Start a blog.

If you don’t already have one this is your call to action; straight from me to you. Start a blog.

Okay it is pretty direct for me to just say that but by this point I am utterly convinced that having a personal blog (one that you can contribute something useful) to is the single most valuable tool for you to have as a student, a professional, a job hunter or even an employer. Over my past entries I have been ramping up to this point (figuring it out for myself along the way too) by talking about people I know, people I have seen and how social media has helped them get to where they are today. But the one thing all of these people have had in common is their blog.

Take Promod Sharma – my inspiration for instance. Because of his blog he was interviewed by the Toronto Star and written about in both the online and print editions. He was also showcased on the Toronto Board of Trade website and the Metro newspaper. He has been nominated for a business excellence award and interviewed again by the Globe and Mail. All of this is because of his social media and blogs (you can read more about all this in detail in my blog post here).

Gwen Elliot who I recently saw speak at TEDxRyerson and wrote about in my review. She is now hosting a show on Rogers TV called “Start Something Big!” – a realty show interviewing millenials who have been entrepreneurial and started their own businesses. She got to where she is because she started a blog.

My friend Dan who I wrote about in a post called Motivation is becoming increasingly inspired and more motivated every day since he started his blog cglfgamerzreview. Every day he’s becoming more focused and thinking about where to take it and the opportunities it is going to give him. I completely believe that his devotion to his blog is going to take him places in the gaming industry.

And finally, it’s time to talk about myself.

Since I started this blog a month ago I have talked about social media a lot. My personal Twitter account has had its’ followers increase from 49 to 134 (at the time of this posting) and most of those are people who have followed me because they have seen and read my blog. I was able to present a 75 minute workshop at the Toastmasters District 60 conference on social media earlier this month, and I am going to be co-presenting a workshop on social media, January 10 at 12:30 on http://www.hr.com with Anita Nickerson, an HR professional. Again, this is because of my blog and Toastmasters. I was able to go to the TEDxRyerson conference last weekend and write a huge review on it (part 1 and part 2). While at the conference, my blog gave me a purpose while being there and an extra chance to network with the presenters. Because of my interest and involvement with blogs and social media I was also advised to apply for a job with Digital Agencies by a friend who has worked for them before (it was the first time I had ever heard the term “Digital Agency”).

So here is what I did.

  • On Monday of this week I redid my resume, changing it from an HR resume to a social media and marketing resume.
  • On Tuesday I put out a few applications.
  • On Wednesday I got a call from Hooplah (my first pick) to come in for an interview.
  • Today, I just came back from that interview.

I guarantee you, that if I had not started this blog none of this would have happened. I also want to talk about how I applied to Hooplah and what the company and interview process was like.

The Application

On their website, this is what I saw written under the careers section:

I put arrows next to two of the points for a reason. #1, the “requirements” section grabbed my attention unlike any other job ad I’ve ever seen. A place where an appreciation for “laughs, food, and loud music” is a job requirement? Well, I like laughing, I like food and I certainly like music. A workplace that wants their employees to be happy with their jobs? Okay! I’m in!

Second, they wanted an application that was “anything but generic”. As they are a marketing agency, this made perfect sense to me. So I got out my email and this is what I wrote – word for word:

*************************************************

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Dear Hooplah,

Why fit in when you were born to stand out? 

 

It’s a quote by Dr. Seuss that I have atop my website. Why? Because I believe it. There isn’t anything that I do that I don’t take seriously. When it comes to social media, people want to know what they’re doing with it. But more importantly, they need to know why they should be using social media in the first place. I make it my goal to help educate the people that follow me to have their answers to these questions and not leave any loose ends for them to worry about. And apparently, it’s working. Over the last month I have had three of my blog articles featured as headlines on Cromwell ToastmastersSpeakers Daily Shout, and TEDxCairo. In addition, I was selected as the top Tweet out of hundreds of Tweets that trended #TEDxRU over this month to be showcased on The Ryersonian.

 

I am interested in hearing more about your job opportunities as a Social Media Specialist as well as a Digital Project Manager. I have attached my resume as well as my Klout score (as of today). Please know that you can reach out to me directly at 647-***-****.

 

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

*************************************************

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My response from the president? Two words.

“Let’s meet”

The Interview

I figured the drive to get to Hooplah’s office on the other side of the city should take about half an hour, but not wanting to take any chances with Toronto traffic I left an hour and a half early so I would arrive on time and could hopefully grab some lunch. At 1:20 (my interview was for 1:30) I went into their office.

My first impression was I couldn’t help but grin. It certainly didn’t look like any office I had ever been in before. In the center of the room was a large oval table area with duel-monitor PC’s set up and the office itself was extremely colourful with various social media logo’s on the walls and the general colour scheme. It reminded me of a mix between the Ted Roger’s School of Management computer lab’s at Ryerson, and someone’s house (but more professional looking). It’s difficult to describe but it looked like the sort of place that encouraged collaboration and wanted you to feel comfortable while at work. So far I liked what I saw.

I was greeted by one of the employee’s (I didn’t recognize him from any of Hooplah’s employee’s LinkedIn profiles) who welcomed me in and went to get the president (Leslie) who would be interviewing me. A minute later he came out and we went into the board room to start the interview.

Similar to application process, the interview was unlike anything I had ever been to before. As I have an HR background I was expecting to be given a mix of standard behavioural (backwards looking) and situational (forwards looking) interview questions. Instead, Leslie put up my resume and website on a giant-screen monitor in the room and started asking questions about what I had done with social media, about my hobby’s and my background. We were shortly joined by the media director David and what we had was less like an interview and more like a flowing discussion. What their company vision is, what they want to see from the people who work from them, and what I was looking for as well.

I don’t recall ever feeling so ready for an interview before either. It wasn’t that I had spent an enormous amount of time preparing for it – in fact I probably spent about as much time preparing for it as I did for any other interview. The difference was I was passionate about what I was talking about. We were speaking marketing, we were speaking social media, we were speaking about our goals and our visions. I am now feeling like it is quite possible that my HR education may have been the wrong background and I should have gone with marketing after all.

I can honestly say I’ve never been so excited about a job before this. They made me feel welcome and valued – even as a candidate. In an earlier blog post about Steve Jobs I knew I had to change something and wrote “What will I do differently? I’m still working on it, but there will be something.” I think I’ve found it.

Oh, and one last point – start a blog.

About these ads

Last Sunday I attended TEDxRyersonU down at the CBC building on Front Street. The day started at 9:30 in the morning with the opening registrations, a complimentary breakfast, coat check and ran until 5:30 in the afternoon (it was only supposed to go until 5:00 but I really didn’t care, it was awesome). For those of you unfamiliar with what TED is, I suggest you start by reading Part 1 of my review which explains it in simple detail. In part 2 of my review I will be giving a brief overview of all but three of the speakers as well as my thoughts on their speeches in minor detail. The three I will not be covering in this review are Ramona Pringle, Gwen Elliot and Josh Louie who I spoke extensively on in part one. I this part of the review, I will also be covering the role that social media played at the conference.

Without any further preamble, I present to you my thoughts on the rest of the TEDxRyerson!

Session 1: The Perspective Change

Speaker #1: Alan Shepard – Think Different: a brief history of universities and why they need to change

Alan Shepard is the VP of Academics at Ryerson University and opened the conference by giving his thoughts on what role innovation needs to play in education. I remember how he compared the old style of learning (and I mean old) of monk’s reading to several students in order to educate them. Fast forward to the year 2011 and things aren’t really that much different. Professor’s still stand in front of “auditorium” style lecture halls and teach. There isn’t any specific reason classrooms are still designed like this. It’s just what has worked in the past so why change what isn’t broken? Alan however encourages innovation, and in true Ryerson fashion instead asked why not make it better? Alan Shepard: “In a world where you can go to 200 million users in a year [Facebook], curriculum probably has to speed up.”

My thoughts on this talk: Innovation plays a key role in learning and it is professors that can adapt to change and think of collaborative ways to teach will be the ones who do exceedingly well. One of my favourite professors at Ryerson – Genevieve Farrell – taught her Recruitment & Selection class in such a method. Throughout the course we ran a very realistic simulation through the entire hiring process complete with actors being brought in to play the role of job applicants. I probably learned more in this course about Human Resources than any other course I took and it remains one of my favourite and most memorable classes to this day. Why? Because it was innovative.

Speaker #2: Tony Burman – Al Jazeera, Arab Spring and the End of the World as we know it

Tony Burman is currently a lecturer at the school of Journalism at Ryerson and the former managing director of Al-Jazeera English. In his speech, Tony spoke about the riots in Egypt that had occurred last year and how they were able to bring about change to a nation that had been living the same way for a long period of time. In the end when the Egyptian Prime Minister stepped down, he compared the radical change that had happened similar to the collapse of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Soviet Nation. He completed his presentation by showing us a video compilation of the riots through their beginnings, to hitting their climax and how they came to an end with cheering and celebration.

My thoughts on this talk: Not being one for politics I feel I may have missed some of the finer details of this talk, but what I did enjoy was that he brought to our attention a subject that had been forgotten about. Ever notice how news such as Haiti, New Orleans and Cairo will hit the headlines for a while and then disappear out of sight? Unless you’re making an active effort to follow the subject, it tends to evade your thoughts. I thank Tony for adding a conclusion for myself and any others who lost track of a subject that will be written about in the history books.

Speaker #3: Simon Sinek – TED Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

This part was a little bit different. Rather than having an actual speaker in front on stage, a video was streamed directly from the TED website; in this case Simon Sinek’s. Simon had a very simple but revolutionary idea that he called “The Golden Circle”. It’s a little difficult to explain without a diagram so I took the liberty of finding a picture of it online.

Basically, Simon explained that all companies know what they do. Some know how they do it but very few know why they do it. He explained that most companies try to sell by explaining what their product is, how it works and then finally why you need it. But it’s successful companies such as Apple that have the entire process reversed and start by explaining why they do it (Think Different), how they do it (by providing easy to use electronics), and what they they do (sell computers). Essentially that was the gist of it but since the video is online I just suggest you go and watch for yourself.

My thoughts on this talk: I was conflicted over this one. I thought the speaker, the message and the ideas it gave me were fantastic but I didn’t really understand why they were streaming a TED video instead of supplying a live speaker. If I want to watch a TED talk then I can do so anytime from a computer. It just seemed a little strange to be getting a streamed video at the conference. However, it is possible that streaming TED videos may be part of the regulations for hosting a TEDx event. I really don’t know.

Speaker #4: Alex Fox – From ‘Conscious to Creative

Alex Fox is a Ryerson fashion student and spent this past summer oversea in Ghana with Engineers Without Borders. She talked to us about the change needed in helping developing countries and how charitable causes aren’t always as charitable as they might seem. Take for instance (as she explained) TOMS shoes. If you are unfamiliar with the brand, for every pair of shoes bought they donate a pair of shoes to children in third world countries. It seems like a good intention right? The truth is, shoes are not hard to come by even in the third world. In fact, by supplying free shoes it actually hurts the locals who are trying to make a living by selling shoes for an already cheap price. There are ways to help developing countries, but don’t believe that every charitable cause really has someone’s best intentions at heart.

My thoughts on this talk: Alex had (in my opinion) a major challenge to overcome. She was a junior presenter at a TEDx conference, going up after the VP of Academics at Ryerson and other big names. However, within a minute of Alex’s talk I was ensnared by her speech. What she was speaking about and the way she presented her ideas and opinions immediately grabbed my attention and got me thinking about things that had never crossed my mind. This is exactly what a TED presenter should do, and she did it well.

Session 2: In Other Worlds

After an hour lunch break (with lunch provided, thank you organizing committee!) with some networking, we resumed for session 2, In other World’s which had five speakers.

Speaker #5: Sheldon Levy – The Forefront of Innovation

Sheldon Levy is the Dean of Ryerson University and was probably the most well known of all the speakers at the conference. Like Alan Shepard, Sheldon Levy also spoke greatly with innovation in mind. For anyone who has attended or simply paid attention to Ryerson over the last five or six years since Sheldon Levy became the Dean, we have seen innovation taking place first hand. In his speech, Sheldon spent a portion of it talking about the Digital Media Zone developed at Ryerson; an area that was originally created only for students and alumni to come together and develop new ideas, but soon after was inviting companies to come as well. The results? Sheldon Levy: “320 full time jobs have been created through Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone for innovation.”

My thoughts on this talk: When I started at Ryerson in 2005 it was still commonly referred to as “Rye High” and “not a real university” (even though it was). Over the course of the last six years there has been a huge change in the way the university has been perceived. New buildings such as the innovative student learning centre, programs such as “New Digital Media” and “Economics” and a new but cost-effective and (already!) leading MBA program are only a few of the many things Ryerson now has to help put it on the map. I can honestly say that I’m proud to be a Ryerson alumni and without Sheldon Levy’s innovation that changed the school, I don’t know if I could have honestly felt as much pride. Basically, you can talk the talk but Sheldon Levy has walked it.

Speaker #6: Ramona Pringle – Real Wisdom Through Virtual Worlds

This speaker was covered in detail in part 1 of my review.

 
 
 
 

Speaker #7: Adrian Bulzacki – Monetizing the Holodeck

If you pay attention to science fiction then you probably already know that Star Trek predicted many modern day technologies such as cell phones and tele-presence (ie. Skype). Well, Adrian is a PhD student at Ryerson and the founder of ARB Labs Inc. who is doing his part to bring hologram technology to commercial space. The future is on it’s way once again. The most recent TV example along the lines of what Adrian is working on is the underground room they have on the show Terra Nova that let’s the residents view any point of history in 3D. How it works is a little too complicated to explain for me, but I did manage to find this video of what Adrian has been putting together. It’s some pretty cool stuff.

My thoughts on this talk: I had the privilege of meeting Adrian out in the hallway before he did his talk and I have to say, he was a really cool and high-energy guy. His passion and his enthusiasm clearly showed in his work and he’s doing his part to make what is currently very expensive technology and only accessible to major corporations commercially available to the world. There wasn’t anything to not like in this talk or in Adrian.

Speaker #8: Elizabeth Gilbert – TED Talk: A New Way to think about creativity

This was the second video streamed from the TED website by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of a book called “Eat, Pray, Love” and significantly longer than the first streamed video. I’m not going to go into any detail about this talk as it was a streamed video and can be watched here.

My thoughts on this talk: Actually, I’m going to be straight forward and admit that I did not enjoy this talk. There was no particular reason other than it did not grab my interest. But that’s the thing about TED that there’s a wide variety of speakers and not every one is going to be for you.

Speaker #9: Jeremy Kinsman – Are other People’s Democracies Any of Our Business?

Ambassador Jeremy Kinsman has been Ryerson’s Distinguished Visiting Diplomat and professor since 2010. Jeremy was clearly very well informed in his topic but unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, politics is not one of my strengths or interest areas which meant that I had a difficult time following him. Essentially what Jeremy wanted to convey was a message of fair governance and  peaceful uprising  without violence. Unfortunately I can’t give him a more extensive review and try to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

My thoughts on this talk: As you may have guessed, this talk was one of the ones I could have missed and not felt bad about. However, that is not to say he was a bad speaker. One of my friend’s I was sitting with told me that this was one of her favourite speaker’s of the day and she wasn’t a fan of Ramona Pringle who was one of my favourites. Not every speaker is for every attendee, and Jeremy Kinsman was not for me.

Session 3: Discover, Grow, Dare

After a short half-hour break that consisted of soft drinks, tea, coffee and most importantly – cookies; we reconvened for session three.

Speaker #10: Sean Wise – How to be a Business Superhero

Before the break we had a couple of very serious speakers so Sean Wise was probably the perfect speaker to ease us into the third segment. Being a professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Ryerson and the founder of VenCorps.com he had a unique way of talking business. With a good sense of humour and some serious artistic skills, Sean draws and used art to convey his message. He brought out the slideshows and gave us an overview of his book (with the same name as the speech) using metaphors of some of his favourite superhero’s as his speech material which was to give out business tips using lessons straight from the comic books.

My thoughts on this talk: I enjoyed Sean’s talk for the feeling of lightness and laughter it brought, however I think the real message here was to be different in how you present. Giving business tips is easy. In fact, if you read a couple of books by entrepreneurs then you often walk away feeling like they had collaborated to come up with similar ideas (at least that’s how I feel). What can really be said about Sean’s approach is that he communicated his advice in a way that will get him remembered. Even if people don’t remember the tips themselves (I don’t) they will still remember him.

Speaker #11: Mary Donohue – Millenials, McLuhan & Slow Dancing: Understanding the Generation Gap

I remember this being a rather lengthy speech. Mary is a Management Analyst and Early Childhood Education professor at Ryerson and her topic was centered around communication and understanding how to communicate with millenials (aka Gen Y – born between 1981 and 2000). I remember at one point Mary broke into a anecdote about how she was trying to communicate with her class (all women over 21 years old) about processes. Unable to get through to them in traditional means she started asking them about how they went out to meet men and used each point of that “process” to relate to what she was trying to communicate about business.

My thoughts on this talk: I had one major problem with this talk and that was that she was speaking to the wrong audience. Her speech was mostly focused on how to communicate with millennials but her audience was mostly millennials. The talk itself was fine but it was meant for a different audience.

Speaker #12: Matt Cutts – TED Talk: Try Something New for 30-days

This was the third streamed video of the day and since it was very short, I will give a brief overview (you can watch it here). Matt puts forth a challenge, give yourself 30 days to complete a challenge for yourself. After participating in a challenge to write a novel in 30 days (the trick is to write approximately 1600 words a day and not sleep until you do so), he found by pushing himself he could make almost anything he wanted happen. Go on a diet, exercise, improve your drinking stamina (hey exercise isn’t for everyone). But give yourself a challenge and stick to it – just something simple you want to accomplish. Why not?

My thoughts on this talk: I think everyone challenges themselves to do something but we all forget to establish a timeline and think it’s okay to slack off for a day or two, which leads to slacking off for a while longer. Establishing a strict 30 day timeline and sticking to it helps you stay accountable. It’s a great idea and since it’s almost New Years – the perfect time to start thinking about your challenge.

Speaker #13: Ivan Joseph – The Role of Self-Confidence

Ivan is the Director of Athletics for Ryerson and as a coach should be, he was certainly one of the most inspirational speakers at TEDxRyerson. He spoke about something that I very much believe in and try to strive for, and that is re-framing coaching and mentorship into a positive light. For instance, he told us when he originally asked his wife out he was told that the only way he would ever have a chance to go out with her was if the human race was dying and dating him was the only thing that could save it. Ivan’s first thought? “So I still have a chance!” Looking at things in a positive light not only makes people feel better but it gets better results. After all, when do you feel at your best? After being told how arriving at work 5 minutes late once a week is going to get you into trouble or how arriving 30 minutes early every day is going to take you places? Ivan Joseph: “Thoughts influence actions. We need our own self-affirmations”

My thoughts on this talk: It was an energetic and inspiring talk. Ivan was a great speaker and certainly one of the highlights for me!

Speaker #14: Gwen Elliot – Start Something Big!

This speaker was covered in detail in part 1 of my review.

 
 
 
 

Session 4: Re-Think

After one final break where I got to speak with Gwen Elliot and get my picture taken with some friends holding up the letters “TEDx”, we met back in the auditorium at 4:30 for the final session.

Speaker #15: James Smith – Using Biology to Inspire Engineering Design

James Smith is part of the Engineering faculty at Ryerson and does research into biomechanics and robotics. His topic was about how living organisms such as birds and other animals have influenced modern day inventions. Take for example the Japanese bullet train which was influenced by the kingfisher bird which could dive into the water at incredible speeds without leaving as much as a ripple. He also told us about engineering students at Ryerson that have been able to develop a fully automated robotic arm that responds to “thoughts” just like a real arm and about their inspiration.

My thoughts on this talk: I was very interested at first in what James had to say and I certainly liked hearing about the ideas behind modern day inventions. However, as it was a slightly more technical discussion I feel like I may have missed some of the details. I’m looking forward to this talk becoming available online in January to find those details again.

Speaker #16: Evgeny Tchebotarev – Pursuing a Dream: What it Takes to Make Photography a Full-time Dream Job

For anyone who is familiar with the website 500px.com then you may be interested to know that this speaker is the founder of that company. A finance graduate of Ryerson, Evgeny believes that photo sharing will help the world’s best photographers connect with their photos to create something new and inspiring. But how hard can taking a picture be? Well, Evgeny showed us just how much work can go into the process. Take a photo such as this one. In order to capture the “swirling” effect of the stars. The photographer would have to sit in the same spot and take a photo every 30 seconds or so for a 50 hour period to capture the changing pattern of the stars. It’s that kind of dedication to your art that can leads to photographic success.

My thoughts on this talk: I love seeing good photography and I love seeing people who can make a legitimate career out of it even more. To make a living off of doing something you enjoy is something I truly believe everyone should try and aim for. Evgeny is one of those people who has done exactly this, and done it right. For him to come and share his story made this an excellent speech.

Speaker #17: Dave Meslin – TED Talk: Redefining Apathy

This was the final video streamed from the TED website and it can be viewed here. Dave gave a speech on why no-one wants to get involved with their community. It’s not because they’re lazy or don’t care, it’s because government has placed too many barriers in the way in order for anyone to do so with any sort of ease. As you can watch the video online I won’t go into any more detail then that but I do suggest watching it as he raises some very good points. The real treat to this talk at the conference was a twist, when Dave Meslin was actually in the audience and brought up on stage to answer a question.

My thoughts on this talk: This talk did something revolutionary for me (it was actually the second time I had seen it, I watched it on the TED website a while back), it spoke about politics in a way that actually got me interested. I’ve seen these barrier’s that Dave speaks of in every day life and he’s certainly right that they do prevent community involvement in Toronto.

Speaker #18: Julie Rochefort – Shift the Focus

Julie is a registered dietitian and recent Ryerson graduate. Her talk was about shifting the focus away from weight loss for obesity and towards promoting health & body acceptance. She was able to back up her ideas with statistics that showed that obese people are actually likely to live longer than average people. However, she also showed in her graphs that obese people have more health problems than average people. She told us that a third of all obese people however, live without any health problems and it’s this third that is always forgotten about and never talked about.

My thoughts on this talk: I have to both agree and disagree with this speaker. While I do believe that obese people should not be criticized for being obese, I don’t believe that simply accepting their situation and not working towards weight loss is the right solution. A third of obese people may live without health problems but that means two-thirds still do which is obviously a lot more.

Speaker #19: Josh Louie – Make Change a Reality

This speaker was covered in detail in part 1 of my review.

 
 
 
 

The Role of Social Media

For the final part of my review I want to talk about how social media was used during the conference as I found it to be done very well. Days before the conference, attendees were told that we could follow their Twitter account @TEDxRyersonU to receive conference updates. But more interestingly was their use of the hashtag #TEDxRU which would be used during the conference to ask the speakers questions. It was an innovative approach I thought as every type of event I have ever been to that has had room for questions has always used the “raise your hand and hope you get chosen” routine. Using Twitter like this had several advantages:

  • The best question could be asked which meant in order to be picked, you had to think creatively about what you wanted to write
  • You didn’t have to feel awkward about raising your hand and asking something you were unsure about being received well
  • You didn’t have to listen to someone trying to explain a question they didn’t quite know how to ask. It was clearly laid out in 140 characters or less

Of course the major disadvantage to it was that if you didn’t have a smartphone then you couldn’t ask a question (unless you were sitting with someone who had one anyway). Still, the use of the hashtag also created an opportunity for people to have a live stream of what was going on at the conference, network with other conference attendees after it had ended, and retweet useful information.

For me personally, I also found that knowing I was going to write a review of the conference to be very motivational while at the conference. It encouraged me to make a lot of Tweets and it gave me extra things to talk about while networking. I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much out of TEDxRyerson if I hadn’t fully intended to review it afterwards.

Of course, the other piece of social media being used by the conference was Facebook which has allowed all of us to network on there, and will let us share photo’s and video’s once they’re online.

Overall, I can’t wait to attend future TEDx events! My application has been sent to go to TEDxRyerson Women on December 2.

Today I did something different. I tweeted 22 times which is about 20 more than I do any other day. There should have actually been a few more tweets than that but my phone started getting a “lost connection” error which I suspect means I went over my data limit of 100mb per month. Well, it was worth it.

The reason for this tweet’sc’pade (is that a word?) was that today I for my first time, attended TEDxRyersonU. For those unfamiliar with what-the-heck that is, let me break it down.

TED = A large organization dedicated to bringing together excellent subject matter experts to conduct speeches on a variety of topics. Their talks are riveting, inspirational, and highly regarded. Their slogan is ideas worth spreading. If you have never watched a TED talk, go check it out. I mean it.

x = Just the letter x, this means that this is an independently organized event with no assistance from the people at TED. However, the event is created using the TED brand and the organizers must follow a set of guidelines to ensure the event is consistent with TED.

RyersonU = The independent organizers, in this case Ryerson University located in Toronto. An absolutely incredible place to attend (with no bias on my part as an alumni).

Overall the conference had 19 different speakers, 4 of which were videos being streamed from http://www.TED.com (1 of which was in the audience however). Needless to say, it would be a bit overwhelming for me to talk about all 19 in detail (for both me to write and you to read); so what I am going to do is talk in detail about my three favourite speakers. Since that alone will be quite extensive, I will leave this blog post (part 1) at that. In part 2, I will give a brief overview of all the other speakers and the role social media played in the conference (my immediate thoughts at the time on all but the last three speakers are on my Twitter stream).

My Top 3 Favourites (In Speaking Order)

#1) Ramona Pringle: Real Wisdom from Virtual Worlds

Ramona PringleRamona Pringle is an enterprising interactive storyteller, earning accolades for her work across the multimedia landscape. She is on the New Media faculty at Ryerson University and recently completed production on a pilot called The Real Lives of Avatars, which chronicles the lives of online gamers and digital media citizens.

Ramona spoke in the second session (In Other Worlds) and her topic was about gaming and how virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft are playing a role in developing real life experiences. Having formerly attended BlizzConn, (a large conference hosted by Blizzard Entertainment for their games) Ramona had one of her first experiences seeing how deeply involved players were able to relate to both their characters and each other. Anyone who already plays or played these types of games (such as myself) knows that the time you spend with your avatar makes you develop a relationship and an understanding of that character. Your real life and your virtual one have become intertwined. The people you meet inside the game world are no different either. Their relationships with their characters exist, and when your avatar meets theirs, it’s still two individuals connecting. At one point, Ramona recounted the time she heard the story of a couple who met on World of Warcraft while living in completely different countries, and ended up getting married. Their adventures online gave their relationship a feeling of Renaissance magic that simply doesn’t exist in the real world. Would they have met if not for World of Warcraft? Probably not.

But Ramona’s talk wasn’t just about virtual worlds developing personal relationships. It also had to do with how they influence you as an individual, and as a professional. Ramona had originally ventured into the lands of Azeroth (the planet that World of Warcraft takes place on) out of a feeling of something missing in her life, having recently moved to a new city and suffered a breakup. The journey was slow, and she enlisted the help of a game guide to adventure with her. Together, playing on her Avatar “Tristanova” and paired up with her Night Elf game guide, the two embarked on many quests and adventures. As Gwen progressed through the game, she noticed the interactions although virtual, were causing her to feel real emotions. From the sadness at killing her first virtual animal to the relief which came from reuniting with her game guide (and friend) after having gotten too excited, and run off of a cliff (which is incidentally safer to do in game, just an FYI).

The adventures, eventually led Ramona to launch http://www.avatarsecrets.com which outlines her experiences and how she perceives virtual worlds to intermix with the real one, in more detail. Since then, her career and productions in this field have only continued to grow with Digital Nation and other frontiers.

My Thoughts on this Talk:

As a former World of Warcraft player I was drawn to this topic. One of the things I had indeed picked up on during my time playing the game (and other games) was how I was learning about leadership, time management, finances, the economy and other very “real life” qualities. For instance, World of Warcraft contains an in-game auction house players can use to buy and sell virtual gear using money earned in the game. Rare and hard-to-get items sell for a mint while rags and low level robes are a dime a dozen. As Blizzard continued to release expansion packs which made earning in game currency easier, items which used to sell for only 10 gold, would later sell for 100, and later for 1,000. It was quite literally like experiencing the growth and inflation of an economy first hand. In Blizzard’s upcoming game Diablo III, an even more realistic auction house will exist that will allow players to buy and sell virtual items for real money. You can bet your life that some auction house guru’s from World of Warcraft will become savvy entrepreneurs opening up very real businesses using this system.

Ramona’s talk outlines the ever increasing presence that online game communities are having on societies. Where dating websites like match.com have about 2 million registered users, World of Warcraft  has over 10 million. Like any new trend, it’s individuals and companies that leverage these games and can see the opportunities they offer that will be the ones to succeed.

Follow Ramona Pringle on Twitter.

#2) Gwen Elliot: Start Something Big

Gwen Elliot Anyone who watches Rogers TV, may recognize the name of Gwen Elliot. Gwen is a recent graduate of Ryerson’s Radio and Television program. While trying to find her dream job, Gwen started a blog which evolved into a website and eventually a television show was created which she hosts called “Start Something Big“.

Gwen was the final speaker of the third session (Discover, Grow, Dare) and she began her talk by asking us what Oprah, Mark Burnett and a couple other people had in common. The answer was that they had all managed to land their dream job of hosting something on TV. But not just hosting any show, they hosted shows that challenged others to do better – to aspire. Being a recent grad from Ryerson’s Film program, these were inspiring figures for Gwen. And being a millennial (aka Generation Y, born in-between 1981-2000), she admits that she had been blissfully delusional about her job situation after graduating. While going through that ever grueling period of waiting to land her dream job, she began to read books such as Robert Herjavek’s (from the Dragons DenDriven, and about seven others which all had to do with success. But her dream job still wasn’t coming so Gwen turned to a friend for advice whom had been starting businesses since he was 16 years old.

“How do you do it?” was the question.

The answer was that simply reading books about success was a librarian’s solution. In order to claim her dream job, she couldn’t wait around, but instead chase success down and grab the it by the horns (or tail)! Unfortunately, even doing that can take time so Gwen decided to start small; start by writing a blog. Her blog was called something along the lines of I Admit I am Delusional and from originally venting her frustrations, within a year she had used the blog to capture decision-makers attention and start her own TV show. Gwen now hosts Start Something Big, a show which details how new and successful entrepreneurs got to where they are today.

My Thoughts on this Talk:

Like Ramona’s speech, this was another one that I was easily able to relate with. Being a recent grad and a millennial myself, I have felt the struggle first hand of not being able to easily find a job in my chosen field. And I’m not alone – I can immediately think of at least five friends who have degrees, some experience and are unable to find anything as well. The situation is depressing and it becomes increasingly difficult to find motivation without inspiration. When I heard that Gwen found her inspiration and success from writing a blog, my eyes did light up a little. Not only have I found writing this blog to give me an additional purpose, but so has my friend Dan who recently started cglfgamerzreview and has now been feeling very motivated. Gwen is the ideal inspiration for many millennials.

Follow Gwen Elliot on Twitter.

#3) Josh Louie: Make Change a Reality

Josh LouieI admit, when I first scoped out the speakers list the night before the conference, to me, Josh Louie was probably the one that stuck out the least. The reason for this was simple. His online description said he was a third year business student. How could he possibly match up against a list of well accredited names such as Jeremy Kinsman, an Ambassador and International Democracy Activist,  Evgeny Tchebotarev, the co-founder of 500px.com or Sheldon Levy, the Dean of Ryerson. Well, I was certainly proven wrong as Josh Louie turned out to be the most (in my opinion) inspirational out of every speaker in attendance. It’s a good thing he was the final speaker of the entire conference in session four (Re-Think). He let us finish with a bang.

Josh Louie assists at SIFE Ryerson and has spoken to the students of Parkdale Collegiate Institute, The Covenant House (homeless shelter), and Eva’s Place (emergency homeless shelter) covering a range of financial literary topics.

But the message behind Josh’s words is meaningless if you don’t know his story.

When Josh walked onto the stage he looked different from all of the other speakers. He wasn’t dressed in a suit or anything nice, he was dressed with a baseball cap and a baggy jacket like you would see on a high school gangster. He told us that in order to tell us his story he was going to take us back to 2003.

My name is Josh Louie. If you want to buy some weed or extacy then I’m your guy. My girlfriend sells guns for a living. Bloods, Crips, gangsters, bikers, I know ‘em all.

Well, it was something like that. Josh did it better. I had to check Google to make sure I was spelling “extacy” right. I’m still not sure if I am.

But there’s a reason for that; Josh wasn’t making anything up. He lived the life of a street kid, he was a street kid. Thrown out of home at 17 years old, living a life of crime, drugs and all the other stuff you hear about in movies. In fact, he said we probably only had heard of his tale in the movies before and for the most part, Josh was probably right. He told us that he was lucky. It was only because of his grandmother who had taken him in and told him to “not let your past determine your future”. It was these words that had given him the chance to turn his life around; and turn he did.

Now in his third year of business management at Ryerson, an active member of SIFE Ryerson and a reformed citizen, Josh has spoken to kids who were like him giving them the chance to turn their life around.

It’s the feeling of hopelessness.” Josh recounted. “The fact that no-one cares and there are no other options.

He told us about one of his talks where he had asked everyone in the class to write down three goals they wanted to achieve. He then picked students at random to read out loud what their goals were. One student with tattoo’s on his arms hadn’t been able to come up with even one goal. Josh asked him if that meant that when he woke up in the morning, had he achieved everything he wanted to do that day? The student replied “yeah… I guess.”

“If you woke up each day and feel you have completed all your goals, maybe you aren’t planning high enough.” Josh responded.

Josh told us that later, this kid had tracked him down and told him that he had come up with a goal. It was Josh’s words that (like Josh’s own grandmother), had inspired him to realize that he could do better.

The question was posed to Josh after his speech, what concrete steps can any of us take to helping street kids? There are certainly a couple of things that we can do. If you’re still at university you can join SIFE (if your university has a chapter), and whether or not you’re at university, you can always participate in the 5k Step for Street Kids.

My Thoughts on this Talk:

This talk more than anything reinforced “to not judge a book by its cover”. I hadn’t expected much from Josh from his website profile, but I now feel like I got more from him than any other speaker. Maybe it was because he brought to my eyes an issue and an understanding that had never even crossed my attention. Maybe it was because of the magnitude and sheer passion and complete belief for what he spoke about. Whatever it was, thank you Josh for what you did.

This brings part 1 of my conference review to a close. To continue reading part 2 which covers all of the other speakers please click here.

(Update from Nov 24: This event has already taken place and you can read my reviews: Part 1 and Part 2)

Tomorrow I will be attending my first TED conference. Or to be more specific, an independently organized TED conference by my former university – Ryerson. If you are unfamiliar with TED I suggest you head over to their website and take a look at some of the speakers. TED hosts a collection of some of the best speakers in the world – what started as something small has grown into a worldwide gathering of something incredible and tomorrow I get to be a part of that.

As part of the event, they will be incorporating social media allowing people to tweet their questions to the speakers using the hashtag #TEDxRU. This is exactly the type solutions that social media is able to provide. How many times during a presentation have you had a question that you have been dieing to ask but not been picked? Or how many times has someone asked a question and not been understood? Twitter solves both of these problems by allowing everyone to pose a question, and whoever can do it best in 140 characters or less will have their voice heard.

One of the biggest challenges for me tomorrow however, will simply be deciding which speakers to see. As the itinerary for the event has now been released, I find myself browsing through the speech titles trying to imagine what’s in store with each of the speakers. I hope to find a slightly more detailed itinerary tomorrow when I register, however if there is not one prepared, then I will simply sit back and prepare to be surprised. I don’t imagine every topic will be appealing to me, but that’s the beauty of TED. Sometimes you like what you get and other times you don’t. But you can always appreciate the effort that comes from each speaker.

Anyone who is following me on Twitter will see a stream of my questions and other live updates from the event tomorrow. I will also be posting a summary afterwards, although perhaps not until Monday.

It’s almost midnight so I think with that, it’s time to get some rest so I’ll be ready for what’s in store.

Earlier this week, I talked about How to get Started Using Social Media. While that’s a good topic for anyone who already knows that they want to use social media, it does absolutely nothing if you don’t really understand why you might want to use the stuff.

As they say in the business world “location is everything”, you could say that now more than ever in the 21st century, “exposure is everything”. And that is exactly what social media offers. But simply saying that isn’t enough, not nearly enough. Let me put it this way.

Picture a large computer company. There’s a new manager position opening up for the software engineers and they are only going to be hiring internally. There’s only two candidates for the position, Fred and George (not the Fred and George from Harry Potter though, they’re very busy running Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes). Fred is a very smart software engineer. He completes his projects on time and they work very well. George isn’t quite as good at his job as Fred is, but he gets his work done too although he does occasionally run a bit behind schedule.

Fred however, as good at his job as he is does not have a lot of people skills. He keeps to himself most of the day and when he’s finished work, heads back home to his family. George on the other hand spends time getting to know his co-workers and goes out for drinks with them after work. He also writes a blog called The Life of a Software Engineer where he talks about his accomplishments at work at compares himself to Dilbert.

Guess who’s first in line for the promotion?

Now, realize that George has the opportunity here to get himself exposure by chumming around with his co-workers and doesn’t even necessarily need the blog but the point stands. Good things happen when people know who you are and what you are capable of doing. If you don’t have the opportunity to get that exposure by speaking directly with others, then social media is a great avenue to assist you in your personal and professional life. Half the time you won’t even know what might come out of using social media. Let’s look at an example of how this has been the case for a Promod Sharma.

I’ve mentioned Promod before in previous entries and I think it’s only fair that he is the first person I write about, as it was him and his success with social media that got me interested in the subject in the first place. Promod is an Actuary and your initial thought might be “why would an Actuary want to use social media?” Or in my case, it was “what the heck is an Actuary anyway?”

It was actually these thoughts that led to Promod’s success with social media.

As an Actuary, the field for social media was wide open. Hardly anyone was using it which meant that as soon as Promod started his two blogs for finance and marketing, the exposure shortly followed. Between Promod’s two twitter accounts, he has an expanded network of over 600 followers he is able to influence. But the numbers alone aren’t enough, it was truly his tangible results that were able to help him stand out from the crowd.

In March 2011 Promod was featured online on The Toronto Star. Our top local newspaper. Later that week the article was featured in print in the Metro, our commuter newspaper. He was then written about on the Toronto Board of Trade website and then finally, the article was then featured in the print edition of The Toronto Star.

This wasn’t Promod’s only success through social media though. In December 2010 Promod was invited to be the Keynote speaker at the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting (CALU). As Promod explained it during one of our Toastmaster meetings, “this conference is basically the top of the line for Actuary’s.” Previous speakers at CALU include Ted Rogers and Stephen Harper. Keeping in tune with social media, Promod uploaded his presentation - Building Trust With Social Media onto Youtube where an additional 233 people have viewed it that would not have seen it otherwise.

Promod was also nominated by the Toronto Board of Trade for the business excellence award.

Finally, last weekend Promod and I both co-presented a social media workshop at our Toastmasters District 60 conference. I learned that on his ride over, Promod received a phone call that turned out to be from The Globe and Mail, another local Toronto newspaper that wanted to interview him on his social media. Promod was able to do a phone interview with the newspaper on his drive over to the conference. I am also happy for this reason, that Promod drives with a Bluetooth headset.

All of this happened because Promod uses social media. I’m not saying that this is going to happen to everyone who does use social media but there certainly is more chance of opportunities coming your way if you do. Even if there is only a 0.01% chance of getting noticed, it’s still 0.01% more chance than you would have without (although the odds are bigger than 0.01%). For instance, I have already been invited to co-host a webinar in early 2012 on http://www.hr.com on using social media with HR. This would certainly not have been the case if I did not get myself into the world of social media earlier this year, and start influencing.

The opportunities are out there, and ready to be grabbed.