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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

 

 

What To Do In Montenegro During May

Montenegro in May

May has been called the best time to travel to Montenegro. The tourist season is not in full swing at this time. The weather has warmed, and late spring rains have all but cleared completely out of the country. The air is fresh still slightly cooled in the evenings and early mornings. The days are full of sunshine making the sea good for a swim on a warm, sun-filled day.

I tell most of my friends and family to come visit Montenegro during May for the above reasons. I also tell them to be ready to visit the lesser known areas. Of course, the Bay of Kotor is majestic especially from the top of St. John’s Fortress. The coastline is dotted with old towns that capture the imagination of a bygone time. However, most of the magic and majesty lies in the lesser known areas. My recommendation is to visit these and catch the usual spots as time allows.

Explore Lake Skadar

Skadar Lake-Montenegro

 

Lake Skadar takes the name from a northern Albanian town, however, the majority of the lake lies in Montenegrin territory. It is the largest lake in the Balkans with a diverse ecological system. The lake is becoming one of the most popular areas for exploring Montenegro. Historically, the area around the lake has contributed significantly to the culture of the country feeding its wine and cheese industries.

Lake Skadar has so much to offer the traveler the tone could easily spend a holiday there. And if you do, I would recommend my friends at Undiscovered Montenegro and their villa that rests above the town of Virpazar. Traveling around the lake visiting the village of Rijeka Crnojevica among other villages that play sanctuary to the local birds and animal life is a treat. They also provide some of the best photo opportunities in the country.

Relax on a Farm

Lipovo-Kolasin- Montenegro

 

An up and coming part of the tourism industry and important aspect for rural development is agro-toursim. Montenegro offers a vast amount of rural area and farmland to get out of the city/towns to relax. The beauty of Montenegro is the size which makes it easy to enjoy a farm stay in the North while having access to the regular tourist attractions and towns.

Visit my friends at Meanderbug to explore the possibilities of staying in the countryside of Montenegro. They can help you plan and book the perfect spot that will fit your needs and wants the most. Step outside the norm and unplug for a few days in the villages of Montenegro.

Drive Mountains to coast

It is said that one can spend the day in the mountains hiking and enjoying the rugged nature of Montenegro then head to the sea for a late lunch or dinner on a similarly rugged coastline. I would agree, and do so from firsthand experience. Such an experience allows one to take in this small Adriatic country from a different perspective. The smaller roads that wind North and South; East to West across the countryside expose some of the best scenes from the country that would never be experienced without such exploration. For a taste of what a drive across the country offers watch the video below.

Rest on the Sea

Kotor-Montenegro

While I recommend visiting Kotor, Budva, and Porto (especially if you want a little luxury), my suggestion would be to visit these towns, explore their history, and enjoy. However, stay outside of them. Look for the smaller villages along the coast which offer accommodations. Or if you are a digital nomad visit my friends at Playworking. Mix work and play at Montenegro’s first coliving space on the coast for a retreat while not completely neglecting your work.

Whether you decide to bring your work along or leave it at home, take a few days to rest along the coast of Montenegro. If doing so, consider coming to Spark.me for a bit of inspiration for your work while you recharge. The Spark.me conference is hosted just outside of Budva, Montenegro the beautiful resort of Mediteran.

I would recommend the boutique hotel experience of Casa del Mare along the coast. To escape even more outside of the towns, you can check out some of the offerings from my friends at Meanderbug, here.

Hike among the villages

Peaks of the Balkans

For the more adventurous traveler consider exploring the “wild beauty” of Montenegro by taking a tour through the mountains from village to village. A lot of work has been done to restore old paths and trails that once extended across the country. Now guided tours are offered to help navigate the terrain. One highly recommended tour is the Peak of the Balkans which actually goes into Kosovo and Albania. You can find more information here.

Wherever you decide to spend your holiday in Montenegro, May is the perfect time to explore the country. Being a smaller country, a variety of experiences are possible. From the mountains to the sea, Montenegro offers adventure, rest, a slower pace, and whatever else you can dream up. Visit Montenegro in May.

 

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.

Visiting Montenegro around Spark.Me

Montenegro; travel; spark.me; matt lambert

At the end of the month, May 28-29, one of the region’s best business and innovation conference will kick off! Spark.me brings energy and excitement within an inspirational context and environment. Spark.me pushes attendees to dream big going after goals and objectives once thought out of reach. While Spark.me offers the inspiration for entrepreneurs and startups to get moving, the organizers bring presenters who will help existing businesses pivot into a different era. A rugged coastline set among the mountains serves as the backdrop for the conference offering another level of intrigue making it a mistake not to attend the conference and explore while visiting Montenegro. Here are some suggestions on what to experience while processing the immense amount of content from Spark.me.

The Basics:

Cetinje and Lovćen

Lovcen, Montenegro

Only 20 minutes away, Cetinje was once the royal capital of Montenegro, and today, is considered to be the cultural capital. The small city/town offers a view of the art, culture, and history of the country through its streets, museums, and churches. This inspirational perspective climaxes in Lovćen National Park just outside of the town. A drive up a curvy, narrow road will take you to Mt. Lovćen, the resting place of Njegoš, the national hero credited with unifying the clans of Montenegro. His mausoleum provides the perfect view overlooking the mountains while contemplating the ideas gleaned from Spark.me. Even plan your next team meeting here.

Kotor and the Old Road from Lovćen

Kotor, Montenegro

If deciding to visit, Cetinje and Lovćen, consider taking the Old Road from Lovćen down to Kotor for the views. The road is full turns and twists so be careful if carsickness is a problem. Kotor is a UNESCO heritage that has been featured for its old town surrounded by magnificent walls, hilltop fortress, and iconic setting tucked within the Bay of Kotor. A day spent in Kotor is definitely worth the time along with a scenic drive around the bay exploring the towns of Risan and Perast.

Durmitor

Montenegro Experience, Diskors Projekt

Durmitor is a must for those venturing through Montenegro. While attending Spark, the mountainous North is a perfect choice for a getaway, and time of reflection. It has been deemed the most beautiful mountain range of Montenegro. Along with the mountains, the glacial Black Lake rests in the top of the range surrounded by a black pine forest.

Off the Beaten Path:

Lake Skadar

Skadar Lake Montenegro

Lake Skadar is one of the most restful places in Montenegro. After enjoying the beaches, move inland to explore this wild wonder. The lake lies between Montenegro and Albania, and is the Balkans largest lake. Mostly undisturbed, the lake has been fortunate to avoid developments that would compromise its beauty. Check out Undiscovered Montenegro or Boat Milica for the perfect day on the lake.

Stari Bar and Ulcinj

Stari Bar

The old town of Bar lies slightly inland overlooking today’s Bar. Old Bar lies at the foot of Mount Rumija, and is a throwback to former time of coastal Montenegro. About a 30 minute drive from Bar, Ulcinj provides another take of older settlements of Montenegro. The old fortified town of Ulcinj stands tall on the Adriatic waters, and claims to a be an inspiration for a portion of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Sandy inlets dot the coastline around Ulcinj. The town also claims the largest sand beach in Montenegro, Velika Plaža. Traveling down the coast after Spark from Budva to Stari Bar and Ulcinj is a pleasant way to end a Montenegro vacation.

Mountains of the North

Who-is-gonna-to-kill-us-in-balkans-36

For the traveler looking to get off the coast for something lesser know, look to the mountains of the North. Besides Durmitor, Bjelasica and Prokletije offer adventure and relaxation away from the normal vacation spots. I recommend checking out Meanderbug for offerings and suggestions for your travels around the North. Spark.me challenges the attendees to dream big and there are few better places to do this than venturing through these rugged landscapes. Little towns such as Kolašin, Mojkavac, and Bijelo Polje circle around Bjelasica providing a variety of hiking and bike paths. Prokletije provides an even lesser explored mountain with more intrigue as it has been named the Cursed Mountains. The North of Montenegro will not disappoint anyone looking to experience the culture and adventure Montenegro has to offer.

While visiting Montenegro before or after Spark.me look for places that inspire. Visit the basics, but do not shy away from going off the beaten path. Use the spirit of the Spark.me to guide your travel and help you prepare or process all that is offered through the speakers, networking opportunities, and seeing the work of others.

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.

Boat Milica: A family story of resilience on Skadar Lake

Boat Milica; Skadar Lake; Matt Lambert

On a cooler than normal day last spring with a bit of overcast and wind, my family along with a visiting friend decided to do something that we had not done in the two years of living in Montenegro, take a boat tour around Skadar Lake National Park. After asking our friends from Undiscovered Montenegro, Ben and Emma, they recommended Boat Milica. Within a few hours, we were off for our 3 hour tour around the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.

Skadar

We arrived in Virpazar about 30 minutes outside of Podgorica to begin the tour around the lake which included seeing the local wildlife and monasteries. It is easy to tell from the pictures that the tour itself was amazing. The vibrant greens signaling the newness of the season created the perfect backdrops for the old, stone monasteries being restored. As we went around, our guide, Ksenija, was exceptional at pointing out the intricacies of the lake, its history, and wildlife. After a quick dip in the lake by our friend, we returned from our tour with a new appreciation for Montenegro’s wild beauty which happens to be only a short drive from us.

While the tour was memorable and the service provided is highly recommended, it is the story of the Boat Milica which really draws me in, and causes an even greater appreciation for their business. The family Dabanovic is from Virpazar knowing the lake intimately. During the economic downturn around 2011, the Jelena guided her family to do something different to survive. They started Boat Milica.

captain Skadar Lake

As a family, they divided responsibilities and took to creating their business building it slowly. The daughters learned new languages to specifically help with foreign tourists, they built their wooden boat in the shop of an old master in Podgorica, and Andrija began guiding tours. Andrija grew up on the lake and is familiar with al the ins and outs. The stories, legends, history, and diversity all get proper treatment during the tour. And Jelena became the only woman in Virpazar to own and operate a boat tour showing off Skadar Lake

The family worked together and have been successful together. Even in the face of some struggles, they have proven resilient and creative to help one another and their town by attracting tourists to this natural resource hidden in the interior of Montenegro.

The Dabanovic story is one of resilience in the face of difficulty. It is exemplary of what it takes to be resourceful and succeed. The family found support among themselves continually encouraging each other to do better and achieve their goals.