Philadelphia's Angie Hilem

Live Tweet At Events: Make Friends & Influence People

Yesterday, a fellow attendee of Write/Speak/Code asked me about using Twitter.

“Is it okay to follow people whom I’ve never met before? What if they have a lot more followers than me?”

I responded with a vehement, “It doesn’t matter! That’s the beauty of it. Twitter is a public space. Everyone invites conversation when they tweet, otherwise, their accounts would be private.”

She’s shy and finds it difficult to approach people. This guide is for her, all the introverts in the tech scene, and the extroverts who have no problem initiating conversation, but can better nourish their new connections.

Research Before the Event

Check your confirmation email – Is there a hashtag or Twitter account sent out by the organizers? I bet there is! Follow them.

Upon signing up, Tweet to the world that you’re attending! By doing this, you’re advocating for the event, expressing something that interests you, and possibly aligning with others who are going. You never know, you might influence someone in your network to go.

How to Customize Your Name Tag

The organizers of Write/Speak/Code know what’s up – they asked participants to add their Twitter handles upon registering, so it was printed on our nifty lanyards when we arrived.

Last week, I went to one of my favorite tech meetups (Philly New Tech Meetup) and was given the standard blank name tag, on which I always write @AngieHilem. Why not encourage others to contact you during the event? (This is extra helpful in case you run out of business cards.)

Announce Your Presence

Once you’ve properly labeled yourself, let the world know you’re there. Use this statement as a template:

Excited to be @thislocation to see @speaker & meet other #WomenInTech tonight!

That sentence is only 78 characters out of the allotted 140. A best practice for composing tweets is to write no more than 120 characters. That 20 character or more buffer comes in handy when others retweet you, ensuring that your entire tweet is shared. Additionally, shorter tweets are more likely to be read and shared.

Capture The Audience or A Captivating Slide

Visual tweets get significantly more retweets. It also adds a personal element and triggers a psychological bond with others in the audience, as they are seeing the same thing as you.

On the first day of the conference, I took a picture of Rebecca’s slide and I’m still getting RT’d!

Engage With Influencers

Give credit to speakers, whose profiles are typically very easy to find with the previously described event information.

  •  Quote something that really resonates with you. “Mention” them and use that hashtag!
  • Thank them for sharing their story or expertise if, unlike me, you aren’t glued to the phone or prefer to pay attention in a way that does not permit real time quoting.

It takes a lot of effort to address an audience. Thanking a speaker immediately is a kind gesture for someone who just put themselves in front of a group of people – which can be scary! You’re also sharing valuable information with others who might not have arrived yet or just couldn’t make it.

  • Your tweet is now a talking point!
  • Others in attendance might seek you out at the end of the event and strike up conversation. (Yay! Introverts, that means you don’t have to agonize over making the first move. You already did – and from your seat, no less!)
  • An RT might lead to networking after the event. You will be surprised how much this can grow your network and how often you will run into the same people at future events.
  • Conversing with a presenter, who is most likely an influencer, will increase your voice and reach by engaging their followers.

It’s Your Turn

These are best practices which I’ve developed and utilize at meetups, conferences, and when I run into people who are special to me.

Try these out next time you’re mingling and let me know if they worked for you!

This post is dedicated to Nasima, Rebecca, Corey, and all of the supportive women with whom I grew exponentially over the past 3 days. Thank you for the empowering, life-changing experience.

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Tech Talk At The Pyramid Club

Photos by Brian Menda

Photos by Brian Menda

A group of successful, tech-minded individuals with varied career experience explained everything one needs to know to achieve greatness within a startup. The fear that’s accompanied with any entrepreneurial effort was first discussed, but that quickly gave way to empowering advice and lessons learned through a combined 76 years spent in the industry. I literally just looked up the panelists on LinkedIn to compute this figure and think it’s interesting to note, because other industries like to boast in this loosely quantitative manner. {These are all people who are still working in tech and giving back to the community by supporting and encouraging others.}

The panel was moderated by Amy Larrimore, and some of the following questions were prompted by her, others by the attendees via twitter using #ptwpc. This was a talk created by and catered to women. Nonetheless, the valuable information shared and discussed is beneficial to all.

Ellen Weber, Kathleen Cohen, Tracey Welson-Rossman, and Julia Shapiro

What is the most important part of building a company?

Julia Shapiro says it depends on the stage. If it’s very early on, you must find people who are the same kind of crazy and willing to take that leap of faith with you. There’s “a very different type of fit you need at the very beginning. I found fellow quirky people. Some people have come and gone, and it’s different when people haven’t been there since the beginning.” She suggests the book Slicing Pie for guidance and mentioned cliffs in contracts, which was obviously a new concept to many in the audience, including me. I stopped the conversation to ask her to explain. It’s a way to give someone a slice of the pie only if and until a certain goal has been met. If that goal or milestone is not reached within a certain time frame, the other party no longer has equity.

Tracey Welson-Rossman says it’s like going to war,  “If this person doesn’t have your back, there’s going to be crap politics, so GET OUT!”

Kathleen Cohen says it’s important to “Establish your DNA early on, but you can’t copy the DNA and culture from another company.” Ellen Weber once tried to build in culture from a lax online company to a more corporate structured one and eventually learned that what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another.

How should you pitch your ideas?

When asked about Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, panelists surprisingly deconstructed how to efficiently formulate and write a plan to present to investors. “You can do it with power point. I’m not going to read a 35 page business plan anymore,” said Ellen Weber. She went on to state that parts should be left untested, but enough to give a potential investor a clearer picture.

Are you in a very early stage? If so, an investor may fund you to test your first hypothesis, but you have a much stronger case if there is some data available. Another option is to ask for funding for different milestones. Break up your goals into phases.

Be as clear as possible. Sometimes, when you’ve had an idea in your head for so long, or worked on a problem, you might not get your product across to someone who’s never heard of it before. Also, entrepreneurs don’t always understand that investors are putting money into the company with the hope that they will make money. Remember this and be prepared for the question, “What’s the exit strategy like?”

How do you get the money? 

Not too shockingly, this question came from someone in attendance. Ellen was clear about persistence, valuing introductions, and going where investors are. Succinctly and clearly present the problem you’re trying to solve, how you will solve it, and why you are the person to solve it. “It’s all about metrics, credibility, and proof of concept.” Data is key and knowing your minimal viable product like the back of your hand is absolutely necessary. Be able to explain it in and out.

Another valuable suggestion was to practice pitching your business model to someone not in your market or space. Running it by others before officially pitching will help work out the kinks and provide pertinent feedback.

Cast a wide net. One of the Julia’s biggest investors came from a cold email. They were shocked when they got a response from someone in Silicon Valley, but they learned the importance of not limiting themselves.

How do you make sure your idea doesn’t get stolen?

The topic of NDAs came up quite a bit and it was clear that the panelists unanimously agree that a non-disclosure agreement is unnecessary when pitching an idea.

Tracey says,  “I will sign your NDA, but don’t send me 3 pages of one.” That’s a redflag and indicates that the founder is not going to go out and talk to a lot of people about it, which is how you get the best feedback.

Julia says, if this is your very first pitch, “unless you have the cure for AIDS or cancer, no one’s going to steal your idea.” People tell her all the time that they had the idea for her company years ago, and she’s gotten some accusatory stares, as if she stole their idea. The fact is – it’s all about execution! They never did anything with idea, but she has. Check out Hire An Esquire and you’ll see how well she implemented and developed an idea into a functional, financially-backed company.

“On the investor’s side, if we ever stole it, no one would EVER come to us again, so we would NEVER do that. NO idea is so new and different that they’ve never heard of it,” says Ellen. Although she warns not to “give away the very secret sauce.”

When asked what not to divulge, Julia says, “if they’re in your space, downplay anything you’re working on if someone else is on similar footing to you,” but Tracey disagrees.

“There’s nothing [to keep secret]. We’re looking to partner. We are like your priests. We have to know everything that’s going on, so that we can advise you. Is this something that you can do? A lot of folks that come to us are not technical, so they don’t know what they really can [accomplish], so we can build the right thing. If you’re not giving me everything, it’s gonna be harder for us to help you.” She gave an example of someone who wanted a product similar to Netflix in 3 months. Umm… Anyone with experience building something from the ground up knows this is not possible. “Once you hire us, we will sign a master services agreement with an NDA in it.”

“That’s good business,” and the entire panel nodded in agreement.

 

How To Tap Into The Invisible Consumer Base: People With Disabilities And Older Adults

How can technology be accessible to the disability and aging communities?

Panelists at The Free Library Of Philadelphia

Panelists at The Free Library Of Philadelphia

There is an obvious disconnect when it comes to accessibility and underserved groups. It is no secret that older individuals seem disinterested in learning to keep up with the times. Tobey Dichter, Founder & CEO of Generations on Line, explained that it is oftentimes fear which masquerades as indifference. There are real reasons why some are inhibited from becoming active consumers of technology. An individual may discover internet illiteracy when attempting basic use after a lifetime of independence. Another might be embarrassed that instructions are given at a speed that is incomprehensible, as most applications are designed and assumed to be intuitive. There is also concern that a device might break. These stem from a generational difference, as a lot of people who feel this way have lived through a time when they could not “unburn the toast.”

So, what can successfully motivate a person to overcome the intimidation, limited skill, or difficulty to gain access to technology? Any reluctance of facing fears will quickly dissipate when it is learned that technology is a means to become and stay engaged. The social isolation many older adults experience is yet another disability, as communicating with family members and other people in their communities becomes increasingly hard. The immediate benefits are not always conspicuous to everyone.

Technology must be presented in a way that makes sense to its audience. “This has nothing to do with intelligence. Grey hair does not mean senile,” Bill Thompson, an older adult software trainer, explained. Information must be given in a relative way, particularly to those who view the internet as foreign. Everyone is capable of utilizing the internet, learning computer skills, and remaining a lifelong learner, whether they know it or not.

Philadelphia has a wealth of programs and companies that strive to make more appropriate services to engage all members of society. Sandra McNally, Director of Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology, was on panel and shared helpful information on behalf of the organization, including a description of its services. One invaluable way PIAT helps is by loaning assistive technology devices, at no cost, to try out at school, work, or at home. The cost of purchasing such tools is often prohibitive, so to have a way for individuals to test something before investing in a product is a prime example of how Philly works hard to serve assisted communities.

The discussion at The Free Library aimed to address the challenges and opportunities related to technology within the disability and aging communities but also brought another idea to light: HACK4ACCESS – a hackathon scheduled to take place from May 30 – June 1.

 

 

 

Understand Your Audience And Know Your Value: PR For Startups

Erica Ogg moderates the panelists: Brendan Lowry, Michelle Conrad, and Josh Cline

Erica Ogg moderates the panelists: Brendan Lowry, Michelle Conrad, and Josh Cline

Three seasoned marketers give invaluable tips for startups to find the right PR for them.

The natural storytelling process is typically triggered by a new product, but as Brendan Lowry, Marketing Director of Curalate explained, “Simply presenting your product isn’t enough. You have to provide the solution.” The tech industry can be hard to understand, so reporters won’t always get it. Focus on what you can achieve with the technology you have. What is the problem that it solves? Successfully conveying this information explicitly validates your importance and demonstrates how your business adds value.

Research each reporter to know their style, how best to contact them, and what they primarily write about. A popular site may get a lot of readership, but, in some cases, a lesser known site that will thoughtfully and accurately describe your product and company’s vision in a smaller, business-oriented piece may be far better than “a fluff piece” published on the highly trafficked site. Josh Cline, of The Cline Group, warned the audience against “blast[ing] every reporter with everything you have. Give exclusives. Pitch carefully.” Understand the size and stage of your company before choosing an agency. How you want to be perceived and your own expectations will partly dictate which agency is best for you. Moreover, do they get your brand? Are they excited about you? Remember to ask them questions to know if they are the right fit.

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Don’t lock yourself into long-term relationships. You are a startup – everything is new and you need to take your time. Six months is a good baseline to get results and analyze how well things work. Have incremental plans for post-launch and know their strategy prior to going on retainer. How are they structured? Is it hourly, per project, a retainer? Not all companies are created equally and you must make sure they are passionate about telling your story.

If it’s your first time reaching out to a particular reporter, do your homework. Look at competitors and know how to best approach them. Are they on Twitter often? Tweet at them. Do they stay visible on instant messengers or Instagram their morning cup of coffee? Meet them where they are most comfortable. Michelle Conrad, of Cashman and Associates, put it succinctly when she said “Engage them how they like to be engaged.” Test contacting them on Twitter versus Linkedin. Get them to recognize your name by being active on different social networks, so when you email them, they will recognize you.

Though you come across an article not related to your business, if you know someone interested in that particular topic, send it to them. Establish rapport that is not limited to the rigidity of direct business, as there is much value and trust in those relationships. Content is king, and to successfully represent you, adequate research must be performed by both parties.

The Church was packed!

The Church was packed!

 

Take A Stake In Philly

Just hours ago, I ventured over to The First Unitarian Church, not for a musical show or performance, but for a locally-sourced dinner!

Philly Stake is in its 4th year and has, since 2010, distributed more than $15,000 to over 21 different organizations. As we descended the familiar steps, we were given ballots and a terse explanation of what to expect: the scene was something akin to a science fair. Innovators claimed spaces to set up informational booths and speak with us, the attendees. There was cider and beer donated by Philadelphia Brewing Company, and an impressive menu written on butcher paper atop the tables which filled up the space I’ve only ever experienced as a concert-goer.

Tonight's Menu Continue reading

Why I Love Philly

Yesterday was the first Valentine’s Day of my life which didn’t somehow suck.

In years past, there was always some dull pain or sense of disappointment deep in my heart, as I spent most of my life single. If and when I actually had a partner, the day was never really celebrated in a manner I appreciated. Last year, my now husband treated me to the best dinner experience I ever had. (We have something of an accelerated romance, so that was our first February 14th together. Yesterday was our second.)

We had no plans. We do have a puppy, though. A furry little guy that I fell in love with the moment I walked into the big, otherwise empty room at the shelter. We are newly married and both heavily immersed in jobs at tech startups and just don’t have time to plan that honeymoon. Instead, I prepared a decent spread and invited two local, single friends over for dinner. It was a great time. Just ask Brock!

brock

We share a real love for this city. Philadelphia is where I met him. Well, after some help from a dating website, we have been together since the day we met. Literally. Just about every freaking day.

Part of what connected us was our thirst for travel and desire to go out west. So, we visited Austin. Not nearly as bike-friendly as we imagined and really too humid. Then, we went to LA, because there was a job opportunity in Hollywood, of all places, and one of my nearest and dearests is all cozy up in Silver Lake (which I looooooooove). But, he hated California.

Listen: I digress. My point is, I really love Philly. There’s even a campaign to regularly publish its praises: #whyilovephilly. A funny, incredibly smart woman, Emma Fried-Cassorla, left a career in neuroscience after cultivating a really great blog that helped her transition her own life.

There’s true beauty here. On our tiny South Philly street, our block ambassadors are friendly and vigilant. With their help, our neighbors all collected some money to install a convex mirror atop a lamp post at the end of our block to make it safer for everyone who drives and cannot see the rush of traffic. I can walk to an absurd amount of really good, surprisingly affordable, food establishments.

indyhall

Our new dog goes to puppy club at a really wonderful local veterinary hospital which is only a short walk away! My “office” is actually an innovative coworking space and my husband frequents one as well.

I challenge you to find a city with this much charm, individuality, and quality of living. Art abounds and timeless character peeks out from centuries-old architecture. There’s so much here worth seeing. And eating. And experiencing.

We may have a tough exterior, but there is an absolute wealth of love in the great little city of Philadelphia.

Global Glam At The Barnes

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The Barnes celebrated Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Magic Ladders on Friday and invited Philadelphia’s young professionals to a night of global glamour. Shonibare’s rich textiles and concepts of cultural fusion will take you to another world.

DJ Royale provided the tunes and models posed in imaginative student creations from Moore College of Art.

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The varied demographic of attendees truly made for an interesting night. Didn’t make it? Fear not! You can get in on the fun the next go round.

(Following photos courtesy of Betty Breznay @bettybelikeicanteven)

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