I was really looking forward to attending the FutureM / Inbound Marketing Summit last week – not really knowing what I was going to get out of it. I go to conferences to meet and re-meet people and to learn new ideas, but most of all, it’s a chance to recharge. Sometimes we need that external force to make us look at things with a different lens.

On Thursday morning, I settled into one of 8,000 seats near the front of the room to see what Martha Stewart could offer us. I wasn’t prepared to be thoroughly delighted with her charm and sage knowledge. Not being much of a home goods type of person, I now understand where her success comes from – her. She is unyielding in her passions, and captivating in her storytelling. Her lesson was in branding, which she has truly mastered. After we watched her blend up a green juice concoction live on stage, servers with trays came out with mini cups of juice for everyone in the audience. She overdelivered and left me enchanted with her brand.

Later that afternoon I listened to Tamsen Webster talk about TED Talks. Being a fan of both her and TED, this seemed like a solid choice. She hammered home the fact that truly memorable moments are created through careful planning and practice. She emphasized the importance of visuals that reinforce and enhance the message without duplicating the message exactly. The two work in tandem because they penetrate both sides of your brain. Science!

One of the more unexpected experiences was Amy Jo Martin’s talk about Charity Water. It wasn’t until the end of her talk that I understood just how much her talk belonged at Inbound 14 and FutureM. As marketers, we’re passionate about what we do. We strive to tell amazing stories that influence others to take an action. Where Martha Stewart made me want to sit back and smile, Amy Jo made me want to sit up and act. At no point did she ask for donations or support for Charity Water. Instead, she told an amazing story of how she got sucked into doing what she’s done for them. Her most memorable story was about a little boy who tried to sell her a hand-made Nokia phone.  She loved his entrepreneurial spirit and the whole experience of negotiating a price for this handmade non-working treasure. The feeling she left in me as she walked off the stage will always be associated with Charity Water.


And finally… the closing keynote by Shiza Shahid. I had heard of Malala, the young 16 year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban while on her way home from school. She was shot because she believes every girl has a right to be educated — and she spoke her mind. Shiza Shahid walked onto the stage and spoke eloquently about the challenges women face in the middle east and around the world. She told us the story of how she met Malala and encouraged her to speak out for what she believed in. And she shared that horrifying moment when she got the call telling her that Malala had been shot. Miraculously, she survived and now they both help run the Malala fund full-time.

Each of these speakers understands the art of storytelling. They are all passionate about what they do and are natural leaders. I’m excited to come back to work and inspired to create stories of my own now.