Madison’s business destination is back!

0524 Ezine Exporecap Panel

Click here for part 1 of a photo gallery from this year’s Expo. Click here for part 2.

An event literally more than two years in the making, the 10th annual IB Expo & Conference returned to the Alliant Energy Center on May 18, bringing together Madison-area professionals with the businesses that serve them.

Beginning with a morning networking gathering over coffee and a rousing keynote presentation by former Harley-Davidson communications director Ken Schmidt, and ending with an important conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion as a business strategy, hundreds of local professionals attended to mingle with exhibitors throughout the day. They also took in three professional development seminars and gained critical business insight from area experts on managing remote teams, navigating the Great Resignation, and selling in a remote environment.

Ken Schmidt, widely known as one of the business world’s most outspoken and provocative thought leaders, has partnered with many of the world’s most successful brands including Harley-Davidson. As a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations, Schmidt was asked to work with the then-struggling Harley-Davidson to help restore the company’s image and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, Harley-Davidson became one of the most visible and frequently reported-on companies in the world, while sales of its motorcycles rocketed upward.

Schmidt’s presentation, “Fierce Loyalty: Dominating in a Commoditized Market,” focused on when customers care more about what they’re paying for than who they’re buying from. When that happens, Schmidt said, businesses lower prices to stay in the mix, which breeds commoditization and kills loyalty. While leaders in every industry are focusing inward to improve efficiencies — when they should be focusing outward to improve their competitiveness — the passing lane’s wide open for small players to make a run to the front of the pack.

In a hands-on, how-to session, Schmidt taught attendees how to position their business to ensure that it’s memorably different than competitors and how to strengthen their reputation so their customers stay fiercely loyal and refer them to others, even when their prices are higher.

In the afternoon, Kwame Salter, a persistent force for strategic inclusion in corporate America and the leader of the Salter Group, spoke about how too often, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are enacted as a public relations strategy in reaction to social justice demonstrations in the larger society. As a result, some see the recent surge in DEI positions as simply as “window dressing” instead of a serious effort to dismantle systemic racism, or what he called systemic inequality.

In a no-holds barred conversation, Salter engaged the audience in an open dialogue about the realities of racism in the workplace. Attendees were able to learn the key performance indicators of a successful DEI strategy and discovered three ways to implement a culture shift within their own organization.

Throughout the day, attendees to the expo floor could also drop in on a series of lively seminars:

  • “Build Trust on Your Remote Team or Risk Your Bottom Line” from Leah Roe, founder and leadership coach, The Perk;
  • “The Great Resignation: Weather the Storm & Harness Its Power” from Scott Kohl, CEO and co-founder, ThirdSpace Inc.; and
  • “Effectively Engage & Sell in a Remote Work Environment” from Matthew Pletzer, CEO, LIFT Consulting.

New this year, The Connect Show with Jon and Tracy aired live interviews with attendees and exhibitors throughout the day from the Expo floor. Described as “Good Morning America but for small business owners,” The Connect Show with Jon and Tracy airs live weekly at Serendipity Labs and on YouTube, Facebook, and Zoom. Each episode includes interviews, small business updates, networking opportunities, and giveaways. Interviews from the Expo floor can be viewed via The Connect Show’s YouTube channel.

Artists from Fitchburg-based TruScribe also returned for a second consecutive Expo to create real-time, hand-drawn sketch notes from Ken Schmidt’s keynote presentation, turning words into pictures, and they provided visual representations of the seminar speeches and the DEI presentation following those sessions.

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