Outspoken Speakers Take On SXSW 2019

The SXSW Conference & Festival happened March 8-17 in Austin, TX and was once again an event not to be missed. There was no shortage of influential thought-leaders on hand, including these five Outspoken Agency speakers who shared their expertise and passion.

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Sam Polk
Everytable, Co-Founder & CEO

Sam Polk’s story is an inspiring journey from the go-go-go mentality of Wall Street to the grab-and-go restaurant business. But he didn’t walk away from life as hedge-fund trader to open just any ol’ restaurant. His mission is bigger than that.

Sam first started his nonprofit, FEAST, as a way to promote wellness through healthy foods with a human connection. But his passion didn’t stop there. He opened a fast-food style restaurant that offers fresh, made-from-scratch meals at affordable prices – we’re talking $5 in LA’s underserved communities.

Everytable’s mission is to change the fast food landscape just like McDonald’s was able to do so many years ago. However, this time it’s all about providing easy access to healthy foods for people who need it most.

His session at SXSW focused on solving the food desert dilemma in America’s low-income neighborhoods. Together with other social entrepreneurs, Sam discussed creative pricing strategies and educational programs designed to educate and empower residents of underserved communities about food decisions.

Amanda Parkes
Future Tech Lab, Chief Innovation Officer

Fashion and tech? These may not be two industries that you’d typically pair, but don’t tell that to Amanda Parkes. She’s a fashion technologist who excels at wearable tech, smart materials, and dreaming up other ways high-tech textiles can be used in fashion applications.

Amanda founded Skinteractive Studios in Brooklyn and she served as CTO of Manufacture NY, another Brooklyn-based business which is an incubator and production space for fashion brands and designers. Her newest venture is chief innovation officer at Fashion Tech Lab helping fashion and apparel start-ups and new technologies collide.

At SXSW, Amanda participated on a panel called “Blueprint: Finding Sonic Voice with Social Sound.” The session was light on fashion, but really heavy on tech, especially scaling social sound and pervasive tech for storytelling purposes. Music has always been a rich storytelling experience, but there’s a new ecosystem for social audio that’s changing how we produce and share music.

Jesse Israel
The Big Quiet, Founder

Imagine being in a space with tens of thousands of other people. Constant networking. Constant learning. You’d need a break, right? That’s just what Jesse Israel brought to the attendees of SXSW and it’s something he has done in the world’s most iconic locations.  

Jesse is the founder of The Big Quiet, which hosts mass meditations in cities across the world as well as large events. He’s led moments of peace at both One World Trade and numerous corporate events.

At SXSW, The Big Quiet led Pure Golden Hour, a sunset mass meditation with special musical guests Miguel, Bishop Briggs, Cautious Clay, and DJ Captain Planet. It was the first mass meditation at SXSW and thousands of people paused together for a quiet moment at one of the world’s busiest festivals. The event was sponsored by Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold.

Josh Levine
Culture LabX, Founder 

Josh Levine is on a mission to help companies create a culture advantage. That’s the topic of his new book, “Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love.” It’s also the mission of his organization, Culture LabX, which helps companies reconnect with employees through great culture.

His book hinges on the thought that culture can create change in a business, a community, and even the world. Doesn’t a fulfilling and productive job sound more like a passion?

That’s what Josh lived out at his recent book signing at SXSW. He gathered with conference attendees to chat about innovative was to amp up company culture and field questions about exercises and tactics to take home.

Kimberly Bryant
Black Girls CODE, Founder & CEO 

Kimberly’s nonprofit, Black Girls CODE, introduces young ladies of color to computer programming and entrepreneurship in order to set them up for success at an early age. Kimberly founded the organization in 2011 and has seen it flourish from a Bay Area operation to an international success.

At SXSW, Kimberly’s featured session focused on securing the future for black women and girls in tech. The discussion was on technology and social activism, specifically related to women of color in STEM.

The presenters were a mix of current Black Girls CODE students, alumni, and other role models. Together with the audience, the group conversed on creating more opportunities and careers in STEM fields as well as how technology can power social change.

Meditation in One of the Most Unexpected Places – Corporate Events

Jesse Israel, the founder of The Big Quiet, recently chatted with the meeting and event space gurus at Convene about mass meditation in one of the most unexpected places – corporate events. That’s a lot coming from a guy who has hosted these large-scale meditative moments at some of the world’s most iconic – and busiest – places. We’re talking Madison Square Garden, One World Trade, and most recently, SXSW.

Event organizers’ new secret weapon.

Jesse has already led meditations for large companies like Adidas and Marriott, and now he is on a mission to show that large group meditation is accessible for all corporate events, not to mention the benefits for event planners and attendees alike.

He told Convene, “Meditation can also be really energizing. It can be perfect right in that droopy slot where people are getting burnt out on the programming. It gives a nice reset and reboots focus.” He also shared that “people are also better at listening to whoever is speaking next. That’s a great added bonus.”

But you may have to win them over first.

Of course, there will be skeptics. Is it too weird? What if it makes people uncomfortable? Good thing a pro like Jesse knows how to make mass meditation an inclusive and relaxing environment.

“My response is to offer meditation in a way that meets the attendees and staff at the level that they’re at,” he said. “The great thing about meditation is that it puts everyone on the same level. It allows folks to drop their concerns and equalize. If it’s presented in an inclusive way, it’s a win-win all around.”

Click here to learn more about Jesse Israel.

To read about the complete benefits of meditation at corporate events, check out the full article.

 

Candid Conversations: The Intern Queen Shares Her Best Career Advice

Featured on Forbes.com for ForbesWomen. Written by Elana Lyn Gross, Contributor

When Lauren Berger was an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida, she interned at 15 companies. "Each internship taught me so much about myself both personally and professionally. When it came to finding these internships and learning how to make the most of them – I could never find any information," she says. In 2008, just two years after graduation, Berger used $5,000 of her personal savings to start the company she wished she had when she was in college.

Intern Queen has a job board, career advice articles and college ambassadors who write for the blog and represent the company on campus. It's free for students, but companies pay to post internships and to work with Intern Queen's campus marketing agency. Berger has written three books, including her most recent book Get It Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, and Design your Success.

Elana Lyn Gross: What was the pitching and writing process like for Get It Together? What advice would you give to other people who want to write a nonfiction book?

Lauren Berger: Get It Together was my third book, so the pitching process was slightly easier than it was with my first book. That being said, the basics are the same. I pitch the idea to my book agent who I’ve been working with for years. She’s a great sounding board and not afraid to tell me how it is, and I take a stab at putting together a proposal. I send it to the book agent, we get it to a good place, send it around to publishing houses and then ideally the offers start to come to the table. This book actually took years to write and to get to the place where I was happy with it. I worked on it on and off for about three years.

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Gross: What are the top three key takeaways you'd like people to have after reading Get It Together?

Berger: You don’t have to feel so busy all of the time. And better yet – it’s okay not to be busy at all. In fact, I challenge you to tell someone that you aren’t busy or just mention nothing about “being busy” the next time you see someone.

Part of getting it together is dealing with rejection and failure. I have a whole chapter dedicated to this topic – it’s one of my favorites.

You have to prioritize yourself – no one else will. There are ways to redefine your goals and routine. There are ways to do better work, achieve more and feel better at work and at home, but it’s up to you to activate those strategies.

Gross: What are the most important characteristics someone needs to have to be successful in your role?

Berger: Honestly? Embrace rejection, love rejection and expect rejection. It’s tough out there. Be resilient.

Gross: You have thousands of Intern Queen members. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who hope to create an offline and online community?

Berger: Be consistent, have a voice and don’t write content just to write content. Focus on quality over quantity. Build personal one-on-one relationships the best that you can. Word of mouth will always be your best and strongest marketing tool.

Gross: What's the biggest lesson you learned at work, and how did you learn it?

Berger: It’s hard to pick one lesson – I learn so many each day. One lesson is that no matter how big your team is, no one will care as much as you do. At the end of the day, it still falls on you to push your business up the mountain.

Gross: What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?

Berger: I wish I would have known that rejection doesn’t mean never, it just means not right now. Things change, people get promoted and people come around. Hang in there!

Gross: What is the best advice you've ever received?

Berger:  You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. Just ask. What’s the worst that can happen?

Gross: What is your business advice for other young professional women?

Berger: Collaborate, introduce yourself, fail hard and know when to pivot.

Candid Conversations: Dev Aujla, Millennial Workforce Expert and Best-selling Author

Summertime is upon us, bringing a renewed sense of joy for time out of the office. Adventures outdoors, vacations with our loved ones, and creating new memories in warmer weather is something we all look forward to. While we hit the reset button away from work, it's important to have these moments to remind ourselves why we do this work and how we can find work that both satisfies our essential needs as well as makes life more exciting and fulfilling.

Dev Aujla has written a new best-selling book, 50 Ways to Get a Job: An Unconventional Guide to Finding Work on Your Terms, with just this in mind. Dev shares some insights on his research and writings of finding a job with meaning as well as what he enjoys most about speaking at events and creating meaningful experiences with audiences.

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OA: What are you Outspoken about?

DA: I believe that the way that we have been taught to find jobs is fundamentally broken. During the process of researching for this book, I read every career book from the 70's forward and the advice simply hasn't changed. We have made a shift to making learning-based careers from stability-based ones and it is changing the way that we get job, ways that we learn and how we build a life today. I want to help people navigate this new type of career.

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

DA: It has become a lot more activity focused. You can't just hear someone talk and inspire you. You need to stop and actually do something, ask yourself the hard questions or make a list of what you want to learn. Even to large crowds, there can be opportunities for a type of engagement that actually lets people feel what the process of navigating our career should feel like.

OA: How do speaking events help your growth [whether that’s with inspiring new content, new research, or other opportunities]?

DA: I really believe in this material. We are living in a world that tells us that we all need to be entrepreneurs --- take risks and follow your passion. A different story needs to be told --- you don't have to be an extrovert or an entrepreneur! Get a job. It's great. The process of finding a job should feel calm, grounding and like the job you eventually want to have. People need to know this is possible because, otherwise, we are left feeling depressed that we aren't hearing
anything back from job boards.

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

DA: The most interesting one was I once spoke to a room that was divided male and female with a divider in the middle. I was standing at the center looking at both sides but they couldn't see each other. I could see which parts of my speech resonated with the men and women. It was
fascinating and definitely transformed my speech.

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event and why?

DA: The most fulfilling would be all the conversation I have after each talk with individuals in the middle of figuring it all out finding new ways to see themselves and their career.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

DA: I would like to hear Oscar Wilde talk. I want to know how that kind of witty, quick, cutting banter would stand up today in the age of Twitter.

OA: How can people become more involved with your work and/or where is your writing being featured mostly these days?

DA: You can visit 50waystogetajob.com to see what led to the book and what has helped over 500k people navigate their next steps. I am writing short articles that range from GOOD Magazine to Fast Company at the moment.

Candid Conversations: Ret. General Donald Bolduc

With Veteran's Day celebrations through the weekend, it was important to us to highlight a very special veteran in our lives, Retired Brigadier General Donald Bolduc. With 32 years of activity duty service and an impressive career spanning from private to one star general at the time of retirement, General Bolduc knows the true meaning of service and sacrifice for our country. He is the epitome of a leader, with many lessons from his time in service to share with audiences around the world. Thank you, Don (and your family), for your years of service to our country!

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Take a moment to learn more about Don in our Candid Conversations series:

OA: What are you Outspoken about?

DB:  I am Outspoken about combat the stigmas around post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As one of the few military officers, and, at the time, the only active duty general officer on record, to openly discuss his own struggles with PTS, I have used my leadership position to change the conversation to one of understanding and acceptance through my own experiences. I am also outspoken about the importance of moral courage and how this is a leadership attribute that is in short supply among our civilian and military senior leaders.  I am known to always put my country first, and now I look to continue my  service off the battlefield sharing my leadership mantra of “Mission, People, Family” and my personal experiences with mental health to educate others.

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

DB:  My recent work continues to inform every speech. By listening, I learn, and this allows for content improvement. It is also an opportunity to learn how others deliver messages and this improves my approach to speaking.

OA: How do speaking events help your growth?

DB: Every speaking event is an opportunity to learn. It is also an opportunity to improve how you connect to people.     

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

DB: More audience participation.     

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event and why?

DB: The audience that share the same passion for the subject are the best and most fulfilling experiences I have had as a speaker. It is hard to speak at events that the audience were scheduled or required to be there.  

OA: How can people become more involved with your work?

DB: They could ask me to speak at their event. Leadership and veterans issues are a hugely important topics in our society. People can get involved by volunteering, supporting, and contributing to private veterans organizations would be very helpful. Leadership is probably the most over-discussed and misunderstood topic. We must teach children about leadership and the importance of moral courage, compassion, and empathy.       

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

DB: Abraham Lincoln. His speeches were so concise and delivered such a powerful message. I also like the stories he tells as analogies to make his point or capture the attention of the person or person(s) he was speaking with. I would also like to see his delivery and presentation.