event thoughts

TEDxDetroit Wrap Up

TEDxDetroit Logo

This last week I attended TEDxDetroit. An independently organized TED event held at Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan. The idea of TEDxDetroit is to spread positive ideas for the world from Detroit. Seating was limited and I was one of the lucky 150 hand picked attendees. Although the videos from all the speakers will be available shortly I wanted to take some time and reflect on the event as a whole.

The Event

All the speakers were either from the Detroit area or had some connection to Detroit. Charlie Wollborg along with a few others did an amazing job bringing in such a diverse group of speakers. The day was broken into four sections, powering, educating, perceiving and connecting.

The powering section started out strong with some inspiration and then got down to business with an alternative way to gather wind energy and a different way to think about electric cars. Mixed in was musical performances about Michigan and Detroit.

Educating section was a filled with local Detroiters who are really making a difference in the community. Chazz Miller stood out the most because of the amazing things he is doing with art, Detroit and the youth. He was referred to many times by other presenters as a “hurricane”, fundamentally changing Detroit with amazing force.

The perceiving section had some amazing stories about the current and future state of Detroit. Two presenters really stuck out, the first was a poem by D Blair titled “Detroit (While I Was Away)”.  You can see an unofficial recording of it at the link. It’s a view that many of us have of Detroit, it’s what makes Detroit home. Although it’s not the best view it shows the passion, drive and determination of the entire city. The second was Lee Thomas talking about his struggle with vitiligo and turning all lives experiences into positive power.

The last section connecting was also highly inspiring. PJ Jacokes talked about demanding imagination. PJ runs Go Comedy, an improv theater and encourages all of us to take time to explore our imagination. He asks “When was the last time the floor was made of lava”? A world without imagination is boring and mundane, we cannot get caught in the impression of “adulthood” and just let go and dream every once and a while. It will make you focus on the things that are really important.


The attendees were amazing, everyone I met was very open, friendly and doing great work. All the speakers were very inspiring and uplifting and had a very clear vision for Detroit and how to move it forward. The ideas have to start someplace and these speakers took full advantage of their time to inspire us.

I am so glad I was invited to attend TEDxDetroit and have been inspired to go forth to inspire others and move Detroit forward.

I also posted a few photos to Flickr from the event.

Social Media

IUE 2009 Social Media Panel Discussion

After the January Refresh Detroit meeting where I was on a panel talking about social media, I was asked to be on a similar panel for the then upcoming Internet User Experience 2009 conference. This week I attended IUE 2009 and the panel was a great success!

The panel consisted of

  • Christopher Barger, Director, GM Global Communications Technology.
  • Nick DeNardis, Associate Director, Web Communications, Wayne State University.
  • Kelly LaVaute, Social Media Director, Quicken Loans.
  • Shauna Nicholson, Marketing Manager/Ingenuity Engine, Biznet Internet Solutions.
  • Steve Schwartz, CEO Guy,, and Co-Founder, Alfa Jango, LLC Software & Marketing.
  • Moderator: Tim Kiernan, Co-Host for the wildly popular Design Critique podcast.

There was no live stream or recording of the panel but Zachary Spencer rocked out an almost word by word transcript of the whole discussion.

In preparing for the panel they asked for a position statement from each of us. I decided to post mine below to get your thoughts.

Position Statement

Higher education institutions are working to understand the best way to leverage social networks to get the attention of prospective students. High school and even middle school age students are spending more time on social networks interacting with peers and companies they trust.

The more time prospective students spend online the more they ignore traditional media and commercials. DVR’s and MP3 players are letting these users bypass traditional advertisements. Companies and universities now need to start evaluating where they spend their ad dollars and resources.

Social media exposes the truths about a company or university regardless if it is good or bad. In the social space users are in control and are not afraid to speak their mind. University administration may not be open to exposing these truths. Because of the traditional nature of universities getting buy in is tough. Spending the already limited resources on an untested and unknown ROI of social media can be a difficult task.

The universities that do embrace this media and can navigate it appropriately, have the ability to tap into a wealth of motivated advocates that can essentially promote the university for them. On the other hand universities that go into the social space without a game plan or by thinking too traditional, have the potential to be pushed out and their advocates could turn into protesters.

The simplest thing for a universities to do is search and discover what is already being said and posted about them. Some administrators would be amazed at the content that is already out there.

Without being present in the social space, any negative comments or posts will go unanswered and all the user’s followers will see them as truth. Being in the social space allows universities to control their brand and respond to any misconceptions or answer any questions users may pose.

The best recommendations for a product or service are ones by friends or family. When a user has 800+ friends online and they post a message, it goes out to those 800+ friends as a recommendation. It is scary to think but news that use to take weeks to tell all their friends now only takes seconds online.

With the high spam detector that middle school and high school students have, universities have started creating positions for community managers and social media experts. Ensuring they are using the most appropriate tactics to interact with prospective students. The social space is essential for universities to be apart of, but strategy and experimentation are key to their success.