On January 27, 2010 Raleigh, North Carolina proved itself as a major social networking hub. Again!
About 3 weeks ago, I saw a link on my Twitter stream about a nationwide networking event called MediaLeaders. I sent an email to Josh Ochs in Los Angeles to see if I could shoehorn Raleigh in at the last-minute. Josh liked the idea and basically told me to grab some people and get going.
I had not planned anything of any real significance before, so I knew I would need a lot of help. I had originally bounced the idea off Sarah Burris, and she helped me get excited about it, so I knew I had to bring her in right away. Sarah spends her days doing PR for Carolina Advanced Digital so I knew she’d be a huge help. She handled everything flawlessly.
I also reached out to the sharpest marketing mind I know, Brian McDonald. Brian was the taskmaster that we needed to stay focused on making the event something different, something that people would look forward to attending. There’s no doubt we wouldn’t have had the reach we did without Brian McDonald on the team.
One of my best friends also happens to be a serious social media workhorse at the MediaTwo Interactive Ad Agency. Morgan Siem has quickly become my go-to girl for all things social. She always had a simple way to fix our complicated hurdles.
I had only really known Dan London a few months, but in that time he had really impressed me with his big-picture understanding of marketing, search and social. Dan was there all along the way helping us sharpen the ideas that ultimately led to the big night. Of course Dan did have a weird need to hang around his house after work, something about a wife who was due to have a baby girl the day before the event!
We all got used to Google Wave by the end of week one, and by the night before the event we were old pros. I was unsure of its value until that point, but as a collaborative tool, it worked great.
Once the team was in place, we had to choose a venue. It wasn’t an easy choice. I love the guys at The Pit, but I wasn’t sure it was the perfect type of venue. I had just met the guys that run Issac Hunter’s Oak City Tavern downtown, and it’s a fantastic place, but we would have had to figure out how to bring in some food and we were short on time. The Raleigh Times was also in the mix, but I thought it might be a tight squeeze. That meant that our best choice was going the The Busy Bee Cafe. It had everything we were looking for.
Now we were down to about 2 weeks to see if we could actually get some buzz about it. We were all really excited at the chance to host an event that the awesome Triangle community could enjoy.
Step 1 was figuring out what we would do for 3 hours. We tossed around a bunch of ideas, but we kept coming back to wanting to offer something different from Chuck Hester’s LinkedIn Live events, or the Triangle Social Media Club‘s events or random tweetups and meetups. We wanted to put something together that would offer a benefit for C-Level executives as well as more junior people who can benefit from meeting and connecting with them.
The MediaLeaders networking concept is on creating a cutting edge junction of leaders in PR, media, marketing, advertising and tech while discussing current events and new ideas. We figured that meant trying to create a relaxed social atmosphere where everyone could schmooze and also make new contacts. We would keep the music low, the interruptions to a minimum and the overall value high. We also decided to have one prize to give away, but not something you could wrap-up. We decided to reach out to 3 of the most influential and smartest people in this orbit and ask them to give up some of their valuable time to have lunch with 3 lucky winners. Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim fame, Patty Briguglio, President of MMI Public Relations and Barrett Joyner the Development Director of The Healing Place of Wake County.
We arrived and started setting up about 6pm. Sarah had grabbed some adhesive name tags so that as people came in, they could be easily recognized, and also brought about 70 sharpies in every color possible. We set up a small table by the door to handle what we figured would be a manageable crowd of about 75.
When Chris Moody from Bandwidth showed up with their giant old-school telephone booth, we knew we were almost ready. Chris has been an awesome force on the Raleigh scene and the photos with their phonebooth has been a huge success due mostly to the beautiful photography of Sledge.
A half hour in we had a line down the stairs waiting to get in! It was getting busy, and fast. At 7:40 we took a minute to thank everyone for coming but you could hardly hear us over the PA system because we had already let over 100 people through the door. Thankfully Lisa Sullivan, Leslie Wilkinson, Mandy Steinhardt, Tucker Peterson and Karl Sakas volunteered to help us out. Karl and Tucker estimated later that at least 150 people showed up for the Raleigh Media Leaders event!
Everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time, I didn’t notice people starting to trickle out until about 9pm. There was still about 50 people hanging around at 10pm when the event was officially over. By the time Brian and I were lugging laptops, projectors and cables down the stairs at 11pm, there was only a handful of friends keeping us company.
We saw lots of Tweets from people saying the had a good time, which is always nice. My favorite Media Leaders tweet came from Colleen Bradley who attended the Boston Media Leaders event:
That’s what networking is all about. Building a network that can help you when you need help, and offering help when you can offer help.
I watched the tweets from the other Media Leaders cities, and they couldn’t hold a candle to Raleigh. When Wayne Sutton talked about the 19 reasons the Triangle is better than Silicon Valley, here is #20.
I had a blast helping organize the Raleigh Media Leaders networking event. I hope everyone who attended got something out of it, even if it was just some of the awesome hummus that The Busy Bee provided.
We’re already thinking about the next one, but would love to get some feedback about what worked and what didn’t.
Thank you to the entire Triangle community for a great night!
You can see a bunch of photos from the event on Flickr tagged with Raleigh and MediaLeaders