What an hour it was. Yesterday afternoon, I stood on stage with some special colleagues and presented to a crowded conference room at the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed. For 60 minutes, we had the undivided attention of our fellow higher education marketers as we poured out our TikTok expertise and experiences.
As we concluded our presentation and conference attendees swarmed us up front to ask questions, the satisfaction of that particular moment was savored. We had successfully presented to a large group of dedicated higher ed professionals and made the most of our time on stage. However, the presentation itself wasn’t necessarily what brought me the most pride. Rather, it was the process that led us to that opportunity and the relationships that were forged.
Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure of working with Victoria “V.” Mendoza from USC, Andy Thompson from the University of Utah, and Katie Camacho Smith from TikTok. After receiving notice back in the spring that our speaking proposal (#LearnOnTikTok: Higher Ed Strategies) had been accepted by AMA, we “met” for the first time on August 5. Of course I use quotation marks because that initial meeting—and all subsequent ones—would be held via Zoom.
Although V., Andy, and I knew of each other, that early August meeting was the first time we truly worked together in earnest. During that initial Zoom call we planted the seeds for what our presentation could become. From that point forward we met pretty regularly, basically once every couple weeks. Our presentation went from a concept to an outline to an actual Powerpoint. When we weren’t meeting on Zoom, the three of us were collaborating on our working files within Google Drive.
At the beginning of October, a very fortunate development occurred. Our efforts to include someone from TikTok materialized. In fact, V. received notice of our new group member as the three of us were in the middle of one of our Zoom meetings. Katie Camacho-Smith, head of the TikTok “EduTok” vertical, was on board to present with us!
Katie’s presence immediately added credibility and a new level of intrigue to our presentation. The four of us worked together to instill Katie’s material into our Powerpoint. We really have content that AMA attendees will crave, we thought.
As late October and early November arrived, we started to put the bow on our presentation. Katie made an intro TikTok video (watch here), we submitted our final Powerpoint slides to AMA, and we participated in a Zoom dry run. It was then time to fly to Washington D.C.!
I met Andy first. My flight itinerary to D.C. called for a layover in Salt Lake City and Andy was on my connecting flight. Once we landed at Reagan Airport, we Ubered together to the conference site—the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md. We would meet V. in-person that night and Katie the following morning.
A major highlight of the conference was hanging with Andy, V., and Katie. We enjoyed conference meals together, mingled at the reception events, and promoted our session to the many attendees we would meet. We also managed to find a random spot in a hallway to rehearse our presentation the day before.
When our presentation drew near on Tuesday afternoon, the four of us walked together from lunch to the conference room (this was it….eeeeeek!). We met with the AV professional who mic’d us up, tested our audio, and allowed us to become familiar with the presentation clicker. The four of us were ready to do this…together.
As I chronicled at the beginning of this post, we survived the presentation. Nah, we didn’t just survive it—we rocked it. After we had finished answering the many questions from the attendees who approached us near the stage at the presentation’s conclusion, we took some time to document the moment. The four of us took some group photos, including an epic shot on the main AMA stage. Katie, Andy, and I would reunite later that night for the closing reception before going our separate ways.
Undoubtedly, what I will remember most from this experience was how four people came together for a common goal. It didn’t matter that we came from four different states or had different employers. Nor did it matter that we had different professional experiences and different management/workflow styles (I was the OCD/annoying Type A personality…sorry team!). What mattered was that the four of us wanted to work together for the benefit of our fellow higher ed marketers and perhaps for the internal professional challenge as well.
I left D.C. with more than a solidified professional relationship with three talented colleagues; I departed with three new friends. Thanks V., Andy, and Katie. Don’t Blink.