Meeting George Takei: A Review of Social Shake-Up 2015
With a little luck (and some incredibly kind souls), I made it to Atlanta on June 8th for my first experience at Social Shake-Up. Here for you now are my Top 5 Experiences as a Newbie at Social Shake-Up 2015.
5. George Takei WASN'T the only epic keynote at this event. But, I digress. Let me take a step back here.
1. The Employee Advocacy Shake-Up kicked off the event on Monday, June 8th. It was a half-day event where the focus was - you guessed it - Employee Advocacy, one of the hot topics of the here and now within social media. Folks from Adobe, Whole Foods, IBM, Coca-Cola, Nestle Purina, Hilton Hotels, Symantec, Kelly Services and others were assembled to help us break Employee Advocacy down and move to implementing it within our own teams.
I loved learning about digital illiteracy and how we can overcome those struggles, the obstacles of legal issues that may arise with employee engagement, and how Dell has embedded employee advocacy into their culture. Dell is truly doing some remarkable things within their team, and I found Amy Heiss to be truly inspiring as she discussed their Social Media Training and Employee Activation program, known as SMaC U. I thought this was a great additional day of information and networking that really added to the overall event of Social Shake-Up.
2. The W Hotel in MidTown Atlanta. Hailing from Orlando, I know hospitality and how it's supposed to be done - and the W Midtown nails it. Early Monday morning I arrived at the W not realizing that it was in fact the W Downtown (thanks Uber driver). After some nice conversation with the team at the W Downtown we realized what happened and they called a cab who whisked me off to the W Midtown. Both locations welcomed me with warmth, friendliness, and the W Midtown offered me a much needed bottle of water upon rolling my bags into the lobby for me. The front desk team made great conversation, and even though it was just after 8AM, assured me that my room was ready and waiting for me. SCORE! I'd have time for a nap before the Employee Advocacy Shake-Up. Sorry, Atlanta - the W made sure this Floridian did NOT turn into a Zombie.
The W's whatever/whenever service is impeccable, and anything I needed or asked for was provided promptly and with an air of importance. Nothing seemed to be out of reach, and I didn't even dream of leaving the W Midtown for the 3 days that I was there. Everyone I crossed was beautifully welcoming, and everything I ate or drank was top-notch. I will miss their Chicken and Waffles dish most of all - this dish can be found at TRACE, a restaurant on site, that I quickly adopted as my place-to-be when not in the conference rooms getting my learn on. If anyone knows where I can get that meal closer to Orlando, say the word and I'm there.
3. The Session Style. I'll admit, my biggest cause for anxiety in most conferences is choosing which sessions to attend - what if I attend a sucky session? What if I just don't take anything away from it? What if it's not for me or what I need right now? I hate wasted time most of all, and I think A LOT of conference goers have this same fear. Sometimes a solid round of networking over a chocolate chip cookie and a Coke makes a helluva lot more sense than listening to some character drone on and on about how awesome they are. Cookies > Ego. I think we've all been there before.
I will say that with The Social Shake-Up I took a little of something away from MOST of the sessions I attended. Some of my absolute favorites were:
· Over-Automation: Staying Mindful in a Data-Driven World with Natascha Thomson, Peter Ebert, Randy Milanovic, and Petra Neiger where a healthy, intense conversation erupted over what IS the definition of Automation and is it really deserving of the negativity that comes along with it IF done right?
· Ask the Experts: Social Career Advice with Neil Bedwell, Doug Busk, Will Chinburg, JD Doughney, Andy Ellwood, and Minsoo Park - which was all but a pre-party to the evening's keynote and reception complete with chill, REAL, down to earth conversation (F-Bombs Galore and a h/t to Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***), and...of course, beer. These guys were honest and genuine to a fault, and I loved how we spoke more about failure than all the wins in the world. It was truly eye-opening and personable - every bit of what we all want out of social.
· Will Generation Z Be Reachable on Social? How to Stay Relevant with the Social Generation with Cory Edwards and a real.life.teenager - Andrew Watts, who is responsible for "A Teenager's View on Social Media." This session was incredibly eye-opening as I listened to a few Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers whisper, "Snap..wait...snap what? SnapChat?" - but here's what I loved most, that these Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers were in the room, having the conversation. The more we learn from each other, the better we'll all be - and that was apparent during this session. Andrew also shared with us what may be on the horizon for the Gen Z social landscape - so, I'll see you guys on Jott then?
· Coca-Cola Journey's Formula for Real Time Success: Leveraging Our 'Mad Men' Moment. Well, kids. Now I'm a Doug Busk fan. He speaks my language, and this session absolutely proved that. It showcased how incredibly real Coca-Cola is in their content creation, how surprisingly open they are for an insanely massive company, and - truthfully - that even though we think these bigger brands are bigger, better, sexier, with never-ending budgets? Well, they're just like us little guys in a lot of ways too. Coca-Cola Journey is all about the storytelling, and in this session Doug walked us through his team's recent execution of the 'Man Men' Finale moment which showcased top-secret planning and paid promotion strategy and I loved every second of it.
4. Networking - Nay, FRIEND Building - to the Max! We all know that one of the biggest values in attending conferences are the moments we spend networking. It's nerve-wracking, sure, but, man, when it happens and you click with another individual? It just proves why social media - and taking to things face-to-face, human-to-human - is so brilliant. I feel like I met some really great people at Social Shake-Up, and beyond that these people are genuine FRIENDS now. It wasn't just three days of hanging out and chatting about our work and lives - but now we get to take that home and back on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We met over sessions, breakfast, reception parties, and drinks and left with hugs and, "Tweet ya later!" and, "Hey...if you're ever in the area - let me know!"
Is there ANYTHING better in life than that? Spoiler Alert - No.
And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention THIS social media moment of insanity brought to you by #SocialShakeUp15:
I entered the final reception and grabbed a drink - I had exactly two hours to make this "Meet George Takei & Get a Photo" Mission happen before needing to leave for the airport. I surveyed the room to look for Mr. Sulu. That's when Kam came up to me and asked if I was the Casie from Orlando - she was from Orlando too and had been looking forward to meeting up. I assured her I was, and as we were both working in the hospitality industry, we hit it off and immediately started sharing theme park stories. Because...#OrlandoLife.
We started talking about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando - I mentioned that I worked there about ten years ago at the Where Evil Hides house, and her eyes widen, "So did my husband!"
"NO WAY! Where at?"
"He was a bungee vampire..."
Then MY eyes widened as I frantically pulled up an image on Facebook, "Was he THIS GUY?!"
Yup. Guy in one of my all-time FAVORITE #HHN photos from TEN YEARS AGO taken while I was working at Universal Orlando? Is none other than Kam's husband.
I don't care who you are or what you think about Social Media...that story is freaking gold.
5. George Takei WASN'T the only epic keynote at this event. I'll admit, George Takei caught my eye. But so did John Yembrick, Social Media Manager for NASA - yeah, THAT NASA - who was our keynote for Tuesday Morning.
I was, originally, a kid who grew up beneath the skyline of New York City. In 1993, I became a kid who had been transplanted at the age 10 and was then found standing outside on a Florida elementary school's baseball field, looking up, and waiting for the calm, steady rumble of a shuttle launching into space. There was simply nothing like it, and my world is still enamored by that of what lies beyond our planet.
I was GLUED to John's keynote to say the least. He discussed emerging communications technologies that allow NASA to reach new audiences, shared incredible out-of-this-world imagery with us, and told us that NASA has 490+ social media accounts. #NBD. From video, web, news media relations, and even event planning and crisis communications - John shared it all with us. Well, so long as it wasn't classified anyway.
I also loved how when the government shutdown silenced NASA - their incredible community kept things going with #ThingsNASAMightTweet. I mean, talk about epic social moment.
Note to Self: I'm gonna need a ✔ next to "Make a #NASASocial Meetup Happen" one of these days.
Our closing keynote on Tuesday was Marketing in the Participation Age with Daina Middleton from Twitter who shared with us how to motivate people to join, share, take part, connect and engage in social media. I loved her approach on the history of communications - ALL communications, and how this brought us to here and now with our social/digital age.
Wednesday morning started with a BOOM! In Mark Hatch's keynote Boom! How the Maker Movement is Changing Cities, Companies, and Education. If you're not familiar with the #MakerMovement or @TechShop? GET.FAMILIAR. The stories Mark shared with us are wildly inspiring, and TechShop truly is a revolutionizing force to be reckoned with that I personally feel should be in ALL major cities. Do you HEAR me ORLANDO?!
And, yes. Then George Takei took the stage. Truthfully? I saw George the previous night as I sat at the bar eating my Chicken and Waffles at TRACE. My eyes bulged and I froze. I quickly text home, "I'm looking at George Takei RIGHT NOW."
Yup. I was a frozen creeper.
I was able to secure an incredible seat for George Takei's keynote on Wednesday evening. If anything, I just wanted to obtain a decent photo of him on my iPhone to share with my friends and family - something to say, "YES! I lived this moment - my geek heart is happy." Social conferences are a flurry of never-ending tweets and the sound of fingers rapidly dancing across the keyboard. It NEVER.STOPS. But, for George? The room was silenced.
He spoke of social injustice - beginning with his life as a California-born, American Citizen child who lived in a United States internment camp with 120,000 other Japanese Americans just after the beginning of World War II. It chilled my bones to know that in this country's history we did something so malicious as to judge someone simply by the way they look; that because you were of Asian descent you must have ill will towards a country you were born in and would have fought for - something that, sadly, still happens in the world today. He spoke of the injustices against the LGBT community, and what provoked him to finally come out as a proud gay man. His keynote was filled with warmth, disbelief, a feeling that expanded in my chest and welled in my eyes, and it left the room with hope. George Takei left us on our feet in a thunderous ovation.
When he was done, Robin Carey, CEO of Social Media Today, surprised us all by walking out in a blue Star Trek dress and George was ecstatic that she knew not to wear red (a color that very nearly means certain death on Star Trek). Their conversation crossed into George's time on Star Trek, little gems of Star Trek knowledge, and how George Takei received his "third act" by way of Millennials and Gen Z-ers who have come to know him through social media. He said that his fan base began with "Star Trek geeks and nerds" but that he quickly realized that his reach was far beyond that, and how humor was key to engaging his audience. Before he left the stage, he stared out into the audience and extended his hand: Live Long and Prosper.
George Takei is truly a man who values his audience; his history, his future, and the story that has taken him beyond the stars.
And, in case you were wondering - MEET GEORGE TAKEI? ✔
Thank you Social Shake-Up 2015 for an incredible three days in Atlanta, for all the new friends, and for a geek-dream come true.
Follow Casie Shimansky on Twitter