Sage Summit 2016

Well, I’m back from Chicago, and once again presented with a big dilemma: how do sum up something as big as Sage Summit, the largest small- and medium-sized business conference in the world?

It’s challenging. The conference took place over 3 days, and there were somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people in attendance every day.

Last year’s Summit in New Orleans was my first time attending, and it was a pretty wonderful time. This year, I felt better prepared going in. I knew more of what to expect, and that took some of the pressure off. Last year, I ran around a lot more, trying to get to all the workshops, but that really is an impossible goal, so I set my standards a little lower this year, and consequently enjoyed myself a little more.

It was also wonderful to catch up with old friends I’d not seen since last year’s summit. The dream team of Jeremy Corner, Sandy Abrams, Evan Carmichael and I were all back together, sitting up in the front with the Sage Social team of Dru, Ellen and Mark, madly tweeting our way through they keynote addresses. It’s always good to be with your tribe.

Key Takeaways:

Sir Richard Branson was the first keynote. What I love about him–and this was a theme I saw repeatedly over the three days–is that he is true entrepreneur. He saw a need, and he filled it.

I also loved his philosophy around responsibility and being a big business owner. He says he always travels with a note pad to make notes about what can be improved on his flights, and often has conversations with the front-level staff about their ideas.

The next keynote was Zooey Deschanel and Gwynneth Paltrow. Both of them talked about their online magazines: Paltrow’s GOOP and Deschanel’s Hello Giggles. This was a bit of a women’s empowerment session, and I really liked that. The thought that someone like Paltrow started her blog at her kitchen table (like many of us) was pretty inspiring. Deschanel’s online world is about empowering younger women and girls, and creating a safe space for them to express themselves.

Later that day, we got to hear from Robert Herjavec and Daymond John. I was most excited to see Herjavec, as I’m a long-time fan of The Dragon’s Den, and he is a fellow Canadian. These two did not disappoint. I think this might have been my favourite session, I literally could not tweet fast enough, they had so many good things to say.

They talked a lot about scalability, and how we all need a team around us to really succeed and take it to the next level. They also talked quite candidly about being clear about what your strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can hire people to fill in the blanks of what it is that you don’t know, or don’t like to do. Although, sometimes: “You have to do the things you don’t want to do, in order to have the privilege to do the things you do.”

They also shared in common the fact that both of them came from nothing, and they built their businesses by sheer tenacity. It was deeply inspiring.

kutcher strickler

The final keynote was by Ashton Kutcher and Yancey Strickler. I’m sure you know who Ashton Kutcher is, but you may not know he is a huge supporter of tech startups. Yancey Strickler is one of the founders of Kickstarter.

As you might expect, these two had very different vibes, and in some ways, were the opposites of each other. Kutcher is active on social media (remember when he was in a race with Oprah to get to 1M followers?) whereas Strickler doesn’t even have social media apps on his phone.

I love that Yancey himself is one of the top supporters of Kickstarters. He himself has backed over 2,000 projects. Kutcher had a sense of humility about the whole thing. He constantly reiterated that he learned what he did by listening, learning, and getting advice from people who were smarter than him.

Yancey’s Kickstarter has created work for thousands, and pumped tons of money into the economy. More than that, though, the kinds of people it is creating work for are those who are marginalized: artists and creatives who get turned down by traditional sources, like banks.

Again, it’s a tough challenge to sum up everything I took in and how inspired I felt after attending. If you want to see my full stream of tweets (warning: there are 200!), you can follow them @rebecccacoleman, or #SageSummit.

You can also view all of the keynotes on the livestream replay here.

Can’t wait for next year in Atlanta!



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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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