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5 of the Most Profound Speakers & Lessons from #INBOUND17

By Jessie-Lee Nichols

5 of the Most Profound Speakers & Lessons from #INBOUND17

For five years in a row, I’ve counted down the days to HubSpot’s INBOUND.

To me, there is nothing better than being immersed in everything inbound marketing for four days. It gives you such a burst of creative energy, when you get home, you just want to get shit done.

This year was no different. Last week, HubSpot delivered one of the most inspiring INBOUNDs I’ve ever attended.

Every keynote, every spotlight, and every breakout session just spoke to me.

Kudos, HubSpot, for taking all of your attendee feedback seriously. I told you last year I show up for inspiration and hands-down, you delivered.

Now, when I say “inspiration,” let me clarify.

Personally, I don’t show up to INBOUND for all the tips, tricks, and tactics I can start implementing immediately. I show up for the thought-provoking conversation, the reaction of my peers, and the sessions that make me dig deep and evaluate my place in this community of inbound marketers.

HubSpot nailed every expectation I had from the very first keynote.

Here are my five favorite keynote and spotlight sessions from #INBOUND17 and why each was so incredibly impactful.

1. Brene Brown

I’ve seen author/speaker, Brene Brown before at #INBOUND15. She is an amazing storyteller. When this woman speaks, I listen. She is simply, captivating.

This year, Brown spoke about the quest for belonging, the theme of her new book, “Braving the Wilderness” (which, I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of!).

Just like her address two years ago, she spoke directly to some of those deep, dark places we all have, but don’t want to admit. The stuff that allows us to let imposter syndrome to take over.

Her focus on belonging hit me hard. Belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are, belonging requires you to be who you are. As marketers it’s easy to get caught up in chasing the latest trends to add to your service catalog, especially after a conference like INBOUND. You should never compromise what you know to be your strengths, just to try and be something to everyone. If you’re an excellent copywriter, don’t pick up a videocamera for the first time just because “video is so hot right now.” Own being the best copywriter out there!

Better yet, understand where your persona belongs and meet them there. 

Belonging isn’t something you negotiate with a group of people. It’s something you carry within yourself and it’s innately different from simply fitting in. Brown defines fitting in as assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Fitting in voids your authenticity.

She focused on self-acceptance and reiterated that asking for help does not make us weak.

Brown’s talk really set the pace for the next three days. We didn’t all show up just to learn about marketing; we showed up to experience each other in our likenesses and differences.

2. Piera Gelardi

“Your comfortable place is not a place of growth and creating courageously is contagious.”

Truth be told, I really didn’t know who Piera Gelardi was before her keynote. Gasp!

I know, I know. Since then, I have officially subscribed to Refinery29. All's not lost.

Besides just owning an obviously kick-ass pantsuit, Gelardi is who I want to be when I grow up. This is a woman who is a designer AND a businesswoman. It’s inspiring to know you can have your cake and eat it too, in a bell-armed, red pantsuit.

She spoke around three key points; being the most you, creating conditions for creativity, and how friction creates sparks.

In being the most you, she focused on bringing your strengths to the table, letting your armour down, and admitting what you don’t know without fear.

I think we are all empowered by the inbound community to do the first one, the second is harder for some, but that last one - ouch. It’s a rough one to grasp hold of, but one we all need to constantly remind ourselves to do.

The biggest takeaway was certainly around the last of her three key points, friction creates sparks.

Often in marketing, we work on teams and teams don’t always agree, embrace that! You have to be willing to acknowledge and seek out friction. Once you find it, the solution likely won’t be obvious, but ring all of your unique strengths to the table and don’t look for an “off the rack” solution to the task at hand -- tailor one.

Easily my favorite keynote.

3. Adam Grant

I was also quite new to Adam Grant prior to his keynote. But, I will admit, he stole my heart earlier in the day with one simple tweet:

Grant, an organizational psychologist, author, and professor, focused on the concept of the original thought. That’s a phrase that gets tossed around far too generously these days, so he really broke it down.

He spoke about running forward with the ideas you’re second-most excited about. Not only will you have enthusiasm for seeing it through, but you’ll also have the necessary perspective to make it work. When something is easy, you assume it’s true. That first idea, for example, is always easy, so toss it in favor of your second idea.

On the flip side, always think through the reasons you shouldn’t do something. If you know why something won’t work, or shouldn’t work, not only does it provide you with perspective, it makes it much harder for people to come up with their own reasons for disagreeing with you. It allows an idea to continue.

When presenting an idea, lace it with familiarity. People respond to what they understand. As marketing professionals, we’ve all been in a scenario where we are trying to convince the client to do something outside of their comfort zone. If you present the idea properly, you’ll have a much shorter hurdle to clear for approval.

Grant’s TED talk is also one I’m keeping bookmarked. I have a feeling I’m going to be reviewing it often.

4. Michelle Obama

I don’t think a single person in attendance wasn’t completely psyched to see the former first lady of the United States. I don’t care which side of the political fence you are on, it was Michelle Obama! Yes, I was in the same room as those arms!!

My big takeaway from Michelle Obama wasn’t an overarching theme or specific statement, but a single word: Grace.

Throughout her interview, she must have used the word grace 50 times. It was certainly enough for anyone to notice. The more I thought about the very intentional use of this word, I knew I had gotten the point.

In a time where we are all so opinionated, so siloed into thinking like those around us, slowing down and approaching every situation and interaction with very intentional grace, sets the bar of clear communication and understanding that much higher.

She also focused on approaching people with kindness. She asked us all to, “take a moment to check in with each other and remember that we are human beings.”

If I’m being honest, navigating client services can be tricky. As marketers we can quickly fall into a trap of negativity when a client disagrees with you, but as Michelle urges, we just need to approach every conflict with kindness.

Clients are human and often have very understandable reasons behind their requests. Take the time to step back, slow down and try to understand where they are coming from. Pause, reflect and then take logical, strategic action with your client’s best interest in mind.

Another thing I loved about Mrs. Obama’s interview was that it was very focused on her, as opposed to her husband’s presidency. It allowed her to expand on letting your work speak for itself.

5. John Cena

Ok, I have to admit...this one surprised me.

When HubSpot first announced John Cena was coming to #INBOUND17, I questioned their judgement. Turns out, I was so wrong!

Just like Michael Strahan took me by surprise last year, John Cena showed he was an absolute branding powerhouse! Yes, he’s a professional wrestler and actor, but his experiences and knowledge completely apply to the inbound world.

Like a great marketer, the man knows his audience. Every move he makes is directed by the role he plays in his audience's experience. This talk was all about slowing down, understanding who you are and to whom, and owning that.

Be the best you can possibly be for your specific audience with the resources at your disposal. That is no different from what we as inbound marketers aim to do everyday.

Were these new concepts, no, but having John Cena stand in front of you, in a power suit telling you to go forth and do you - oh man, that’s powerful.

Taking it Home

So, how do you take all of these inspirational talks and turn them into tactics? Take it one step at a time.

The lessons from this year’s INBOUND are huge overarching concepts for all of us to face as people, not just marketers. It’s not as simple as waking up and ticking items off the list, you have to be willing to change your behaviours.

Choose what makes the most sense for your life, career, and goals. I’m personally going to start with one from Michelle Obama, approach every situation with kindness.

What were your favorite keynotes, spotlights, breakouts or overarching lessons from #INBOUND17? Let me know in the comments, or reach out to me on Twitter @jhyphenl!.

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Published on October 5, 2017

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