Collision Conference takeaways (and where to eat in New Orleans)

Earlier this month I headed to New Orleans to attend the Collision Conference, a spin-off of the popular Web Summit. Billing itself as “America’s fastest growing tech conference” it was comprised of a bunch of sub-conferences, featuring 20-30 minute panels and presentations. My main draw was Panda Conf, which featured speakers from places like eBay, Instacart (please come to Vancouver!), T-Mobile, Mashable, GrubHub, United Airlines (yes, that airline), and MailChimp. The Center Stage stream also offered up an impressive bunch including an astronaut, famous feminist actor/activists, and the keynote, Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit (aka Serena Williams’ fiance).

Below are some of my top takeaways.

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“Marketing is an art and a science… You need to [master both] to be successful.” - Max Mullen, founder, Instacart.

Max went on to explain how exceeding expectations in customer service can be your best marketing tool: “We create magic moments in our products and those moments become our marketing.”

Yes to exceeding expectations!

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“[People] have access 24/7 to amazing so no one is going to settle for average.” - Kirsten Ward, General Manager, Windows and Devices Marketing, Microsoft on how the Internet and competition pushes companies to do better.

Furthermore, Kirsten emphasized the need to switch focus from “earning customers to earning fans... listening is a huge part of [how to do this]... you can’t earn a fan if you don’t understand your customers.”

And fans are your best marketers. Period.

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On millennials: “Nothing is permanent but change.” - the Dalai Lama, as quoted by Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO, The Muse when describing what drives millennials when seeking employment.

Miguel McKelvey, co-founder, WeWork added this to the topic of millennials in the workplace: “It’s all about finding purpose in your life and in your job. That’s the shift.”

I think that’s a shift we can all get behind.

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“Life is just time and how you use it.” - Scott Belsky, co-founder Behance, and author of Making Ideas Happen “Products can be designed to spend time, save time or do both at the same time.”

Scott also shared his observation that customers, in the first 15 seconds that you have their attention, are three things:

  1. Lazy. Therefore show them how your product works rather than explain. Or, even better, do something for them.

  2. Vain. So ask “what are the ego analytics?” Basically, make your customer look good.

  3. Selfish. People want to benefit quickly without committing any time. Be quick.

The audience chuckled at this. But we also all knew it to be good advice.

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“May we all be the women that we needed when we were young.”

A powerful quote to kick off the star-powered Feminism Isn’t a Liability panel featuring Sophia Bush and Orange is the New Black’s Alysia Reiner.

Alysia’s words of wisdom: “I’m not going to change the system, I’m just going to change me.” And let us “find our tribes [so we can] mentor each other.”

Hear, hear.

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“We’ve been having cocktail party conversation for a decade on the Internet. [We are] trying to achieve empathy and understanding.” - Alexis Ohanian, co-founder, Reddit. “We need to do more that shows us how much we have in common instead of where we are [divided].”

He went on to share that the advice he would give his just-starting-out 22 year old self was essentially: “Take better care of yourself.” Eat well, sleep, go to yoga… Don’t burn out.

Love this.

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And, given where this conference took place, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also share my top picks on where to eat while visiting The Big Easy.

St. Roch Market: This “southern food hall’ features about a dozen local food vendors and a craft cocktail bar. Less than a block from our airbnb, we kicked off every morning with a perfectly roasted coffee and killer avocado toast. The catfish po’boy and rice and beans and grits I tried were also seriously delish.

Peche: Located in the Warehouse District, this place obviously specializes in seafood. However, everything we tried was ah-mazing. Hushpuppies (basically, fried cornbread) were ridiculously good. However, my top honours went to the Brussels sprouts. Best I’ve ever had. For real.

N7 This may be one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to. Located in a residential area within the Bywater district, it kind of seems to be in the middle of nowhere. But behind the big fence is a magical courtyard and a delicious French-inspired farm-to-table menu. The live jazz and roaming chickens were an added bonus. Tip: They don’t take resos and it was completely full 15 minutes after opening.

Three Muses For a traditional NOLA jazz experience, this is a great spot to grab a pre-dinner drink (or two) on Frenchman Street. We managed to grab the last table and got to enjoy piano tunes while sipping their namesake cocktail The Muse. Made for an extra happy Happy Hour.

Kirstin Richter