Have you ever left a conference totally inspired and motivated to take on the world… PROFESSIONALLY? Not just challenged to reach your full potential, but determined to make a difference at work and at home? If you haven’t had that experience, let me tell you about mine because this is exactly how I felt leaving Greater Cleveland Partnerships 11th annual Inclusion Conference, Amplify Inclusion: Your brand Talks. The World Listens presented by KPMG last week.
From the time I saw the flier promoting the keynote speakers and breakout session topics on LinkedIn, I knew this event had to be great. My “Courtney Covers Cleveland” brand is always thinking to share great events like these because I want everyone to know all this is what’s happening right here in Cleveland. That big names, in various industries are coming to Cleveland to speak! We minimize these things, but they are really a big deal.
This event was phenomenally executed in every aspect. The location (Harvard Park) and venue (Marriott East) were both perfect. Upon entry at 8am, you were immediately greeted, and sent to check in at a table. It truly a seamless process- no long lines and no confusion. You literally grabbed your name tag and proceeded to the open area to enjoy networking and breakfast before the event began at 8:30 (another thing I loved on the agenda, 30 minutes is really all you need before an event to talk and grab breakfast before you get too antsy).
When the event was ready to begin, everyone was ushered into the main ballroom where there was open seating. I grabbed a coffee and sat not too far from the stage. As expected, the first keynote set the bar high for the day. It was an interview style conversation between Michele Meyer-Shipp (Principal, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at KPMG) and Eric A. Logan (Principal, KPMG) regarding Inclusion. Michele, who is beyond impressive on paper (she was recently honored as one of Black Enterprises Top Leaders in Diversity) was both honest and entertaining. I walked away with these key messages from her:
- Educate yourselves on the language you use, specifically using the term minority!
- The importance of access, mentorship and opportunity and how critically important all three aspects are to professional growth.
- When asked she talked about her thoughts on the NFL. Without choosing a side, she stated if our solution to a problem is not working, we must try something new. She also highlighted that the NFL is a business, and their bottom line is always to make money. Although this was about one situation, it was something I wrote down that could be applied to various situations and about various companies.
After the morning keynote, you could choose one of three breakout sessions. Without hesitation I chose “Woke Advertising: What is it? How and When to Incorporate it into Your Advertising Strategy”. Not only did this topic resonate the most with me as a blogger, but it also included two men I admire professionally, my mentor Kevin Griffin (Senior VP, The Adcom Group) and my good friend Corey James (Director, Diversity, Inclusion, Engagement, and Foundation Development, Cleveland Cavaliers). They were joined by two dynamic women Phyllis “Seven” Harris (Executive Director, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland) and Allison Vann (Rabbi, Suburban Temple Ko Ami) for a great conversation that started with us watching the NIKE Colin Kaepernick commercial.
We talked about how you effectively take a position in nationwide issues that could cause possibly alienation of employees and customers, while also recognizing the impact companies have on the community. We also discussed how advertising alone is more than the industry you represent (sports) and how it has the ability to invoke so many emotions personally and when done correctly anyone can relate to the message. For me personally, this panel reinforced professional alignment. Making sure you stand behind your decisions, and when you work for others, making sure their values align with yours.
After the breakout session we enjoyed lunch (salads followed by chicken, potatoes and green beans), a few surprise Inclusion Champion Awards (one given to my dear friend Autumn Wilson of MAGNET and Veronica Cook-Euell, Shana Lee and Alicia Robinson of Kent State University) a keynote presented by Tai Wingfield (Senior VP of Employment Engagement & Change Management, Weber Shandwick). In her lecture style presentation, she shared a lot of valuable information. I think this is the best part of working in an area you’re so passionate about. You’re actually intrigued by data and statistics, and you want to learn about current trends in the marketplace. Tai shed light on individuals and companies who are doing the work exceptionally well.
The last breakout session I selected was about External Media and PR. A space I spend a lot of time in, so it wasn’t as much an education moment as it was a reflection. Seeing and hearing how so many other professionals are navigating the same space and often times encountering the same issues. This was a reminder that the work is great to ensure a world more diverse and inclusive, however the same is to be said in the workplace. This conversation was led by Lauren Welch (Director of Marking and Communications at Karamu House) and Todd Mesek (Chief Marketing Officer at Ideastream).
The last keynote was by far my absolute favorite of the day! It was a panel discussion moderated by Oris Stuart, (Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, National Basketball Association) with Lindsay Gottlieb (Assistant Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers), Justine Siegal (1st Woman to Coach a MLB Organization) and Adrien Clarke, (my fellow Shaker Heights Alum, former NFL player and Owner of PGP Sports). What I loved most about this panel was that it was centered around sports, but all the lessons and experiences shared were those anyone could relate to both personally and professional. Here were my takeaways:
- Growing up you have to decide who to listen to and who NOT to listen to.
- Coaching is about connection, regardless who you coach, how much they make and at what level they play, people want to make sure you care for them outside of playing the sport.
- Food, Music and Sports – the three things that bring people together!
In closing, this conference checked all the boxes to be a great event. It was an awesome networking experience and a chance to gain a lot of knowledge in the space of Diversity & Inclusion. While I’m already looking forward to attending next year, I hope those who missed out will attend as well. Thank you, Greater Cleveland Partnership, for an awesome event!
*This article is sponsored in partnership with GCP however this review is my honest opinion.