From the 10-year old girl who may just become mayor to the unveiling of the world's first cyborg cockroach to incredible stories of how businesses can thrive, not just in Detroit, but everywhere... TEDxDetroit was once again an amazing day of wonder and inspiration. TEDx has by far become my favorite event for a day packed with good stuff for my brain, my heart and my imagination. The new venue in the Cobo Center was fabulous and the wide variety of speakers and performers was just the right mix to keep things interesting. Here are a few nuggets that kept me thinking long after the event:
1. Asia Newson will be mayor of Detroit some day.The 10-year-old kid entrepreneur was probably the most dynamic, amazing speaker of the day. Don't think that's possible? Then you weren't there. She was the only speaker that got the entire crowd on their feet for a long and loud standing ovation. And she was featured this morning on the front page of the Michigan Business section of the Detroit Free Press.
Her story is amazing. She started selling candles door to door with her father when she was 5. She made $14,000 doing it last year. She has started to teach other kids how to start their own businesses so they can have money for the things they want. Oh, and she goes by the moniker "Super Business Girl" - which you better say with the right inflection and accompanying hand gestures or she'll make you do it again.
But the real story here is that she has so much charisma you just want her to succeed in all she does. She has a plan for further education - including grad school. She knows exactly what she wants to do with her life and she has already declared she will be mayor some day. After listening to her, I don't doubt it.
2. You can remember everyone's name if you stop thinking and really listen. I've always been horrible with names, often forgetting them as soon as I'm introduced to someone. And I've never really been able to figure out why, since in general, I have a really good memory. Well, yesterday, author John Bacon explained why that is.
He told a story about when he was working with Cirque du Soleil and they had to make a mold of his head - as they do for every cast member. He found that when his head was covered in plaster, except for straws for his ears and nose, he remembered the names of those who talked to him during that time, because since he couldn't talk, he wasn't thinking about what he was going to say next,but just listening to them. He went on to say, if we shut off that part of our brain that is trying to think of what to say to make an impression on someone we just met and just listen, the name will stick with us. I've always considered myself a good listener, but I can see how that would work. I'm going to give it a try.
3. The words you choose do matter. Being a writer, I've always believed that. But Mary Lore of Managing Thought did a great exercise with the crowd to prove that point. Mary had us pair up with someone next to us and first start a conversation with "We are going to build a tree house." Then each person had to add another sentence to the story starting with the word "and." Something like "and it's going to have a second story." Then she had us do the same exercise with "We are going to build a pool," but each successive sentence had to start with the word "but" as in "but we better get a permit first." Each exercise lasted for just 30 seconds.
For most people the two stories varied drastically in tone. Just by changing one word in a 30-second story. She went on to say it is in our nature to want to be imagining and create things; to want to be connected and inspired and lit up. But, what we say can cause us to become out of sync with our nature. Imagine how you can change the outcome of a meeting or brainstorm by the words you choose. You are either building and strengthening or you're not. You're either inspiring and connecting or you're not. Words can create better or worse scenarios. So, chose them carefully.
4. You can create more business by giving it away. Ryan Landau of Chalkfly talked about the give-back strategy his company uses. When you buy something from them, you can choose your favorite teacher and they will receive free school supplies from Chalkfly. It helps the teachers, who are surprised to get the needed supplies. It helps the customer, who experiences the joy of surprising their favorite teacher and it helps the company, who not only generates a lot of good will and positive stories being told about their brand, but gets their products in the hands of possible new customers. It creates brand ambassadors and gets people talking about you. They also give back 5% of their product in store credit, which brings people back to spend their credit.
5. It is safer to ride your bike on the street in Detroit than on the sidewalk. Norman Witte III from Crains Detroit told a great story about his car dying shortly after he moved into the city. Not being a great public transportation city, he had to rely on the 3 B's to get around: Bus, Bike and Bum a ride. Mostly he went by bike. It was an interesting and personal tale - and I was surprised to lean that, even though the cars don't appreciate the bike riders in their space, it's still the safer route for the bike people. So, if you're driving give the bicyclists a break
6. With around 1500 people each month, Detroit is home to the largest bike ride gatherings. I know, two bike facts in a row - what's up with that? But, yet another great story was told by Jason Hall of Detroit Bike City. The have developed a monthly meetup called Slow Roll where people gather a specific (but different) spot each month and go on a bike ride together through a neighborhood in Detroit. It grew from about 10 people to several hundred to what now is about 1500 each time.
They have gotten many people to move back into Detroit because they saw a house for sale in a nice neighborhood they never knew existed. They have turned it into a huge bike show at Cobo hall that has expanded every year. And all this by a group of guys who had no money, just liked to ride bikes and managed to connect with a community in a very good way. There's a lesson in there for you and building a community around whatever you are passionate about.
7. Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Charlie LeDuff is kind of an a-hole, but I like it. I'm not one who digs the gruff, in-your-face investigative reporter types and their confrontational style of journalism. But I've got to tell you, I really enjoyed Charlie LeDuff's talk. Well, really it was more of a rant with bizzarro twists like two bouncer/thugs standing silently behind him while he spoke and his crazy hair all askew. It was also the only profanity laden talk, er... rant. Mostly he skewered partisan politics and how they're screwing over our kids and messing up our country. He made a lot of good points, offered a few possible solutions and was certainly very entertaining.
So, it was a good day of feeding my head, my heart and my soul. It made me love my city even more. And I found out some cool things happening in Detroit I'd never heard about before. Oh yeah, and I got to see the world's first remote control robo-roach. Plus, I got to see a whole lot of people I don't get to see all the time any more. And I snagged an awesome shwarma lunch from Bucharest Grill. What more could you ask for in a one day event. If you want to see more, visit tedxdetroit.com.