It was very interesting to attend the Midwest Technology Leaders event last night at the spanking new (and quite lovely) MGM Grand in Detroit, following five and a half months of attending Silicon Valley/Bay Area networking events.  Great to see some really familiar faces and celebrate innovation and technology progress in Southeastern Michigan, while the tone of the event certainly suggested we still have a ways to go. 

Congratulations to MCWT champion and tireless leader Rosemary Bayer for her recognition and special achievement award for her involvement in the technology community.  I, personally, and Airfoil as an institution, have enjoyed a strong affiliation with this organization and applaud the group’s commitment to the furthering of education and opportunities for young women in technology.

My team here has asked me about some of the main differences that I observed in the networking and educational events featured in proximity to Airfoil’s Mountain View offices, and I thought it worth noting a few key areas that perhaps we should consider as we continue to champion technology advancement, recruitment, retention and innovation in the Midwest.

·         Quantity of networking and event opportunities – while we all know time is of the essence, in the 650/408, there were educational, tech review, tech predictions and general networking events featured as frequently as three times per week.

·         General spontaneity of events and the idea sharing – as an agency-lifer, I have spent many hours assisting clients in creating incredibly polished and scripted events.  When Q&A sessions are offered, the questions are likely predictable and sometimes even screened by the likes of yours truly to ensure that my clients’ key messages are consistent and remain intact. This notion was turned on its head at events like SF Tech and The Churchill Club where entrepreneurs and the crème de la crème of tech innovators made themselves vulnerable to real-time audience challenges via an interesting ping pong paddle with a green: you’re brilliant; red: you’re an idiot scoring system and unfiltered approach to information sharing and feedback.    These events are an interesting reflection of what we see today with social media – raw, honest, unflinching yet highly influential if the group thinks what you’re doing is really, really cool.

·         Networking and communications via social media – it seemed that the most provocative and insightful events I uncovered came from Facebook by tracking status items from my network or receiving direct invites.  Not promoted via dedicated Web sites or highly polished direct mail campaigns, I found myself elbow to elbow with key bloggers, industry leaders and influencers thanks to a simple text-only email invite forwarded from a co-worker.  As a result, the overall experience was all things social media – authentic, grassroots and quick fire.

It’s definitely food for thought for existing or emerging tech organizations in this market as we look to what others are doing and the impact they’ve had across industry and community.

— Tracey Parry

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