I am so excited. In June, I get the honor to attend my third Summer Brand Camp in Dallas; affectionately known as #PRSCamp on the Twitters. There’s a lot of reasons that People Report’s “Summer Camp” holds a special place in my conference calendar: there’s a buzz of creativity, I like seeing HR/Operations/Marketing working together towards a common goal of excellence, and the networking is outstanding. It is, compared to many conferences, a more ‘intimate’ affair – so you don’t just get to say “Hi” to someone for five minutes and move on.. you get to know the other “campers” and make real friendships.
The first year I was there, I was worried I’d be out-of-place. But William Tincup had recommended the conference over a status update about Diet Lemonade. He’s a pretty smart cat & so if he thought it was a good event to be at? Then I’d make the investment. I worried, but I went. Turns out there was no need to; I met Craig Fisher, Jasmine Brand, Amanda Taylor from Raising Canes, Brianna Foulds, and a few others. Easy conversation, learned a few things, and felt like I was part of the conference (instead of just AT it). And I guess, if you’re able to find the youtube video of me singing “Sweet Home Alabama” (off-key) with the Raising Cane’s band? There’s even proof that I was.
I learned a thing or two about influence. Actually, a learned a thing or two about several topics; but last year at Brand Camp was the year when I decided to move from more ‘tactical’ to ‘strategic’ with my presence & personal branding. I created a road map for myself coming out of that conference; but I didn’t do it alone. Those campers I mentioned earlier, along with Jessica Miller-Merrell, Jim Durbin, Jason Seiden, Amanda Hite, Ty Sullivan, Bill Campion, Joni Doolin, Melissa Papaleo, Jonathan Brewer.. and literally a dozen other people… they all helped me. Without them, where I am today would have been different; of that, I’m 100% sure.
Here’s the secret to conferences, folks: you don’t go to make business deals, you don’t even necessarily go to learn the newest innovations, or ‘how everyone else does it.’ All of those things happen, of course; but you get the most out of them when you maintain a focus on getting to know people there. Not just trade business cards; but get to know them – what their story is, where it’s taking them, who they are. They’ll take the time to get to know you, too. The really cool thing with PRSCamp is that everyone can do that… with everyone… including the conference speakers.
Which is what I did last year. Not only did I get to know several people who I’m now proud to call friends; but we were all interested in each others’ successes. And still are. We’ve helped each other along the way; and they helped me with understanding real influence: defined as the capacity to be a compelling force or produce effects on the actions,behavior, opinions, etc., of others. It’s not speaking at conferences, or closing quarter million dollar business deals; though both are fun. It’s creating relationships and building credibility that becomes trust that reaches a point of ‘advisor.’ Sometimes, that’s through seeking advice out directly; but more often than not, it’s through watching the actions of others to learn & guide your own.
It would not be the tiniest overstatement to say that the people I met a PRSCamp have, over the last three years, served as influencers for me – their actions, my knowing them – it affected how I conducted my life. And I’m the better for it.
When it comes to Summer Brand Camp, my story is not that unique. Everyone there is personable, sharp, and genuine. There are business deals made, there are new things learned, you do get to talk strategy & tactics; but you also get the chance to make amazing relationships & have a story about how this one time, at Brand Camp, you had an aha moment, too…
And when you do, I hope you’ll share it with me. See ya soon, Campers.