Minimizing Your Public Speaking Anxiety: 4 Top Tips I’ve Learned from Toastmasters

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In the world of PR, public speaking is critical for success. You must be able to speak eloquently and professionally with your coworkers, clients, journalists and other professionals in the industry. But the reality for most of us is that public speaking is terrifying. In fact, the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) is the No. 1 ranked phobia above fear of death (necrophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, glossophobia affects nearly 75 percent of individuals. However, overcoming this fear and minimizing the anxiety of public speaking is achievable, no matter your age or what stage you are in your career. 

Earlier this year I had the privilege of joining a Bay Area Toastmasters group, and it has been a beyond-amazing experience. Toastmasters is a group of local professionals who get together on a weekly basis to practice and build their public speaking skills. Through a sense of camaraderie, practice and feedback, we are on a mission to feel confident and comfortable when faced with the challenge – or really, opportunity – to speak in front of an audience.

Initially, joining the Toastmasters group was a bit intimidating. But after a few meetings, I realized this was a great selection of undeniably supportive individuals that were going to help me succeed. I’ve been going to Toastmasters for almost six months now, and looking back I’ve realized that the experience has taught me more than this post can fit. But in an effort to share some of the best takeaways, here are a few of my top tips:

Start with a structured storyline: Whether you’re writing a pitch, press release or even just an email to a client, everything should have a structured storyline: intro – body – conclusion. Being able to speak or write with a framework in mind will keep your audience engaged and allow them to effectively follow your key messages

Keep it short and sweet and you’ll succeed: If you know anything about PR, you know it’s a fast-paced industry. Your time is precious and so is everybody else’s!  So stay organized and concise. In Toastmasters, the longest speech is a maximum of 8-10 minutes, with most between 5-6 minutes. When speaking with somebody on the phone or in-person—whether it’s a client call, pitching a journalist or talking to a coworker—be mindful of their time and get to your key points quickly. They will appreciate your consideration and you’ll free up time to get back to what’s at hand.

Like, minimize your.. um.. filler words: Let’s face it, we all use the common “like” or “um” on occasion, but try to minimize the frequency of them as much as possible. At every Toastmasters meeting, we have an assigned grammarian, whose role is to monitor and count each person’s use of filler words (e.g. like, um, but, so, etc.) And trust me, the people you’re talking to will notice them much more than you notice yourself. The next time you’re talking to a friend or coworker, pay extra attention to your use of “likes” or “ums.” By cutting these filler words out of your speech, you’ll appear much more professional in any setting.  

Own your mistakes – you’re only human: Our Toastmasters group is made up of everyday business professionals. Nobody is an award-winning public speaker or is there to criticize your every word. This made me realize that everybody makes mistakes, in Toastmasters and in life in general. Everybody stutters, pauses and says the wrong word on occasion, whether it’s you, your boss, a journalist or your client. So don’t get hung up on your mistakes, because your audience has most likely made them too. Just own them and move on.

All in all, I’m incredibly happy with my decision to join Toastmasters. Not only does it help you improve your skills and confidence in public speaking, but it also offers some great key takeaways that can be applied to any personal or professional situation—especially PR. Ready to take your public speaking to the next level? Use the “Find a Club” feature on the Toastmaster’s website to find a club near you.

Written by Celina Poonamallee, an Account Executive in San Francisco.

 

Beyond Email: 9 Tips for Pitching on Twitter, the Phone and at Events

These days, most pitching, the backbone of public relations, starts with an email. You spend hours fine-tuning a pitch with your team, before sending it off to a reporter with your fingers crossed. Often it’s a hit, but sometimes it falls flat.

No responses to your initial email doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a bad pitch or that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. Whether you get a response or not often depends on factors that are out of your hands: a crowded inbox, a misread subject line, poor timing, etc.

Clearly, you can’t solely rely on email, because it isn’t a perfect communication tool. You have to reach the reporters where they are (always keeping in mind that some reporters prefer email-only interaction).

Below, are some strategies from Highwire Walkers on how they like to get in front of reporters, and what to do when you get ahold of them:

Phone Pitching — Andrea Torres, SAE

Public relations and sales have one thing in common – phone calls. Just like salespeople, PR people need to be friendly and get to the point quickly to do our jobs well. When pitching reporters, keep the following in mind:

Do your research: Have you taken the time to dig into your contacts? Have you read or at least skimmed recent stories? If not, stop what you are doing – you are not ready to pick up the phone. Before dialing, spend the time to know whom you are calling and what they are writing about. This step will make sure you make a good first impression and that you are prepared should you have to think of news angles on the fly.

Have a plan: Researching your targets beforehand is one thing, but it won’t get you very far if you haven’t gotten your thoughts and key conversation points organized. This might mean creating an outline to guide you or writing out an entire script. The takeaway is here is to set yourself up for success so to that you can get your point across.

Get to the point: If you want to lock in that briefing, don’t waste a journalist’s time; make your point quickly and concisely. This step is easier if you’ve followed step 1 and 2.

Be Nice: PR is all about relationships, so be nice. When talking to journalists on the phone, ask about their day and smile. It might seem odd, but smiling helps you relax and sound more pleasant.

Twitter Pitching — Ben Noble, AE

Twitter is a high-risk/high-reward platform that can help quickly catch a journalist outside their busy inbox. Journalists who frequently use Twitter are likely to engage in conversation and/or acknowledge posts from their followers. I recommend grabbing the journalist’s attention online with an eye-catching message and then shifting the conversation to email.

Don’t jump headfirst into a pitch: Nobody wants unsolicited pitches clogging up their timeline. Instead, offer insight into an article or post presented on the journalist’s feed. Share your perspective, ask them for their thoughts and offer counterpoints to topics of discussion. Building Twitter relationships starts with a courting process. Once you have a proper cadence of back and forth, indicate that you may have someone who can further address the topic (your client) and offer to send an email.

Avoid pitching several reporters at once. Twitter is an open forum and your tweets are public. Spamming journalists will be noticed and frowned upon.

Follow up – but not the same way as you would through email. If a journalist doesn’t reply to your first attempt at conversation, don’t be dissuaded. Feel free to follow up by prompting another discussion. Don’t remind the journalist of your initial post. Instead, start a new conversation to show that you are legitimately interested in the journalist’s perspective. Again, Twitter relationships involve courting. Prove that you are a committed follower rather than a one-off attention seeker.

Pitching In-Person — Lauren Kido, SAE

For PR pros, seeing reporters in-person is like a celebrity sighting: you usually know so much about them, have the perfect conversation scripted out in your head and are a little hesitant to approach them at first. But, whether the sighting happens at a networking event, conference, tradeshow or at your local coffee shop, here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching reporters in-person:

Make it a conversation: Meeting in-person is an excellent way to build relationships for your client, but it shouldn’t all be business. Strike up a conversation about non-work related topics, and if you’re following a reporter on social media, now’s your chance to ask about the new puppy or how relaxing that beach vacation was (just be sure first to note that you saw their tweet).

Ask questions: You’ve emailed, called and tweeted and now you’re chatting face-to-face! Use this valuable time to get a better sense of what the reporter is working on by asking what they’re interested in covering, tired of hearing about and what thoughts they have on industry trends. It’s also helpful to understand how they might like to be pitched in the future so you can pass this information along to the rest of your team.

Have business cards handy: Business cards should always be kept on hand at any networking event. Make sure to write your client names and websites on your business cards so reporters can easily jog their memory when they are sorting through cards at the end of a long night.

Pitching on Twitter, in-person, on the phone — it can all be daunting. But, with some practice, you get the hang of it, and the coverage will start coming in.

Happy pitching!

 

Written by Ben Levine, an Account Associate in San Francisco, with help from Lauren Kido, Ben Noble and Andrea Torres

Tomayto/Tomahto: Where US & UK PR Aligns

For the last two weeks I’ve been lucky enough to work on the other side of the Atlantic, in the New York offices of US agency, Highwire. Working in another country, with a different agency and unfamiliar sectors, I was expecting to feel like a doughnut in the big apple cart. What I wasn’t prepared for was quite how easily I’d fit in.NASDAQ

A few hours into my first day and it was already apparent just how many similarities there are between US and UK communications. The journalists and publications may be different, but the way we craft stories and target contacts is exactly the same; the media landscapes are shifting in parallel and clients round the world want similar outcomes.

So shouldn’t this be good news for businesses? After all, if communications can be executed globally, surely this smooths the path to achieving a global presence. And it seems that this is what businesses are looking for in 2015, as more and more organisations – from British retail stalwart M&S, to US streaming site Netflix – declare plans for overseas expansion.

But is there such a thing as cookie-cutter comms? Google “international communications blunders” and you’ll be flooded with eye-watering examples of company messaging gone awry – lost or worse distorted in translation at huge expense and embarrassment to those involved.

So while businesses are looking to operate in a global environment, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of potayto potahto. Forging a strong, universal identity is one thing, but converting this into sales will be tricky without a dusting of market relevance. While many businesses understand that tailoring their communications is key to achieving this, if my search and the numerous results tell me anything, it’s that there’s room for improvement.IMG_9098

International execution is a challenge comms professionals face every day. While my time in New York may have highlighted superficial similarities, it’s also reinforced my belief that there’s no substitute for local intelligence; knowing your client’s audience in an area and how to communicate to them. It’s why global campaigns can be built centrally but are better executed locally – and are best when flexible enough to accommodate local nuances.

Whether you’re looking at the problem of global roll-out from a business or communications perspective, the solution is essentially the same; know your audience and listen before you speak – because there’s a world of difference between tomayto and tomahto.

 

Written by Polly Robinson, an account manager at Brands2Life, a London-based Highwire PR partner

Survey from Internet Retailer 2015 – The Buzz on eCommerce

We are already six months into 2015 and before you know it the holiday shopping season will be upon us. What is the status of the eCommerce industry half way into the year? Highwire scoped out Internet Retailer 2015, the leading e-retail industry conference held each year in Chicago, and took the pulse of the market to find out what leading brands have seen so far and what we can expect. Taking a quick poll of conference exhibitors, here is what we found out:

Holiday Shopping Optimism Prevails

There was a hopeful feeling in the air among exhibitors. In fact, nearly everyone we surveyed— 98 percent—expect eCommerce sales to improve during the upcoming shopping season compared to last year. While it may be no surprise that sales are expected to spike due to the rise of eCommerce adoption, there are a few unexpected things to watch for. For example, brands need performance with purpose and doing well by doing good might be more beneficial to your brand than you might think.

Thirst for Mobile Accelerates

Last year, analysts predicted that 2015 would be the year that most online retailers would offer customers a mobile eCommerce site. Our quick poll underscored this as a strategic priority. More than half of the companies we polled ranked mobile optimized sites, apps and content as their top investment priority this year. In light of the pick up in mobile shopping, the mobile payments market is also heating up and promising better support for retailers who want to accept credit cards through mobile apps. The jury is still out on how soon Apple Pay, Android Pay and a flurry of competitors (Samsung Pay, Square, Stripe) will become household names.

Drones Don’t Cut it: The Cool Kids have Digital Wallets

It’s hard to compete with the visual appeal of drones and the sci-fi thrill of imagining your next purchase being delivered to your doorstep by a flying robot. However, when it comes to actual long-term impact to eCommerce, industry insiders are placing their bets elsewhere. Specifically, Internet Retailer exhibitors were hot on digital wallets (61 percent), augmented reality (31 percent) and beacons (28 percent). While we will probably continue to see drones stealing headlines, savvy companies are putting slightly less eye-catching technologies to use.

No. 1 Way to Woo Customers – Give Back, Be NICE.

It’s official, a great product and excellent service are table stakes in eCommerce. Inspiring consumers to fall in love with a brand requires something more meaningful in 2015. When asked, “What makes you love an eCommerce brand today?” The highest rated quality was “doing well by doing good.” Although great and dependable customer service is still very important—22 percent ranked it as the second most important feature—taking care of employees and giving back to the community wins the most points with customers today.

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Binding the Personal and Professional: Hot Yoga and Tech PR

There are many pressures that PR pros face everyday, especially within the technology sector. An ever-churning news cycle requires us to be tapped into the media 24/7 and on-the-ready to react to breaking news. Rapid responses, short turnarounds and the ability to break down complex technologies (hello, Hadoop) are often part of the game.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 9.55.42 AMTo help employees manage the pressures of the day-to-day, Highwire makes it a priority to ensure that our work lives remain healthy, well balanced and in-sync. Our agency’s own wellness program features company-wide weekly yoga classes on our rooftop deck. I’ve also taken to consistently practicing hot yoga at my local studio to decompress from the stresses of work. Apart from back-bends and standing on my head, I’ve learned a number of valuable lessons from practicing yoga in a 96 degree room that can also applied to helping manage the ebbs and flows of the PR world.

Remember to breathe. One of the first skills I learned in yoga –breathe through the heat, the pain and the pressure. Taking a step back from the task at hand for a moment can be an enlightening experience. Sometimes it’s necessary to clear your mind and reprioritize what’s on your plate. Resolving too many issues at once can throw you off balance, leading me to the next way in which yoga can be applied to PR success…

Maintain focus. Focus on one thing – even when you’re bent-over backwards. Multitasking can actually detract from the quality of your work and take you longer to finish things by having to address multiple rounds of revisions. Segmenting your time into chunks with 100% attention on one task can elevate your performance and lessen the stress of finishing everything at once. In other words, stay focused to increase the efficiency of your day.

Stay connected. Lastly, in yoga it’s important to stay connected and tap into the world’s prana, or the vital life force that flows through all living things. Synchronization of movements in yoga has also been shown to increase the feeling of connectedness between individuals. In PR, it’s vital to maintain connections with almost every person you come in contact with, including clients, journalists and other PR pros. The network you own and maintain is what will keep you afloat when times get tough. PR is a fickle business. Clients can go through messaging changes that impact media in progress, journalists can drop a story at the last minute and opportunities can come and go. So be sure to always keep your network strong by tapping into the prana of PR– you never know when you may need to pull from it!

Rarely do things in work and life go as planned. So please, remember to breathe through the heat, stay focused, and consistently cultivate and preserve relationships. Namaste.

Written by Matthew Gray, an intern in San Francisco 

Highwire Expands to New York

It’s an exciting time for tech in NYC.

Not only are we celebrating Etsy’s recent IPO, but there are many smaller startups doing exciting things in different areas of tech. One of my favorite areas that is thriving in NYC is fintech. For obvious reasons, NYC is well-suited to be the fintech capital of the US and there are many innovative companies here using technology to solve problems for both the institutional and retail/consumer side of the business. From recent IPOs Virtu and OnDeck to the fledgling startups coming out of the FinTech Innovation Lab, you can find fintech startups at all stages of life in NYC.

The thriving fintech scene is one of the many reasons why Highwire is proud to announce the official opening of our NYC office, located in the WeWork NoMad space, alongside many tech startups. While our office may be new, our presence in NYC is not. We have been building our East Coast client base over the last year, with leaders in fintech, enterprise security and retail technology on our client roster, and have now begun expanding our team here as well.

I am very excited to open the NYC office for Highwire, as it allows me to experience the best of both worlds. I like to say that my background makes me ½ Wall Street and ½ Silicon Valley. For the last 7 years, I worked at a corporate communications firm started by ex-Wall Street analysts, where I helped enterprise technology, financial services, and payments companies manage communications around milestone events, including many IPOs. IPOs are an amazing growth milestone and I am proud to have helped so many CEOs and CFOs successfully manage communications on this important day. Prior to my corporate communications work, I was a Vice President at a Silicon Valley PR firm, spending several years in California and NYC offices, working with early Silicon Valley enterprise technology leaders.

Similarly, Highwire NYC combines the best of NYC and Silicon Valley. While we still call some of the most innovative Valley companies our clients, we are proud to support the NYC and broader East Coast tech scene as well.

Tech in NYC is thriving and Highwire is excited to be a part of the growing scene.

Gender and Entrepreneurship at SXSW

Among thousands of people, marketing activations, BBQs and cocktail hours, SXSW 2015 helped promote key discussions on the future of work dynamics and the issue of gender in entrepreneurship. These topics were the subject of thought-provoking conversations throughout sessions and keynotes, one of which – UpGlobal’s panel on Women in Entrepreneurship at Old School on 6th Street – I had the honor of being a part of.

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Joined by my fellow panelists Anjali Kundra (VP and co-founder of Partender), Amy Millman (President, Springboard Enterprises), Kate Shillo (Director, Galvanize Ventures), and moderated by Lisa Brooks (Turnstone), our group had a dynamic discussion in front of an audience of male and female entrepreneurs alike about how to scale a venture while taking gender into consideration. The group was composed of investors, an entrepreneur and marketers. A few key themes emerged:

Mentors
From keynotes by Jack Welch and Gary Vaynerchuk to our Startup Oasis panel, the questions of who serves as professional mentors and why continued to come up. For Jack Welch, he finds mentors from every part of his business life. He mentioned Jeff Bezos, Gary Vaynerchuk and others as people to whom he looks for advice. RZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, counts Jim Jaramusch and Quentin Tarantino as mentors who taught him about becoming a filmmaker. For many of the women on our UpGlobal panel ¬– including myself – mentors of both genders were found through previous job experiences. Though our backgrounds and mentors differed, one thing on which we all agreed was that it’s the responsibility of the mentee to make mentorship happen. If we want to learn from someone, it’s up to us to ask for advice and forge the relationship.

Is HR The Answer To Address Gender Imbalance At Startups?
HR was a hot-button issue that came up in many sessions and conversations. It was clear that enacting company policies and taking over the duty to ensure a workplace that’s equal for both men and women falls upon an HR person. But when and how this hire is made is subject to broadly differing views. For some, HR should be one of the first hires at a startup, while others think HR is an expensive, non-revenue driving investment. This is particularly true for companies at a critical stage where every contributor makes or breaks the growth trajectory of a company. It’s unclear if there’s a “right” answer to this conundrum, as I’ve seen companies try both ways with success. What is clear is that there is no foolproof way to solve for gender imbalance.

Advice For Female Startup Entrepreneurs
During our panel, Lisa asked each of us the one piece of advice we’d give to other female entrepreneurs. We all noted that conviction and confidence are imperative when we’re presenting our ideas and trying to sell a vision to investors, clients or internal staff. Whether male or female, conviction and confidence are ways to keep ahead in the ultra-competitive startup environment in which we work.

Lastly, kudos to UpGlobal for hosting a rich conversation and event at the Startup Oasis; it helped to bring together entrepreneurs from around the world to have an important discussion on the future of gender in the workplace. Now it will be interesting to see if progress happens, or if we’ll still be having the same conversation on this topic at SXSW 2016.

 

Happy Highwire Anniversary Morgan and Andrea

Today we want to wish a very happy Highwire Anniversary to Morgan Mathis and Andrea Torres! From dreams of super powers to a sandwich stealing dog – Morgan and Andrea share a bit about themselves and their favorite Highwire moments in this month’s anniversary post.

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Morgan Mathis, Account Manager:

If you could choose three people to have dinner with, past or present, who would they be?

Beyonce, Joseph Gordon Levitt and my Grandpa Walt (maybe not all at the same dinner :))

What was your most memorable Highwire moment this past year?

I’ll never forget the smell of french fries that seemed to waft in at approximately 3:00 p.m. at our former office in Union Square. What torture on a daily basis!

If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

If I could have a super power I would want to be able to teleport so I could cut down on travel time for both long and short distances.

Andrea Torres, Account Executive:

What was your most memorable Highwire moment this past year?

I will never forget the time I chased Willie, our principal’s dog, down three flights of stairs after he mischievously stole a team member’s sandwich from her purse.

If you could time travel, where would you go and why?

If I could time travel, I would visit Ancient Egypt and the Library of Alexandria. As a child, I dreamed of being a world famous, artifact-finding archeologist.

If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

I would either like to travel back in time (lost civilizations, here I come!) or have the ability to apparate Harry Potter style, which would make seeing the world so much easier.

Congratulations Morgan and Andrea! You are both valued and essential members of our Highwire team.

Beyond Snowden: A New Era of Security Disruption at RSA 2014

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Say what you want about Edward Snowden, but the fact of the matter is that his recent leak of NSA secrets has brought cybersecurity to the forefront of national conversation. This year, conversations regarding privacy were constant at RSA, to no surprise. In 10 years, when we’re commuting to RSA 2024 via hoverboard, we’ll look back and remember RSA 2014 as the year cybersecurity and privacy discussions left the hacker forums and leaped to the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Despite the controversial buzz surrounding Snowden, whose mystery is only exceeded by his power, the polarizing whistleblower and current Russian resident still played second fiddle to the central themes at RSA 2014: continuous disruption and the recent flock of investors targeting cybersecurity start-ups.

From the industry’s first bot killer to an evolved look at geopolitical nation-state cyber attacks, the innovation and research to emerge from the industry this year signaled a changing of the guard that was hard to ignore at RSA 2014. Several members of the Highwire PR security practice were on site this year to rep our growing security practice and learn more. See their highlights below:

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Nicole Plati, Senior Account Executive
At RSA 2014, we were reminded just how dynamic and rapidly accelerating the cybersecurity sector is. You could feel it in the air: this was the biggest RSA ever. One of the messages heard over and over again at RSA was clear: if the industry fails to develop disruptive new technologies and defense mechanisms, out-of-date solutions will become obsolete as soon as they are put into place due to hackers that simply work harder, better, faster (stronger?). At this year’s show, Highwire client Trustwave reminded us that we are officially in an arms race between cyber criminals and IT professionals, and without the latest and greatest technology, IT professionals will constantly be playing catch up.

Megan Grasty, Account Executive
Cybersecurity is by definition a constant war between the good and evil. This year, my favorite keynote was from HP’s SVP and General Manager, Enterprise Security Products, Art Gilliland, who taught us if we want to succeed, we need to “think like a bad guy.” Tying in a Star Wars theme (unfortunately, no lightsabers were broken out), Art reminded us that the bad guys usually had the cooler weapons, but it’s up to all of us to use the force and build our own cool weapons that focus not only on breach prevention, but on the full cycle of an attack.

Natalie Mendes, Account Associate
When I tell friends I represent enterprise security companies, most people’s eyes tend to glaze over. However, if we’ve learned anything from the cyber events of this year, it is that cyber security may just have the largest impact on consumers of any other sector. From Snowden’s NSA revelations, to Apple OS vulnerabilities, and yes, even the Mt. Gox exchange hack, cybersecurity has never been closer to the everyman. It was with this perspective that I attended RSA, realizing that the greatest vulnerabilities and threats in the cyber world are being rooted out and stopped by the companies in attendance at the conference. In fact, at RSA this year, security companies uncovered threats exposing the confidential information of consumers such as the iOS key logging flaw discovered by FireEye and Bitcoin-stealing botnet exposed by Trustwave. If there is one industry that should excite and interest every person it is security, and RSA is a conference that brought that fact to life.

Highwire takes on Chicago Ideas Week

Chicago. We’re known as the “Windy City,” home to deep-dish pizza, the cursed Cubs, thick accents (“Da Bears” anyone?), cold winters and tireless work ethic. The Chicago of today is born from a hard working, Midwestern “no quit” attitude, striving to be a center of culture, business and knowledge. This is certainly the case for innovation across industries in this city, including business, technology, education, medicine, science, and more.

Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) is proof of this, bringing together hundreds of the world’s brightest thought leaders during a week-long extravaganza of informational sessions, classes and over 200 world-renowned speakers such as Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss, and Eric Lefkofsky (CIW co-chairman and Groupon CEO).

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Two of the sessions we attended in particular stood out. Here is a quick recap of some takeaways that we believe are valuable across all aspects of work and personal life:

“Entrepreneurship: How I did it” A session with Eric Lefkofsky, Slava Rubin, and Scott Case

Eric Lefkofsky kicked this session off by stating, “Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the country,” and he could not have been more spot-on. At the core, entrepreneurs have a fire in their belly that not only moves them into action, but also sparks a desire to innovate in the people around them.

Lefkofsky is well known for his success leading Chicago’s fastest growing start-up, Groupon, but his experience building other companies has not always been such a walk in the park. In fact, he says that three out of four of VC backed companies end in failure, and the great entrepreneurs are defined by how they respond to failure.

Co-founder & CEO of Indiegogo.com, Slava Rubin, echoed Lefkofsky’s statement by saying, “It’s not always about the idea, it’s about the execution and hustle.” A focus on action has propelled so many entrepreneurs and business leaders to be as successful as they are. An idea for a company or product might not always stand out from the beginning but you will never know the full potential of an idea until you pour everything into bringing it to fruition.

During the evening session, we heard from Scott Case, Co-founder of Priceline.com who shared his belief that one key ingredient necessary for a great company is a strong network and community.

“Scientific Breakthroughs: Infinite Possibilities” A panel presented by the University of Illinois

This session may have had “scientific” in the title, but the talks provided valuable advice around leadership, creativity, teamwork, problem solving and how to truly be an innovator.

Breakthroughs don’t have to be monumental in size to make a huge impact –the seemingly mundane everyday breakthroughs from everyday people are what advance us culturally, scientifically, technologically and entrepreneurially. Even the smallest idea can morph into one that changes lives. Releasing fear of failure and embracing the idea of a broader definition of what a breakthrough is – a changing, living idea – is fundamental to success.

So overall, what did we learn? We learned that Chicago is magnetic, pulling in an incredible crowd of leaders, speakers, innovators and attendees from all over the globe. The city is embracing innovation, as evidenced by events like this one. Chicago leaders from all walks of life are encouraging entrepreneurs to take charge and establish a new creative, idea-driven community. We learned a great deal from attending Chicago Ideas Week and are anxious to begin applying the lessons learned to both our professional and personal lives. We’re excited for the future of our great city, and can’t wait to see what it holds for us.