work under their charge. However, the impact of the poor design of workspace and processes negatively affected my thinking. I believe this does not have to be the case, and using the design process in how personnel are hired and the creating spaces can greatly improve the mental effects felt by employees.

Here are 4 areas intentional, human-centric design can help companies and their employees:

Hiring

Hiring processes range from simplistic one form and interview hires to multi-page, levels of interviews, offers before a candidate is accepted. Throw in a probation period or lengthy onboarding process, and the steps become quite confusing.

Research shows that employees begin to make their first impressions about a company during the interview process. These impressions can last even after a job is accepted as an employee evaluates products and services of the companies or internal procedures.

While companies form products, services, and procedures around the general operation of the organization, more thought should go to the employees that are to champion these. This begins with the application and interview process to hire. Designing a well communicated, streamlined process demonstrates transparency, buy in, and a better user experience for the new candidate. It impacts the long term view of the organization.

Space

One of the biggest drawbacks in the personal story above was the space design. I spent six months in a space that created high interaction and activity with enough boundaries to keep people focused. The reality of the long term workspace was much different. It decreased collaboration and communication among teams especially between supervisor and team member. The high cubicle walls darkened the space and created a maze effect.

In companies that require high employee to employee engagement, workspaces must be designed to fit the needs of the employee as well as the company. Design of the workspace creates a positive mental and emotional feel that motivates the employee to be present going beyond the general goal of efficiency. One way to utilize design of the workspace, is involving the employees in the layout, decoration, and creation of the space itself.

Education

Employee education and growth are two major ways to keep employees engaged and retained with the company. However, many times employee development plans fail even when couched as “personal” plans. Why?

Writing for Forbes’, Joe Folkman suggests that these development plans are not driven by the employee, but another program created broadly. The problem: “the one size fits all” ends up helping few and fails at the intended purpose. Design thinking forces us to look back at the employee, and create something geared to the needs of the “user” rather than the company.

Organizational Structure

The structure of a business can play a large part in the employee’s experience. A major shift is taking place even among established companies from a hierarchical approach to a flatter organizational structure. A major reason for this is creating a more agile structure to address constantly changing patterns in tech and how is business is conducted.

Realigning an organization to improve communication and address changes at a faster rate will improve the company’s ability to be proactive and react when necessary to morphing trends. A flat organization also improves employee experience by removing layers of a process and empowering the employee to form creative solutions that receive more direct and clear feedback. The experience is enhanced, and employees feel more able to achieve creating a more motivating work environment.

To be fair, design thinking will not address all issues that human resources or a company will face. Not every employee will be satisfied in their new roles. However, adapting a more employee centric approach to running a business helps to identify a more proper fit for new hires.

5 Takeaways From Day 1 of #SparkMe

#SparkMe Day one

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.

SparkMe Day 1. Budva, Montenegro

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.

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

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.

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

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.

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

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.

Looking forward to Day 2.

All photos are Sergej Zabojako, https://www.cg4.me/index.php/me/foto-galereja/event/106003431699157444447@6561106624492577377

 

 

A Marketer, An Astronaut, And A Cyborg Walk Into A Bar: Preparing for Spark.Me 2018

preparing for a conference

Tomorrow begins Spark.me, a conference dedicated to curating one of the best businesses and internet conferences in Southeast Europe. And final preparations are being done to make the most of this unique opportunity to connect with leaders from wide ranging fields. I feel like this year will be one of the more diverse set of speakers. Marketing kingpins, an astronaut, and cyborgs. CYBORGS!!!

The night before a conference brings final preparations and checks to make sure everything is in place, every chord has been packed, electronic devices have been charged, and depending on departure time and destination asking over and over, “Did I forget anything?”

With so much going on and such diversity, here’s a checklist to help prepare the night before coming to Spark.me or any other conference where you are sure to engage unique and respected individuals that offer a new dimension of understanding of the world around us.

  1. Logistics

This is the boring stuff. Checking flight information, confirmation numbers, and times are all important to making sure your conference experience does not get derailed before it starts. I traveled recently with someone who was on edge at every hiccup, however, many of the bumps in the road were discussed in the travel notes sent out prior to departure. Do a last minute check and read over the information you have.

Pro tip: If you are unfamiliar with your destination, check local Facebook groups, expat groups, and travel groups about the area. Ask ahead and figure out best modes of transportation for getting between cities and to the venue.

If you are coming for Spark.Me, feel free to find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and ask! Or if you are visiting Montenegro for any reason. J

  1. Supplies

Make a quick check of your supplies. Nothing is worse than getting to a conference and realizing something was left behind. Especially a necessary piece of equipment. Set it all out the night before and get organized. Create a checklist and go through it. Power chords. Power supplies, Cameras. Nerf Balls to hit John Burkhart in the face?

  1. Do some homework

It should have already been done, but if not stay up late tonight and do some research on the speakers and attendees of the conference. Doing a little research will make the conference experience more beneficial in the long run. Begin interacting and connecting with speakers and attendees prior to the conference. Visit the Spark.me Facebook page to meet others before, during, and after the conference. Utilize these tools.

  1. Create a plan

Begin setting a plan for those you want to reach the most. Look over the schedule, and make notes of the speakers that you know will be interesting and fit your field the most. See if there will be any attendees that might present a good networking opportunity. Write down names and set plans to meet up. Some conferences are dedicated to making these networking opportunities happen naturally. Spark.me is one that does this well. However, it always requires a little work to reach out and set the time. Be intentional with the time that is spent at the conference. Do not let it go to the waste. Maximize your experience.

Conferences are an excellent opportunity to connect with those me may not meet in any other circumstance. You may get to speak to a marketing guru who spurs your strategy forward. Or you may talk to a cyborg that forces a change in perspective and how you experience the world around you. Making the right preparations will help open these opportunities and keep your experience on track.

3 Ways Events Impact A City Strategy

Events; City; Brand Strategy; Matt Lambert

Building a sense of place and reputation takes a well rounded and creative strategy. When thinking of possibilities to build a better perception, those responsible need to think about existing structures along with what could be. Many think about the arts, culture, and tourist offerings in drawing the attention of outsiders, or even awakening the imagination of locals. However, one area tends to be neglected: EVENTS, especially yearly, dependable events that leverage the strength of existing communities while also getting branded for outsiders as well.

Yearly conferences, gatherings of professionals, and meet ups capture the attention of both locals and travelers depending on their niche. Annual events play into the story and message of a place that needs to be communicated to a wider audience. Developing a place’s story can be enhanced by the use of annual events and conferences creating growth of businesses, brand, and determining future goals of the city or place.

Brand Development

Events feed the desired brand of the city (or country). When we speak of brands, we are talking more about the substance of a place. We are talking about its reputation and the reasons for taking the time to visit or possibly move there. A good example is Estonia in recent years. Their purpose was to become a frontrunner in tech and policy. In that pursuit, they created e-residency programs, explore blockchain for a variety of industries, and even considered creating a cryptocurrency for public use.

Events fit this type of mold. For a city looking to build a name in an industry or field, partnerships can be formed with existing businesses to create the type of event to build the city brand. A recent example is Sarajevo Unlimited. Sarajevo is wanting to create an identity of being a city for startups and entrepreneurship. Two years ago, they started Unlimited Sarajevo to help build this image and demonstrate their sincerity toward this goal.

Revenue Creation 

Nina Prebesen in The Value Of Events says “events are value creation entities affecting individuals, firms and society.” A strong yearly event draws business into the city. It is a clear win for the city to host an event that feeds into its brand strategy because of the amount of possible revenues for local businesses, and the city itself. Local tourism and hospitality industries are two examples of industries which tend to thrive over the course of a multi day conference.

One example is an extension of the tourist season. If you follow Lonely Planet, they tell you that May is the best month to visit Montenegro. (And I agree.) The crowds are thinner. Prices a bit lower. Weather is perfect especially along the coast. A growing conference in Budva, Spark.me helps to draw outsiders into this small Adriatic country and draw this early season traveler. A conference on innovation, marketing, and entrepreneurship helps promote the goals of the country in giving travelers another reason to visit in May.

Define Goals

The occurrence of yearly events and conferences solidifies comprehensive goals of the place. While not all events need to have direct connection with the stated goals of the city or its identity, all events need to clearly demonstrate how they play a part. Defining comprehensive goals help the city build a plan and determine priorities for the place.

Going back to the example of Spark in Budva, Montenegro, Spark is a business conference on the coast of Montenegro. Budva is not trying to become the center of business for the country, however, they share the purpose of developing a stronger identity of Montenegro for business and strengthening the extended tourist season. The regular and consistent occurrence of Spark should be a priority for the local government and national government because of its growth over the last 6 years.  The conference is able to leverage the natural resources of the country, and the local government should leverage the strength of a growing conference to build on its goals of tourism development.

Creating and promoting an annual event is not a passive task left alone to private businesses to complete. Governments should be actively seeking out existing events, supporting them, and helping them grow as they fit the goals of the place. The planning and coordination of events is a strategic task that all too often goes unnoticed. However, events can be powerful tools for countries and places in the process of redefining themselves or communicating their identity.

A well defined and curated event helps cities and countries build a sense of place for their people and travelers. They bring value to the people, businesses, and overall community. Left alone, they can be chaotic and lack purpose, but when all stakeholders come together to collaborate, events can be powerful tools to develop the city message and brand.

Why I Want To Attend Spark.Me 2018

Spark.me 2018; matt lambert

Spark.me 2018 is quickly approaching and will hit the coast of Montenegro before we know it, May 25-27. Spark is an annual conference dedicated to bringing world class, speakers, professionals, and leaders from around the globe to Budva, Montenegro for the region’s best marketing and innovation conference. As a little insight, Mark Schaeffer and Kerry O’Shea Gorgone have already been named as speakers for this year.

2018 will be my 4th year attending the conference. Many of my friends have already harassed me for starting to plug the conference and asking them to visit Montenegro in May. They all ask, “Why?” Why Spark.Me again? So I have compiled a list of reasons of why I will go to Spark.Me 2018.

Take part in the workshops

WORKSHOPS! WORKSHOPS! WORKSHOPS!

This year will be the first Spark.Me to host a day of workshops. The day prior to the conference will be set aside to learn firsthand from a variety of industry professionals who have been dedicated to your craft. While the list has not been released yet, It seems like a no brainer that the workshops will be informative, practical, and transformative for your career. One workshop may make you even change your career.

Receive and bring value

One of the best reasons to attend a conference, especially when it is dedicated to your field of work or interest, is the value that can be received or given. Many people enjoy going to conferences because it is a good experience, however, they do not understand the immense value  that can come from interacting with top tier marketing strategists. For a startup, it could be meeting investors that provide valuable insight into the growth of your business.

Create a new community

I have met people at previous Spark conferences that seemed to spur a new community gathered around a similar interest. When ideas and innovators come together, magic happens creating new buzz and excitement around shared interests. When new communities are formed, new ideas begin to spread and take root. This has been true in my experience, and I look forward to seeing it happen again.

Increase your network

Every year, this is one of my favorite reasons to attend Spark.Me. I can always look back and remember the amount of inspiring people that I was fortunate to meet. From sharing coffee together in the mornings to cruising the Motor Bay together after the conference, my network grows every year. Follow the bloggers and their journeys connecting whenever I visit their cities. I try to keep up with the speakers who occasionally make it back to the region. Each year new connections are made. New partnerships are formed. The web of relationships grows further.

Expand your vision

Last year toward the end of his talk, I hit Jon Burkhart in the face. He did not expand his vision. But in the course of a wild presentation, he demonstrated to the audience how being “ballsy” or curious, can transform your marketing by getting outside your routine or comfort zone to grab the attention of your audience. This is how a conference should challenge the attendees. If you are not walking away rethinking your process or how to make adjustments, you have been at the wrong conference.

Spark.Me is the right one.

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How To Realign Your Focus For The New Year

realign your focus; new years; goals

It is the year’s end, and we are facing the next. Ads and messaging bombard us to think about New Year’s goals and resolutions which, undoubtedly, will be abandoned by mid-February, and forgotten by April.

The challenge?

FOCUS.

Focus on goals and aspirations held deep within one’s heart and mind.

Reassess and refocus on the goals you had set, but did not achieve.

This is how the New Year should begin: with a realignment of focus for this coming year. Everyone becomes distracted, waivers off course, or completely derails from their original objectives (which can be good or bad). However, for those few things that are worthy enough of our time and effort, what is needed to see them take shape?

Here are 5 ways to realign your focus for the New Year.

Reflect honestly on the past year.

Every year is a fresh start for something new to happen or a restart to complete a journey previously started. Going into a a new year provides the perfect opportunity to reflect honestly and openly on the past year. Question yourself, and allow others to ask questions. This process of honest reflection opens the space to see if a goal went unmet because it was unrealistic or resulted from a lack of passion.

Reflection helps to know if we need to  realign our focus on the goal, or completely change possibly abandon the goal altogether. It reveals our passions and aspirations getting the new year started with proper focus.

Evaluate your purpose statement.

Simon Sinek spearheads the “Know Your Why” movement that has swept the business community. Read more from him here. The new year provides the perfect place to evaluate your purpose, your “Why” and how it is being lived out in daily life, especially work.

If and when the things we are doing do not lead to this purpose and passion, then we are forced with a decision. Do I leave this position? Do I quit this project? How can I refocus? Ultimately, how does my current profession, start-up, or project fit my purpose? Creating a purpose statement and evaluating it quarterly or annually creates focus heading into the new year.

Create goals and processes that lead to your purpose.

Goals and processes are the pathways to operating in your purpose and passions. Once getting a clear focus on what these are, set goals that will serve as clear benchmarks to show progress along the way. Goals challenge and push toward that vision and purpose statement for one’s life. Goals should be clear and concise to eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty. Here is good resource for several different perspectives and types of goals.

Pro tip: Share your goals with those you trust. It is easier to take steps with others supporting and helping to clarify your goals along the way. 

The other side of achieving your purpose statement is mapping the necessary processes. Create a strategic plan for hitting milestones. Carefully, consider not only the benchmarks, but the steps and challenges you will face. Identify new skills that need to be learned, and how you will acquire them. Once your processes have been set, stick to them for 3-4 months and evaluate. Are the processes moving you toward the goals and purpose laid out? Can they be improved?

Reassess your schedule.

Schedules are necessary. Some will cry reading this, but they are. They guide a day, week, month, or the year. A schedule sets the tone for productivity and creation. It provides structure that many of us need, even when we do not like to admit it.

They can also be a hazard to achieving goals. Poorly done schedules give the sense of busyness without considering direction. At the end of working day or week, it is easy to feel a lack off accomplishment despite the long hours. This is a result of a poor schedule.

Reassess your schedule. Make sure it guides toward your purpose and the individual goals set. Be flexible only when understanding personal processes for achieving your goals. Stick to it. Be unapologetic about it.

Reassess relationships.

The new year and a realigned focus also provides the perfect opportunity to reassess relationships. Those who surround us and serve as sounding boards for ideas, projects, and pursuits may not be the best to help achieve our passions and purpose. While it may not be necessary to completely cutoff relationships, it is good to evaluate where our time is spent. Do others help us achieve our goals or distract from them? Are they positive forces in our lives giving motivation and encouragement, or do they take energy and time?

Everyone needs to evaluate the people around them. Create circles where ideas can be challenged, informed, and progressed. Consider taking on a mentor to help you stay on track, or overcome challenges.

In a few days, we will kick off a new year. It is time for a fresh start. It is a time to adjust. It is a time to realign your focus for this year.

Let us know how we can  help. Drop us an email. Tell us about your purpose, passion, and ideas that you are working toward.

 

Why I want to attend Spark.me 2017

spark.me 2017 why I want to attend

Spark.me 2017 is headed this way quickly. The annual conference is already shaping up to be another stellar affair with a speaker line-up sure to deliver. Spark.me is a conference about emerging and innovative business models, disruptive tech, digital marketing strategies, and transformative initiatives. With a pristine location just outside of Budva, Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea, there are no valid reasons to skip Spark 2017. However, some still need reasons to come.

Inspiration v. Motivation

Right now, it is easy to scroll through Facebook or any other feed and find countless “motivational” speakers that try to get people amped up to go do something. Anything. While motivation may be necessary at times, I find it lacks substance that will push forward day after day when the grinding is the hardest.

The majority of what I take away from Spark.me is inspiration. Inspiration feeds on what is already beating deep down within us, and gets triggered to burst forward and outward. The stories shared at Spark.me, those sitting around you, and those who take the stage offer inspiration to make the decisions and actions that have been hiding deep within you. The substance of real examples and the information being dispersed do not push you to a pipe dream belonging to someone else. Instead, they provide practical and applicable steps to accomplish goals while overcoming real challenges.

Spark-Me-Brian-Solis

Interactions with the Speakers

While Spark.me may not be biggest conference regionally, the organizers created a venue to allow attendees to get up close to world class speakers/practitioners. They are not only speakers. These are people who are currently leading changes in their fields and expertise. And the intimacy of the venue produces the perfect environment to interact, engage, and learn. This would be my third year at Spark, and I cannot wait to see the list of speakers continue to unfold.

What I have found helpful in leading up to the conference, is reaching out to the those who are especially interesting or inspiring. I did this over the last two years and received quite a bit of openness for future projects. Spark.me is the first opportunity that I had to connect in easy and natural ways with those who graced the stage. BTW, reaching out prior to Spark also landed me some excellent coffee thanks to Jovana and Frank!

Beyond the Speakers

Spark.me is so much more than the speakers, venue, and other things that usually stand at the forefront. When you sit down in your seat, look at the people around you and introduce yourself. Go to lunch and roll up on someone to introduce yourself. Meet the media companies present, the bloggers, and whoever else. NETWORK.

Spark.me is the perfect place to network. Again, not overly crowded where networking can be intimidating, but also large enough to strengthen your network internationally. Start expanding the brand, and possibly learn new skills or meet the person that will help overcome specific challenges being faced.

These are my top 3 reasons for why i want to attend Spark.me 2017. Do not hesitate. Pick up your tickets hereWhy do you want to participate this year? And when will we meet for coffee? 🙂

Past talks and posts from Spark.me are linked below:

Chris Fabian and Innovation Solving World Problems 

How to address change

Reflections from 2015

As a bonus, here are some ways to explore Montenegro when visiting for Spark.me.

photo credits: Jennifer Buxton visit www.RealPoshMom.com to chat travel, food, fashion, and work.