MillSummit Recap: What We Learned and What Resonated

Epic Marketing Consultants sent four staffers to the 2023 MillSummit to meet with innovators and artists, learn about leadership and entrepreneurship, and find inspiration from across industries.

Since 2017, the MillSummit conference in Wilmington, Del., has brought together a cross section of professionals who share a common interest in making an impact and inspiring others. This year, held at The Queen and broadcasted virtually Aug. 8 and 9, sessions spoke to professional development, nonprofit and community service, government and public service, the arts, personal development and wellness, finance, and more.

We asked our intrepid Epic crew what messages resonated with them. Read on to hear their insights.

Jess’ MillSummit Takeaway: Be Open and Be Curious

As a marketer – and, more specifically, a social media marketer – it was so refreshing to hear almost every speaker talk about being authentically you! It’s something that comes up often in conversation when talking to clients about branding and their businesses. After all, it’s authenticity that makes a business yours (and what helps a business cut through the noise online). For video in particular, I’ve found authenticity is key to discuss when drawing up a social media strategy with clients.

Several speakers noted the importance of being open and being curious, furthering this focus on authenticity. Peter Gasparro of Barclays US Consumer Bank made a great point about being open to the different views and thoughts of your team. Then, this idea was mentioned again by educator and motivational speaker Genein Letford of Caffe Strategies, when talking about her unique concept of Intercultural Creativity™.

On a personal note, I appreciated the highlighting of the arts throughout the MillSummit panels and speakers. Music and performance are so important to me, so it was great to hear how artistry improves our ability to think creatively. Letford was not alone in sharing this message. Kerriann Otaño of Opera Delaware and Matt Silve of Delaware Theatre Company also spoke about doubling down on the creative ways to share and grow the art scene in Delaware.

After two days at the Queen attending the MillSummit, I feel energized and ready to take on my career. While Day One centered on “Entrepreneurship” and Day Two on “Leadership,” there were a few themes echoed throughout the entire conference. From each session I attended, I know I walked away with at least one tidbit of information. Better yet, I also got an actionable item that I could work on right away to be a better me in my career and my personal life!

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Jessica Burton, Social Media Director

Christina’s MillSummit Takeaway: Find Community and Keep Learning

From a cotton candy entrepreneurial Cinderella story to an MTV and Facebook veteran shifting their priorities, two days of listening to a diverse group of speakers drove home the fact that there’s no single formula for achieving a successful and satisfying career.

None of the speakers had the same resume. Nobody had a step-by-step guide for reaching a particular destination. They did, however, share a few core themes:

  • Connection
  • Authenticity
  • Curiosity
  • Openness to new experiences

In the “Cultivating Your Ecosystem” session, we heard from a panel of local entrepreneurs that found logistical support for their businesses through the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation. But perhaps more importantly, they found themselves in community with other driven, innovative entrepreneurs. The changing landscape of how and where we work has led to feelings of isolation or lack of connection in their daily lives. For entrepreneurs, the independent nature of their endeavors can lead to a real sense of loneliness. Finding community with other entrepreneurs was a recurring theme from each panelist. Together, they shared understanding of the trials of forging your own path while also celebrating each other’s victories.

Beth Brodovsky of Iris Creative Group, Inc., led the “AI: The Ultimate Sidekick” session, explaining how conversational AI can be used as a tool in everyday life and business. AI has become a hot topic across sectors, with questions arising on how this new technology will impact actual humans in the workplace.

Trepidation about integrating AI like ChatGPT could lead to avoidance, but Brodovsky explained the basics. Individuals can fortify their work and expand their expertise and incorporate AI-produced content by:

  • Understanding “prompt engineering.” By giving AI a role to play or detailed context for a scenario, users can elicit robust results that serve as a solid foundation for their own content creation.
  • Maximizing time and research. AI is also able to simplify and summarize vast amounts of text into specific key highlights.

The ways in which the world of work has necessarily transformed in the last few years are nigh epochal. I appreciated speakers acknowledging changes in how we work, how we think about work, and what is sustainable or possible in the long term.

The idea of meeting other young professionals and experts at the top of their fields was exciting, and I’m so glad I was able to dive in with an open mind. No matter where you are on your career path, learning along the way will benefit you. Additionally, staying ahead by being informed on changing trends and technologies can help keep your work fresh and exciting. Exploring new ways of approaching your day-to-day methods will also spark your creativity, helping you stand out from your peers with your fresh insights and innovative solutions.

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Christina Larson, Executive Assistant

Dara’s MillSummit Takeaway: Failure is Feedback

For a conference that aimed to inspire, failure was everywhere at the MillSummit. But this was a good thing!

Session after session addressed failure in one form or another, and how it’s a natural part of growing as a leader or entrepreneur. Peter Gasparro of Barclays US Consumer Bank shared that his team uses game theory when in a planning stage or launch. First, they envision what they want to happen. Then, they predict five ways they might fail. Ultimately, the practice prepares them to face obstacles and come out ahead. As conference emcee Blake “The Brain” Saunders reminded us, “Failure is dope.” Because from his own failures, he’s been able to grow.

However, thinking about failure in a binary way is kind of confusing. Is it good? Is it bad? Asking attendees of her session to raise their hands if they wanted to be a failure, leadership/culture change consultant Jen Croneberger put our complicated feelings about failure into perspective. Even though we know we can grow from failure, we don’t want to be failures. Instead, Croneberger suggested people think of failure as feedback.

Yet no matter how we process failure, it’s still stressful to live with failure or in fear of it. All the more reason to build relationships and show up for ourselves and others. Croneberger emphasized this resilient attitude in her talk, and other speakers similarly encouraged listening to others. After all, it’s soft skills that separate humans from AI. Speaking in conversation with Gasparro, kaffe KARMA owner Katie Kutler shared the real challenges she faced opening a business. Through it all, she kept gratitude in mind, because she knew she wasn’t alone in her endeavor: “Do good without expectation.”

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Dara McBride, Senior Marketing Specialist

Christopher’s MillSummit Takeaway: What Can I Do to Be a Better Person?

Throughout my career, most of the conferences I’ve attended focused on an industry-specific question: What can I do to be a better marketer? So, it was refreshing to attend a conference where the focus was a different question. What can I do to be a better person?

Over two days – and from the comfort of my home office in South Carolina – I heard from many business and organization leaders as a virtual attendee of the MillSummit. They spoke on a variety of topics, including: leadership, entrepreneurship, communication, work culture, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, professional development, employee empowerment and more. If MillSummit had not had a virtual option, I doubt I would have heard any of these people speak.

Virtual conferences have grown in popularity over the last few years due, in large part to the Covid-19 global pandemic. They’re practical, convenient, and a great way to share knowledge and ideas and network with your peers. I particularly enjoyed the ability to engage with conference sessions while keeping an eye on my inbox and to refuel with coffee and snacks from my own kitchen. Although the pounding drums that kicked off our livestream early Tuesday morning certainly jolted me awake better than any coffee on hand!

One of the speakers that particularly resonated with me was former media executive and creative Benjamin Wagner, who presented a talk called “Navigating Your Path.” Wagner talked about stress and how we deal with stress and presented several statistics that surprised me:

  • 75 percent of Americans experience stress they say adversely impacts their physical and mental health
  • More than a third of all Americans say they feel completely overwhelmed
  • Over half of 18- to-34-year-olds say they feel completely overwhelmed

Several warning signs of stress include loss of concentration, muscle tension, insomnia, and headaches. I’m an easy-going person, so I don’t always catch the early warning signs of stress when it creeps into my daily life. Noticing those warning signs is one of the first things you can do to help manage stress, Wagner said. He also noted the importance of deep breathing and talking openly about stress and those things that are causing us stress.

Wagner made a documentary about the late television icon Fred Rogers “Mr. Rogers & Me” in 2010. He used the following quote from Rogers to illustrate his point: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”

It was an inspiring way to wrap up a conference built around making an impact through not only what you do, but who you are.

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Christopher Diem, Marketing Specialist

Did you also attend the MillSummit 2023 and meet one of our Epic staffers? Let’s connect! Email to share what resonated with you or suggest a future event for Epic to attend.