April 21, 2016 will be a day that lives with me forever. It truly was the definition of Bittersweet. Losing the single greatest musician of all time sucked…spending the day with 1500 other business leaders at the Motor City Soundboard taking in all of the awesomeness that is FUEL: was fantastic. This post will focus on the latter.
As one of the producers of TEDx Detroit (our Facebook page…We’ll be back in October and accepting speaker Apps in June/July), I’m fascinated by large conferences, how they run and who they attract. And while our conference is pretty spectacular year after year, FUEL: Detroit is an another level altogether.
It starts with the arrival experience. Sure there was a wait when we got there and we missed breakfast (we would have arrived earlier if we really wanted to eat) but the location of check in was hard to miss due to all of the “FUEL ambassadors in Red”. Once we got to the line, it went pretty quickly, and moved even faster for those of us with our QR code check in (I knew there would be a good use for those things).
We walked into the Soundboard and they had the same set as last year (as they should since it is awesome). About 15 seconds after entering, the voice of Detroit, Paul W. Smith began welcoming the crowd. It really was nice of him to wait for us. After pumping up the crowd, Paul W. introduced the first presenter, Captain Mark Kelly.
Captain Kelly delivered a roller coaster of a talk that was informative, thrilling and extremely personal. He talked about his experience on the space station. He spoke passionately about his time as a Navy pilot (he quipped that Tom Cruise himself would have done a better job landing the plane on the aircraft carrier than Kelly did his first time). He told the story of his wife, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords getting shot and I think most everyone felt a lump or three in their throat. He left me with two invaluable points: 1. During a flight over Iran (where he wasn’t supposed to be) our own troops almost shot him down. The lesson: Never forget to communicate. 2. At one point during his wife’s recovery a very important vote was called and she was compelled to return to DC to represent. She was in the hospital at the time and wanted Captain Kelly (I don’t she calls him that) to pack for her and meet her at the airport. He was quite convincing when he said that packing for his wife was the most difficult thing he’d ever done. I could totally see it. All in all, I gave him an A- for the way he kicked off the big day. He lost a mark for not leaving us a few more lessons in leadership.
Next up Mitch Albom was interviewed by Roop Raj. I learned a few things. 1. Tuesday’s with Morrie is the #1 selling memoir of all time. Interestingly, Mitch just wrote this to help his friend make some money to pay his healthcare costs. 2. Mitch has been very active in the non-profit space in Detroit since 1996 as a result of a conversation with Morrie. His primary group, SAY Detroit does excellent things all year long. 3. That my favorite “Frozen treat place” Detroit Water Ice Factory (in the Compuware building where Ben & Jerry’s used to be) was started by Mitch as a way of not having to bug his friends for fundraising. Mitch grew up in Philly and water ice is a big thing there. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a big thing here too. Go check it out. One thing I knew and was reminded of, Roop Raj is a cool cat.
It was a good time for a break. Lots of Kind bars…soooooo many kind bars. I wish I hadn’t eaten 3 kind bars. HAHA. Seriously, good networking and lots of time to reconnect. 30 minutes later, we were back at it.
I have to admit I walked in a little late so I missed the FUEL: Daily reveal by FUEL co-founder, Detroit entrepreneur, jazz master and 2x NYT best selling author Josh Linkner. What I saw was cool and I’m looking forward to watching that offering grow and help people become better leaders. I’ll have to update this with the link for FUEL Daily when I find it.
One of the “surprise guests” took the stage next. Taryn Asher of Fox 2 got to interview the young and very talented Michelle Christensen. Christensen is the lead designer of the all new Acura NSX (check out that video). Added bonus, she is the first female to ever hold such a role in a major auto manufacturer. It was an interesting interview and very cool to hear/experience her love of cars. At one point the pair walked over to the other beauty on stage and discussed its great features. This conversation really was about leading by example.
Next up was one of the headliners…the lady, the myth, the legend, Martha Stewart. Martha was the first ever self-made female billionaire (on paper anyway). I loved her interview (hosted by Devin Scillin of channel 4). She talked about reach (she hits over 100M people/month). She talked about business (man does she have a lot of them). She talked about her time-out and her comeback (she actually called it a nice break). She talked about food, style, design, technology and a mess of other stuff including needing 3 drivers because she hits 40 hours in about 2 days. That lady seriously is a dynamo. Here is what I posted about her on my Facebook: This is my 2nd time seeing Martha Stewart. Absolutely love her talks. She is direct and graceful, meandering yet impactful, thoughtful yet whimsical and most importantly stoic and hilarious.
Since this post is already too long and we haven’t broken for lunch yet…I’ll call this part 1 of 2.
We’re you at FUEL: Detroit?
What did you think?