Friday, September 14, 2007

Dispatches from the YP Summit – Day Two

Why would you have a summit centered around young people, and not offer free wifi? Discuss.

Today's portion has had its share of ups and downs. First, the ups:
  • The chance to talk. So few conference allow folks the chance to talk to one another outside of a 10-minute window for coffee and bathroom trips. Here, the breaks are long and even the general sessions are designed to get people up and talking about young professionals. As Rebecca Ryan told us this morning, "Most of the time at conferences, we look to one person for the answer. We need to turn to each other."
  • The chance to get out of one room. Even though the morning and lunch were in the same large ballroom, the afternoon breakout sessions weren't just in other rooms, but were in other buildings entirely. This gives participants the chance to see some of the city and downtown area and gives a different feel to the day. My first breakout was at the Chamber, and the second one has me 35 floors up overlooking the Ohio River.
And the downs:
  • Like I said, no wi-fi. Give me the chance to liveblog, people!
  • Only one food station for 200 people. I used to be in hotel event management, so I know that this is inefficient. Standing in line for 20 minutes for coffee also proved it.
  • Content. It's important to be freshers than fresh when talking about generational issues. It's iffy right now if that's happening here.
In terms of content, Anita Sharpe, founder of Motto Magazine had an hour to talk about work and life. Instead, she shared quotes and let people share with the group what those quotes meant to them. While that's neat for an insightful reflexion sessions with a handful of folks, when you get 200 people doing it, you soon realize who likes to talk about themselves. Some people made multiple trips to the mic, which meant I made multiple trips to the hallway to check email on my phone.

The first breakout I went too regarding community involvement and young professionals. In the end, the session was well done, despite it's bland start. Five simultaneous breakouts are happening during each block, with 2-3 panelists who work with young professional organizations that are having success in a particular area.

Tiffany, from YPN of Quad Cities, had some great thoughts that led to some great discussion. Some of the highlights:
  • People are scared to volunteer for the first time if they don't know somebody to do so with.
  • Set the mindset of an event beforehand. If you mix a volunteer fair with a networking event, people will come prepared to talk - to each other and to the nonprofits with booth.
  • You need to be collecting data. If you can't tell a business or potential sponsor who you're working with and what they're like, it will be hard to raise money and operate effectively.
  • If more people are involved in serving their community, they're more likely to stay there longer. Thus, community volunteerism is a retention tool.
  • Getting young professionals involved in service brings more talent and creativity to the table to solve some of the most complex problems in a community.
And now, I'm at the second breakout (with wifi - yea!) regarding how to develop resources (get money) to run your organization. Here's some good thoughts from this panel, spearheaded by some folks running organizations in New York, New Hampshire, and New Orleans.
  • Only spend what you have. If you raise this year everything you need for next year, you won't have to worry if there's enough in the bank.
  • If you're related to a chamber of commerce, you can't have the same 'good ole boy' feeling that a lot of chambers have. But, then again, it can help you raise money.
I'll have more soon regarding the concept of chambers of commerce. Given that Gen X and Y will have more entrepreneurs than ever, and given that these folks don't necessarily need their ventures to grow into multi-million dollar enterprises, local chamber may be tourism boards at best, and out of commission at worst.

Especially if a young entrepreneur can do what they do better.

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