Thursday, September 15, 2022

“Be Original... Don't Be a Cover Band” — INBOUND 2022 Trip: Part 3

The second day of the INBOUND 2022 conference started off with Oscar-winning actress and entrepreneur Viola Davis in a session on the Main Stage — talking on the topic “On Capital, Creativity, and Community Care.” 

(Instead of going out and grabbing breakfast, we had eaten the cream puffs we had procured at Mike’s Pastry the previous evening... so I was under the influence of a sugar rush.) 

Davis recently published an autobiography titled “Finding Me” and is starring in the new theatrical release "The Woman King" (which the actress prepared for with an intense workout regimen). 

Davis talked about being “real and transparent” in life — and how important those traits are as it regards self-discovery and identity. 

“With every day comes a different set of challenges,” she said. 

She also talked about nurturing young people and creating a sense of belonging. She is concerned that we spend far too much time in life praising success — particularly financial success — and need to be mindful of those on the edges. 

“Life is like a relay race,” Davis said. “If you want to change your world, you have to do your part and pass your baton to the next great runner, the next leader.” 

One of the fun aspects of an INBOUND conference is getting to hear from celebrity guests like Davis. The unique context of a business conference gives attendees a different perspective on many of the famous individuals featured (the focus is often different than typical media interviews). 

(Once again... I will be sharing Tweets from our Twitter account in this blog). 

Our next session was a bonus session (added during the event) with Outcome Media CEO Jay Schwedelson.

I sang the praises of Schwedelson’s Wednesday session on email in my “INBOUND TRIP: Part 2” blog post. This time out, he was talking about his entrepreneurial journey in a session titled “How It Started & How It’s Going: How Failure & Pivoting Can Create Massive Opportunity.” 

“I’ve screwed up a lot in my career, and I can share that so maybe people won’t make the same mistakes,” said Schwedelson. 

The 46-year-old marketer talked about kitchen table conversations about marketing he had as a kid with his parents. His parents started a company that compiled lists and sold them. They developed a niche creating lists to sell software via mail. 

During college (in the mid 1990s), Schwedelson thought ad sales on the Internet looked like a lucrative business opportunity. 

He started a company called WebConnect that was an ad placement service for the ’net — it was one of the first Internet advertising companies. 

His main competition was DoubleClick. That company came along with a new way of tracking and targeting ads using “the cookie” (something today’s consumers are obviously very familiar with). 

Schwedelson said that he thought tracking cookies were a “terrible idea” at the time, and decided WebConnect would differentiate itself as “the non-cookie service.” 

Ultimately, DoubleClick sold to Google for ~$3 billion and WebConnect essentially became a non-existent player in the web ad business. 

I found his story fascinating because it illustrates the point that entrepreneurism isn’t always pretty — you will make mistakes. Those who succeed keep moving forward. 

Bridget and I started our business around the same time in 1996, and we have had to reinvent and refocus our business multiple times over the past 26 years — and it hasn’t always been easy.  

That’s exactly what Schwedelson did. He emphasized that great businesses are “known for something” — and to “give something, instead of asking for something.”  

His grandfather gave him what he considers the greatest advice — “Stupider people than you have been able to do this” (meaning that you don’t have to be genius to be a successful entrepreneur). 

Schwedelson started and became known for email, working diligently to become a thought leader in the space. 

It was a really inspiring talk and a reminder that every business owner faces challenges — you’re not alone in that. 

The 30-minute session felt way too short, but we were happy to get to learn more about the origins of Schwedelson’s business and entrepreneurial journey. 

After the talk, Bridge and I headed to the Wicked Good Market to grab a bite to eat. 

The Wicked Good Market is the dining option located inside the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (kind of a mini food court). 

I had suggested we try the Wicked Good Market (instead of going outside to the food trucks) since we had also tried it in 2019. (I wanted to be as thorough as possible chronicling this experience for the blog.) 

Bridget and I ate at the “Sauce” stand. It featured pizza and pasta items. We both got a slice of pizza and a fountain drink — I had a piece of the chicken/broccoli alfredo pizza and Bridget had a slice of cheese pizza (she picked off the tomato slices because since she isn’t a fan). 

The pizza was good. Not necessarily remarkable, but it made for a decent lunch.(And not as good as we had remembered it being in 2019.)

The ambiance was nice as well. The Wicked Good Market is located on the west side of the venue, and there were just a few people there. It seemed like a lot of the introverts were hanging out in the adjacent hallway with their laptops — so it was a mellow vibe. 

Jolene also joined us at the Wicked Good Market. She wasn’t terribly hungry and bought a cup of macaroni and cheese (“comfort food,” as she described it). 

Our next session was the first of two 90-minute “deep dive” sessions we had scheduled. 

The “Podcast Interviewing Masterclass” was led by Michael Ashford, Director of Marketing at The Receptionist (a company that develops visitor management software and solutions). 

Ashford is the host of “The FABRIC” and “The Follow-Up Question” podcasts (he also previously hosted the “Fit Dad Fitness” podcast). 

Ashford talked about his early interview experiences as a journalism student at Kansas State University. He relayed the story of an interview “faux pas” he had with a coach at a football press conference (NOTE: Never ask an interviewee about his personal life unless you are absolutely sure his wife is actually pregnant for the second time). 

Ashford provided actionable steps to improve your interviewing (and podcasting) skills — with anecdotes and audio clips from interviews he has conducted — using best practices. 

The next session featured one of our favorite 2019 speakers — author David Meerman Scott. 

His 2019 session focused on his book "Fanocracy" (which he wrote with his daughter Reiko... who was also in attendance during that session). 

This time out, Scott was presenting on the topic “How to Write and Publish a Book that Transforms Business and Supercharges Your Personal Brand.” 

Scott talked about all the amazing experiences being a published author has brought to his life (for example, his book “Marketing the Moon” became the basis for the 2019 PBS docuseries “Chasing the Moon”).

“A book can be whatever you want it to be,” Scott said. But he added, “As you're thinking about a topic, be original...don’t be a cover band.”

Scott emphasized that marketing on the web is about creating content — a book can position your company as a leader, build your credibility in a particular industry, launch a professional speaking career, and allow you to raise fees and close more business deals. 

Scott gave tips on publishing a novel (from self-publishing options to New York publishing houses) and talked about the fact that marketing a book falls on the shoulders of the author. 

He also suggested that great stories are built on conflict. Even if you are writing a business book, Scott suggested it is worthwhile to study how fiction novels are structured to create conflict in your narrative. 

I can’t include all the good nuggets Scott shared in his 90-minute session (there were a LOT). But all information he provided was valuable and enlightening. 

The final speaker of the day on the Main Stage was supposed to be author and activist Glennon Doyle. But Doyle had to cancel, so organizers had HubSpot CTO and Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah “in conversation” (with Sam Parr) on the topic “Hard-Won Lessons on Starting and Growing a Community.” 

Shah is an interesting speaker, and this session helped attendees delve into his mind a bit more. 

His focus on building community highlights the intricate nature of his thought process. 

He does practice runs on his keynote presentations with live audiences on Zoom. He records those presentations and has them transcribed and annotated — all the times during the presentation are noted, as is any point when people laugh. He uses a Python program to analyze the length of time before anyone laughs. He’ll then tweak the presentation based on that data. 

“You have to enjoy the craft and love the grind,” said Shah, “because it’s hard work.” 

After the session concluded, we walked back to our hotel. We knew we would go and get dinner, but we weren’t sure when we were going to go (or even where at that point). 

Our group decided to head down toward Boston Harbor and eat at Yankee Lobster. We’d eaten there in 2019 and really enjoyed the seafood. 

I had the Beer-Battered Fish & Chips (excellent). I had the same thing in 2019, so I didn't dive into a different dish this time:

Bridget had Fried Shrimp (it’s on the appetizers menu, but you can get it with fries): 

Jolene had the Hot Buttered Lobster Roll and a side of Clam Chowder: 

And Jason had the Crobster Roll (1/2 crab meat and 1/2 lobster meat) with a cup of the Lobster Bisque: 

If you find yourself in the Seaport District in Boston, Yankee Lobster’s casual vibe is terrific (as is the food). I’m glad we were able to make a return visit during this year’s trip. 

After dinner, we walked up Seaport Blvd. and did a bit of sightseeing. 

Jason wanted me to visit the Lucid Studio so I could see the Lucid Motors Air. It is a luxury electric car, and (like Jason) I am fascinated with electric automobiles. 

It’s a beautiful car (that costs about as much as we paid for our house). I’m glad we got to stop by the studio and look it over. 

Jolene snapped this pic of me taking a selfie with the car: 

After the Lucid excursion, we continued north to Taiyaki NYC. The Japanese company is known for its fish-shaped ice cream cones and artisan soft serve (taiyaki translated means “fried fish”...!)

(Note: The Taiyaki website is really pretty, but they don’t offer a menu anywhere that I can see.)

Bridget and I were stuffed after 24 hours of delicious food, so we opted out of the ice cream (it looked really good, though). The ice cream looked very stylish in the cone, and there was a chocolate-covered “reception stick” candy included as a garnish in Jason’s cone:

Jolene wanted to get just the cone to try (which they do serve, but the staff said it would be 8-10 minutes before it would be ready — I think I read that they add some sort of filling to the standalone cone option — and she didn’t want to wait). 

As Jason enjoyed the ice cream, we walked back to the BCEC so we could experience “INBOUND at Night.”

When we arrived, DJ Juice was playing tunes on the Main Stage and some of the attendees were dancing. 

Then actor/comedian Jimmy O. Yang did a comedy set for attendees. Yang (who had acting roles in HBO's “Silicon Valley,” the movie “Crazy Rich Asians,” and a couple Netflix properties) was funny and entertaining. 

I should also note that they offered dessert items to attendees at the event. I did not get the picture of the items — I “think” the little cups were filled with creme brulee (but I’m not an expert) and the other item offered was a whoopie pie. 

As we walked back to the hotel, Jason, Jolene, and Bridget asked the staff guarding the outdoor “Lawn on D” if they could take some pictures on the light-up “O” swings. I opted not to go in (I told Bridge I was feeling mildy nauseous after dinner and dessert, so I wanted to be close to the hotel in case I needed to make a dash.)

Jolene captured this picture of Bridget on the swing — it turned out great! 

When we walked into the lobby at the Aloft, we found a couple providing musical entertainment. So we sat and listened for a bit (until they started asking if anyone in the lobby wanted to come up and sing). 

And that was it for our second full day at the INBOUND conference. But don’t worry, there is a lot more interesting stuff on the way in the fourth part of my “INBOUND Conference Trip 2022” series. 

The INBOUND 2022 Trip Series: 

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