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    From Swimming Naked to Elvis Sightings…What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas: Highlights from the 2020 Pacific Regional Conference

    Okay, no one actually went swimming naked (we don’t think) – but now that we’ve gotten your attention…swimming naked comes from a quote by Warren Buffet that was referenced in Paul Davison’s Endnote, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.”

    This year’s Pacific Regional Conference (PRC) was a huge success. We had great representation from the SMPS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, and there were endless networking opportunities and world-class educational sessions that ensured all attendees will never be discovered “swimming naked.”

    Here were some of my session highlights:

    Differentiate Your Submittal by Reimagining Text Content to Visual Elements

    Julie Shaffer’s session focused on using visuals to break up text-heavy documents because “the brain was built to process content visually.” She advocated the use of graphics such as maps to show office locations, timelines to show firm history, and, of course, charts and tables to describe numbers in the text. An interesting takeaway was that she noted that a photo caption can be the most important text on the page. She said to always use captions and make sure they include key information and not just a project title.

    When Bad Company Culture Happens to Good Marketers

    Cathy Hutchinson and Craig Jansen discussed “practical strategies for building a team that outperforms conventional expectations.” They touched on the ideas of discovering your “superpowers” and managing your “kryptonite.” Superpowers can be identified by asking these four questions: 1) What are you working on when you completely lose track of time? 2) What do other people comment on that you do well? 3) What do you have boundless energy for? 4) What are you talking about when people tell you to shut up? When you can identify what your superpowers are and incorporate them into your jobs, you will find success. On the other hand, kryptonite is what drains you. The key is to build your superpowers and manage your kryptonite. Awareness is key.


    Jason Gladding’s presentation discussed creating video using your iPhone and less than $60. He discussed the best lighting techniques: natural lighting, next to a window, and lit from the side. He gave tips on video composition and avoiding the dreaded VVS (Vertical Video Syndrome) – where people shoot phone videos vertically instead of horizontally. Key equipment includes a light reflector and phone tripod for stabilization.

    Those are some of my highlights, but so this is not one-dimensional we’ve asked several other attendees to provide their thoughts as well, which they have graciously provided below.

    Katelyn Surprenant
    Business Development, DCI Engineers

    With my third PRC in the books, I’m feeling the rejuvenation and inspiration only a conference of SMPS marketers can bring you. This year’s PRC in Vegas (baby) was not one to be missed. Three days of animated presenters, creative conversation, and, of course, an Elvis impersonator, provided new strategies and motivation to bring back home to California. Wednesday’s keynote, Vital Germaine, taught us how to drive more innovation in our company and ourselves through a simple 1-2-3 step: (1) Be better at failure; (2) Keep trying after being shut down; (3) Share and educate others on this mindset (clients and colleagues). On Thursday, Dean Hyers showed us how to help ourselves and our teams be stronger speakers through inspiration: How do you inspire a client or your audience? Appreciate them! Focus on who you are speaking to and consider what you appreciate about them—this will help turn your fear/nervousness into excitement. And last, but not least, Elvis taught us how to Shake, Rattle, and Roll the night away. Here’s to another great PRC, looking forward to bringing it back to California for 2021 in Sacramento!

    Ginger Kelly
    Vice President, Marketing, RIM

    The 2020 PRC was truly a magical time full of excitement, thrills, and activity. The keynote speaker was such an appropriate person to open the conference on February 5 at the Four Seasons Las Vegas. Vital Germaine used to be part of Cirque du Soleil, and he shared how everything he learned during performing could be used in business by having an innovative mindset. One fun exercise was when Vital brought up three people from the audience to demonstrate how we are accustomed to doing what we see instead of getting creative. He threw a ball to each of them underhanded and said throw it back and every one of them threw it back underhanded. He asked them why and they did not know, they said they did what he did. It was a good reminder to not always do what has been done or you see being done but to have an attitude of creativity. He also had the whole audience stretch in their chairs by raising their hands and he said now go higher and higher, keep going as high as you can. Most people just reached their hands up high while sitting but one person stood up to get even higher. That’s creativity!

    More thrills came when we attended the Thursday night social and we were visited by showgirls, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis. We had many people dress up in a 50s theme. There was a caricature artist and he really captured those who attended.

    One of my favorite new speakers that I had not heard before was Allison Tivnon, and she spoke about Marketing at Low Tide: How to Recession-Proof Your Marketing Department. She was fantastic and I felt like she really knew her stuff and presented the information where we could understand it. She said, “we are in uncharted territory” as we are overdue for a recession, but don’t expect to see one like the Great Recession of 2008-2010. She gave helpful tips on how to prepare now for when the “tide is out.”

    Susie Smith
    Marketing Director, KPFF (SMPS SFBAC President)

    I’d like to share a little about one of my favorite sessions called When Bad Culture Happens to Good Marketers delivered by Cathy Hutchinson and Craig Jansen. I know these two and expected a solid session. Wow, they did not disappoint! We all have been part of the dance between who our firms are and who they want to be. How do you face the reality of your shortcomings and be authentic? From their own experiences, and a few hilarious parodies, they shared some terrific, practical tips to advance you and your firm’s self-awareness including instructing versus coaching and the impact that has on long-term success; recognizing your superpowers and managing your kryptonite; avoiding persona fatigue; diagnosing team member traits; and knowing when to disengage or “DROP THE ROPE.” They covered a lot in 60 minutes! Having a VP of Marketing and an Owner with so much chemistry present speaking on this together was meaningful and inspiring, a great example of how true collaboration breeds success.

    Overall the 2020 PRC experience was incredible. Congrats to all the SMPS’ers that worked so hard to put on PRC…you killed it!

    Katie Spurlock
    Marketing Director, Salter

    PRC 2020 not only took place in the luxurious Four Seasons Las Vegas, but it featured wonderful educational sessions as well! One of my favorite sessions was Get Over It! Overcoming Speaking Fears Once & For All! by Dean Hyers with SagePresence. An interactive session, Dean showed us how easy it is to make your speech dynamic, by alternating between fast speech and sentences with long pauses. Another helpful tactic to better connect with your audience is to look at one person in the eyes for each thought, instead of quickly scanning the audience. It’s important to focus on helping your audience when presenting, just as you shouldn’t go to a project interview with the only aim of winning in mind, but with the mindset of helping the client. When you appreciate your audience, you can inspire them, which should be the goal of any presentation. An engaging speaker indeed, Dean didn’t even need presentation slides, which just proves that less really is more when it comes to slides. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to PRC in Sacramento next year!

    Allison Halvorson is the current President-Elect of SMPS SFBAC. She is currently the Marketing Manager for McMillen Jacobs Associates, an engineering firm that provides innovative solutions for difficult underground projects. With over 20 years of marketing and communications experience (including 4 years on the SMPS SFBAC board), Allison brings in-depth knowledge to the role of President-Elect.

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