Reflections from together digital’s 2023 elevate! conference

Last week, I had the privilege to travel to Cincinnati for my first Together Digital conference. Here, tables of like-minded women practiced vulnerability and lifted up each other. I walked away from the conference with a clearer vision of the future, a roadmap for achieving my goals, and invaluable connections to women across cities.

Pausing to Press Through Uncertainty

If we are being honest, this past year has been one of uncertainty. I’m grateful for the opportunities to grow local organizations through freelance marketing and copywriting, and I have been craving more clients and/or a full-time role fully aligned with my career aspirations.

Since graduating five months ago, I have felt stuck. When I was a student bored with the mundane, I would pick up another campus role or chase after an extra story for the student newspaper. Now, I am faced with the reality that traditional roles do not allow for such flexibility and goal-chasing.

Phillitia Charlton’s keynote speech kicked off the conference with an “I see you, and I’ve been you” moment for me.  Here are my top takeaways from this segment:

📝 Listen to yourself and your body. Know when you would be more aligned with your body and mind by pursuing a different path.

📝 Are you stuck, or are you pausing? Be intentional with your time of rest before you achieve your goals. Shift your mindset from “this hurdle is happening to me” to “this time is for me to be intentional.”

📝 You are responsible for your holistic wellness.

📝 In every part of the journey, feel joy and excitement. If you feel neither of these, create your own!

📝 Stop self-sabotaging and standing in the way of your own success. You likely know what you need to do… so do it.

📝 Surround yourself with a team who will hold you accountable and elevate you to your highest self daily. Invest in therapists, coaches, mentors, and friends.

📝 Journal what is working for you and what is not working for you. When you come to a decision, such as leaving a job, you will recognize that the decision was made long ago; you simply had to come to terms with it and pursue the better path for you.

The AI Effect

Raise your hand if you have been asked about AI at your job or in an interview 🙋🏼‍♀️

Now, raise your hand if you don’t always know how to feel about the emerging programs 🙋🏼‍♀️

Concerns of ethics were raised in this all-female panel discussion. Ultimately, organizations need to ensure confidentiality of sensitive information and accuracy in what AI generates.

After this talk, I am hopeful for the future of AI for the following reasons:

📝 AI, as it stands now, cannot think strategically and creatively to solve our organizations’ problems. We can. AI frees up our tine to do so.

📝 We each have areas in which we are naturally wired to succeed. AI can supplement the areas in which we don’t contribute as much value to our organizations.

📝 Every organization needs an AI policy in this age to prevent sensitive data breaches.

📝 AI can and will likely be used in the future as a suicide prevention tool, bringing “connection” at all hours of the day to those who feel most isolated.

Strategies for Self-Advocacy

I am infamously a self-minimizer. I recognize this unhealthy pattern and its roots of being an overly-humble, self-sabotaging, people-pleasing youth. After all, we as women are called “bitchy,” “demanding,” and “ungrateful” most times that we pursue our goals unapologetically or ask for what we have earned. I’m grateful for mentors I met through my college and career who preach a different narrative, but I still walked into this session feeling like I was asking for too much and ungrateful in certain areas of my life.

This panel shredded any feelings of self-doubt and enabled me to view my goals as reasonable.

Beth Menduni led the panel (made up of Stacy Kessler, Kendra Ramirez, Tarita Preston, and Tracey Ireland) through a powerful discussion of the importance, how-to, and legacy-leaving impact of self-advocacy.

📝 Tarita challenged us to not think of advocacy as hard but rather as something new. Grow the muscle of self-advocacy, and you will find it easier to more often speak up for what doesn’t work for you.

📝 Speaking of what doesn’t work for you, these situations also do not work for the organization or person with whom you are seeking to collaborate. If you have unmet needs, you cannot and will not perform at your best. Do what it best for you, as this is also what is best for those around you. Do not give into martyrdom, believing it will promote positive results for you or your circles.

📝 Self-advocacy is self-care, and, like self-care, it allows you to pour into others from a full cup.

📝 “Be grateful for what you have” is a BS phrase used to limit your potential. Absolutely be content, but also know that it is okay to seek more out of life and a career.

📝 Set boundaries and put yourself first by following these steps:

  1. Know what is important to you.
  2. Tell your clients/coworkers how you will show up as your best self and how to treat you,
  3. Recognize that people want to be led and told how to treat you best.
  4. Know that some people need to be trained on how to treat you.

📝 Dive deep into your psyche to understand why self-advocacy is more uncomfortable than self-sabotage.

  • What limiting beliefs do you hold about yourself? Why?
  • What is the earliest memory that you remember believing you inherently possess a negative quality? Now, remind yourself of all the times that you displayed the opposing positive quality. For example, if you believe you are inherently stupid because you stumbled over your words in first grade, remind yourself of the times you demonstrated smartness to slowly undo that negative, limiting belief about yourself.
  • Keep a “smile file” of all your professional accomplishments and praises from your coworkers and clients.
  • Consider your core motivations in life. Are you scared to pursue your goals because they seem to grate against your guiding compass?
  • Which ‘isms and ‘phobias do you internalize and hold against yourself?

📝 Stacy reminded us to consider our audience and what we wish to achieve from conversations before holding them. Recognize that most people hold good intentions. Seek to understand before you seek to tell.

📝 Release your blockages to not be afraid of being seen. Be vulnerable with your coworkers, knowing that, if they understand you, you can best do your job.

📝 Don’t be tied to the outcome of advocating for yourself. Advocate for yourself because speaking up for yourself is the right thing to do.

📝 View not bringing your perspective and whole self to the table as a disservice to your team.

Maximizing Your Video Content

Following TikTok’s initial boom in 2020, more consumers of content want to learn by video. This is nothing new, considering the popularity of YouTube years prior to TikTok’s success. TikTok simply made video more accessible to the average person and company with a smaller budget than a successful YouTube channel would typically require.

In this workshop, Jesy Herron provided practical tips for maximizing video as a piece of a content marketing strategy.

📝 Create a content matrix for your brand. What can you speak to? What products or services do you provide? What benefits for your users reap from different features? What questions do customers ask that you can answer?

📝 Identify and include subject matter experts from your organization in your content.

📝 Source current clients/customers of your organization to sing your praises.

📝 Turn long-form videos into multiple pieces of content — blog posts, infographics, social media posts, and more. Rework longer video pieces to reach different members of your audience who prefer different forms.

📝 Save your company money and time through focused shoots that last a day or two. You can piece together the same clips from the shoot to tell different stories by different video editing approaches.

📝 When your subject goes “off script,” don’t stop them! Viewers want raw, genuine content. You never know what golden nuggets can form out of a shoot.

The Future of Work: Demystifying Freelance for Talent and Businesses

Emily Hay and Alison Spitzer of Hay There Social Media wrapped up the sessions with a timely segment all about freelancing. I am thrilled to join their online community after learning their passion for bettering the lives of social media managers and other freelance marketers.

📝 Don’t minimize yourself as a freelancer! You are an entrepreneur.

📝 Know your specialty, and own it. Also know that your specialty may evolve.

📝 Bring in additional specialists for your clients. For example, if you are strictly a social media manager, bring in an expert videographer to wow your clients with the finished products.

📝 Know a little bit of everything about marketing and entrepreneurship. Constantly upskill yourself.

📝 Utilize tools like Sprout Social, Trello, and Honeybook to elevate your small business and gain transferrable skills. If you know the ins and outs of one social media scheduling platform, you can easily pick up the others.

📝 Know what is in scope, but don’t be afraid to go the extra mile for your clients.

📝 Continually refine what you do and how you communicate it. You know what you do well and your worth as an entrepreneur — communicate it!

📝 Refine how you describe what you do for each client. They may not understand the value of hours billed for analytical reporting. Explain it to them, and be open to adjusting your scope of work.

📝 Don’t let setting up your own LLC or sole proprietorship be the step that stops you from starting. Begin now, and worry about the details once you have more fully realized your brand vision.

📝 Challenge yourself to make 30 connections in 30 days to expand your network and find new opportunities to collaborate with businesses.

📝 The work is out there, and freelancing will continue to grow as a viable option for professionals.

Let’s get tacos again soon, ladies 😉

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