High Five Conference 2019 – Day One Recap

I’m loving High Five Conference so much so, that it sucks that I’m missing a section to write about the rest of it. I had the same problem with deciding my agenda; choosing one breakout knocked out another, and if the ones I’ve chosen so far are any indication, it hurts that I’m missing those, too.


Because everything I’m experiencing here has authenticity and value. Fluff? Not here. Even the snacks had meat in them. Seriously.

High Five Conference has had six years to grow up. And it’s met the challenge, in my opinion.

I’ve seen two keynotes and two breakouts, as of right now. I missed out on the LinkedIn session, on how to combine account-based marketing and social selling. I’ll see it in a few days. I’ve got a lot of follow-ups to do, between networking exchanges, presentations to view and speakers to contact. They’ve been generous with their availability.

So far, I’m surprised at how much this event is tapping my inner enthusiasm …  and teaching me. Well, reaching me and teaching me. I’ve felt pretty confident about my understanding of communications, but hey, there’s a lot I don’t know.

I’m lucky to get this volunteer position. All whining about missing content aside, this is a plum assignment. What are my impressions? What are my thoughts on the event in total? What did I do and see?

It’s day one, halfway through …

I like the Sheraton as a venue. You can find a nook for a quieter conversation, or find yourself in the thick of it, all near the food. The sponsor area is well placed. It’s a corner plus of a lounge area; easy to linger, learn or reconnect, but if you need to get to a room, you’re not struggling to get through. I’m talking with university members, agency staff, writers, and job-seekers.

Keynote One: Amanda Slavin of CatalystCreativ. “The Seventh Level of Engagement.”

Amanda Slavin of CatalystCreativ gave an inspirational opening session, “The Seventh Level of Engagement.” I felt it was like watching something familiar, very down to earth, but not something I would have written. I’ll collect the presentation. I want to share this one not just with colleagues, but with family. Do you know how some brands have messages and campaigns that just resonate — that collar you with their authenticity? This explains why they can cut through the clutter and reach us on a meaningful level, and create true engagement.

We speak at each other when we’re not speaking the same language. We frustrate each other until we take time to listen, learn, and grow beyond disengagement, frustrated engagement and move all the way to critical engagement … and ultimately, “literate thinking” — where others advocate our message for us. Think of celebrities using their power for good and not evil, and leading their followers to the same. Communications nirvana.

Amanda was a school teacher. These components are easy enough to understand, memorize and share with customers and – and implement personally. Amanda crackles with energy. Five hours later as I’m writing this, she’s in the conference staff room connecting members to other members with joy and vigor.

Keynote Two – Tim Allen, Director of Design, Microsoft. “The Beauty of Promise and the Power of Delivery.”

Tim Allen is not *that* Tim Allen. But he’s more than handy. He’s a genius. And so am I. Indeed, all of us are.

Tim’s slide deck puts a new light on this term: The belief system of the ancient Romans included spirits, that were somewhere in between gods and humans and were thought to accompany each person through life as a protector. The Latin name for this spirit was genius, which came from the verb gignere, meaning “to beget.”  So, our genius is our spirit. Be authentic. Be a genius.

I haven’t often thought of user experience as a huge part of the marketing and communications experience. That will change after Tim’s talk. Tim’s presentation gave me a good look at what it’s like to be excluded by technology, algorithms or even bias in content selection and presentation. On the other side, it showed the power of inclusion.

Homogenous strategies are a blind avenue. Time states that the  WHAT derives from the HOW.  What do we promise? What do we deliver?  Inclusive design helps us all.

Breakout Session: Aimee Rodriguez, Content Director, IBM. “How to Repurpose your Content without Killing Your Creative Team.”

Aimee gave us a five-lesson talk through five stories and one slide.

This breakout taught me first to get there early or risk not getting a seat.  SRO until more chairs were brought in.

For creatives who don’t speak strategy, strategists who don’t speak creative and frustrated people in the middle, Aimee tells us to bring the whole team together. And do it again and again.

Make your plan WITH your creative team, not for them. You’ll foster buy-in for better deliverables.

When you get that big marketing project completed and it’s time to chop it up into bite-sized pieces, stretch it out. Don’t put it all on the team at once.

Plan to use it or lose it. Don’t make people work on pieces that might never see the light of day.

Lastly, let people know how the work is being received. Give them a sense of their success.

Surprisingly to me, the deeper Aimee got into the presentation, the more I see how blind spots are an emerging theme. An unasked question for her would be, “How can I uncover the gaps and blind spots that I can’t see with my creative or my plan?” Her answer would be, “You can’t. Invite in other perspectives. Other people will ask the questions you can’t see to ask since they come in with a different mindset.”

Breakout Session: Kate Connors, Bandwidth.com. “Don’t Bury the Lead: Proof Storytelling is the Key to Almost Everything, and How to Get Instantly Better at It.”

Kate: Forgive me. With a deadline to write this blog, I may have just buried the lead.

I know a thing or two about storytelling, but this presentation was a journalist’s dream. Without mentioning the inverted pyramid, Kate gave us a good dose of examples we can relate to, that illustrate how our sense of suspense is misguided. Here are a few key takeaways from a couple of Kate’s slides:

  • The lead makes a promise. The payoff delivers on it.
  • You initiate the experience that allows people to get on board
  • No one’s going to get to the end of it
  • Write it clearly. Skip the style.
  • Get away from the darlings you love the most, they will only slow you down or throw you off
  • Find out what the first thing that people need to know about your client/product/offering

This is not Kate’s whole presentation, but it’s a bullet list I can put on my own whiteboard and supplement with her presentation later.

Good writing feels like wrestling, Kate says. I’ve got too many words in here that are below the heavyweight but at this late hour, I don’t have time to follow some of her other sage advice: Begin again.

Dine Arounds are beginning soon. This gives attendees a chance to have one on one time with breakout speakers and network with fellow attendees. Then we have the opening night party that closes out day one on a high note!

Looking forward to tomorrow!

Submitted by Tom Crosby



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