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Canadian Meetings + Events Expo

2019 CME Expo: How Embracing Failure, Fun, and Creativity Can Bring Success

“Do more of what makes you happy” — Johnny Cupcakes’ inspirational message was the perfect kick-off to the annual Canadian Meetings + Events Expo, previously known as IncentiveWorks. His energy and enthusiasm on stage was infectious and helped set the tone for another great event.

Speakers’ Spotlight was happy to once again sponsor one of CME Expo’s keynote events, bringing in award-winning entrepreneur Johnny to share his unique expertise on building brand loyalty — the kind that involves mile-long queues and even permanent tattoos!

We also worked with Ottawa Tourism to book international television icon Debbie Travis to share her inspirational story on how she started a new chapter in her career after finding herself in a funk. She walked us through her 10 commandments to structuring a happy life, both personally and professionally.

Check out some of the highlights of what we learned from our expert speakers this year at CME Expo!

Johnny Cupcakes at CME Expo

The founder of the world-renowned t-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes, Johnny is known for helping people create the blueprints for building brand loyalty, creating memorable experiences, and inspiring innovation.

He walked us through his entrepreneurial journey — he started 16 businesses before he turned 16! —, and highlighted some of the biggest lessons he learned along the way that led to his worldwide success with his brand, Johnny Cupcakes.

1. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Before he became “Johnny Cupcakes”, Johnny opened a series of businesses, from selling candy to being a magician to designing pins. Some found moderate success and others dramatically failed. Failures, Johnny said, are just a form of experimenting and experimenting is how we grow. We can’t be afraid to fail or nothing will ever change. He encouraged us to stop making excuses and start making things instead.

2. Add more fun

In every workforce, no matter the industry, creative thinking must be applied. Find the fun, apply it at work, and, most importantly, bring it to your customers. Sell memories, Johnny said, not just products or merchandise.

This is where events come in! People thrive off of experiences, they love themes, they love photo opportunities, etc. Every Halloween, Johnny develops a new “scary” t-shirt and people line up for hours to snag their one-of-a-kind design. One year, Johnny decided to get delivered to the annual event in a real coffin. This type of “fun” generated a ton of media and word-of-mouth marketing, with little cost to him (depending on how claustrophobic he is!), while creating a really a unique experience for his customers.

3. Forget B2B and B2C. Embrace H2H — Human to Human.

Why should people take a chance on you? This is the question you should be answering in all of your marketing materials. Take the time to define what makes you unique, and use it to connect with your customer base because it separates you from the riff-raff. People want to work with people, not just brands.

Johnny often thanks his customers with handwritten notes of appreciation. It gives them something personal and unique, he says, it makes them feel affected and like they’re a part of something.

After his talk, Johnny joined us at our booth to hand free t-shirts out, uniquely themed to the event with a fitting message — that you’re all the “Best. Event. Planner. Ever.” It was madness! And a lot of fun to host Johnny and 100+ event planners for a meet and greet.

Debbie Travis at CME Expo

Debbie is a name known around the world! Her popular TV shows have aired in more than 80 countries, her weekly syndicated newspaper column draws more than six million readers, she’s published 10 bestselling books sold worldwide, and her branded product line covers everything from home décor to wine.

A few years ago though, she found herself in a rut. Having done the same thing over and over again she had lost her passion. But she had an idea that had been going around and around in her head for several years — to get a place in Tuscany and host events. It was a complete shift in her career but the time was finally right and Debbie took a leap of faith.

It was this shift that sparked the idea behind her latest bestselling book Design Your Next Chapter. Drawing on the often tough (but hilarious!) lessons she’s learned from her entrepreneurial journey, as well as interviewing several people who followed their dreams as well, she compiled 10 commandments for finding the courage to live the life you want.

1. Dream it. Do it. Live it.

Debbie’s philosophy to life. Too often, she says, people get stuck in the “dream it” stage. Her goal is to help people get to the next step. It might not be the right time now, but if we let our dreams live inside of us, we can take the right steps to make it happen when the time is right.

2. Find your passion.

When we feel drained everyday, it’s a sign that we’ve lost our vitality and passion for life. Surround yourself with those who have it because they’re passion can be infectious, and help get you out of your funk.

3. Protect your brand.

If you have a name, you have a brand. Debbie learned this the hard way after she mistakenly signed the rights away for the use of her own name with her first show’s contract. To define your “brand”, Debbie suggested that you write down everything about yourself — the good, the bad, and the ugly. These points, she said, can then be used to drive everything in your life.

4. Embrace your mistakes.

Mistakes are what make us, Debbie said, echoing Johnny’s sentiments from the day before. Success, she says, comes from the solutions we create to fix our mistakes.

As an example, she shared what happened while filming the first episode of her show, Debbie Travis’ Facelift. She and her crew accidentally started renovating the wrong home. That drastically changed the structure of the first episode, which would now feature two homes, but also sparked an idea inside Debbie that perhaps the camera should start pointing at the homeowners as well as the host — a staple in today’s hit design shows.

5. Fear: Screw it, just do it.

Too often, Debbie says, we don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid of what may happen, but often these fears are not real fear. Feeling nervous about something is completely normal, but fear — real fear — is a different beast. Fear means having no control over something. To counteract this, Debbie says to create a list of everything you’re afraid of, and then go through it and separate the real “fears” — things you can’t control — from the excuses. Put fear in perspective and put it where it belongs.

6. Get support.

Surround yourself with people who lift you up.

7. Learn from and support yourself with the best.

Successful people, Debbie says, love talking about themselves. This is what she learned from writing her book. They’re often flabbergasted by their own success, she says, you’d be surprised at how many are happy to share their experience with others. Learn from them!

8. Have a sense of humour.

Humour makes us feel normal. Make sure you keep your sense of humour and use it as a band-aid when something knocks you down.

9. Be engaged.

You are your own social warrior! Loneliness will be the downfall of us all, Debbie says. Break through the protective bubble you’ve put yourself in and connect with others.

10. Balance equals happiness.

The true key to happiness is finding balance in life.

Afterwards, Debbie signed free copies of her book for fans at the Ottawa Tourism booth, sharing one-on-one advice on how to “dream it, do it, live it”.

That’s a taste of what attendees experienced at this year’s packed CME Expo. Interested in learning more about Debbie and/or Johnny and what they can bring to your next event? Email us at info@speakers.ca.