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As refreshing as it is to return to work after the holidays, we must admit it can be bittersweet. Many of us spend our time off recharging and reconnecting with family and friends, and it’s never easy to see that come to an end.

However, the break gave our team members who attended TEDxDetroit a chance to truly reflect on their experience from that day. 

While we included some high-level takeaways in our most recent edition of Franco on the Town, attendees Kaiti Horn, Dan Horn, Rachel Burnard and China Haley thought it was only fitting to start the year regrouping to reflect on their own personal takeaways. Even with the event happening almost two months ago, our team’s takeaways are just as relevant now (if not more so because of the new year) as they were in early November.  

I had a hard time narrowing it down, but I think my favorite talk was from Bally Sports NFL & CFB Insider Annie Agar. Her talk resonated with me because one of my professional goals this year is to experiment more with TikTok so I can bring new knowledge and expertise to the agency…but I’ve held off for a couple of reasons. Number one: TikTok bullies! There are some wonderful people and TikTok communities out there, but I’ve also seen some nasty trolls try to tear creators down. This brings me to my other reason: What if no one likes my content? What if no one cares about what I have to say? What if this just ends up being a failed personal/professional development attempt?  

Bringing it back to Annie now; admittedly, before her talk, I thought to myself, “Of course she’s social media famous. She’s in broadcasting.” What a limiting thought, right? I’m glad I checked myself on that because once I did, I opened myself to inspiration. What I liked most was her videos initially had nothing to do with career goals. She created her videos because she literally had nothing better to do during the COVID-19 lockdown. You can learn more about her viral videos and career trajectory here, but her current title alone shows where her creativity has taken her. 

Hearing her speak reminded me why I really want to get on TikTok: I’m a content creator. I love creating, and I love the human connection that often stems from creativity. Sure, there will always be nay-sayers and it’s becoming more challenging to filter out some of the inherent superficiality of social media. But keeping a finger on the pulse of trends and being attuned to the conversations happening on these platforms has helped me build my career and solve real problems for my clients and their customers/audience.   

So, on top of bringing new value to Franco and my clients, I want to tackle TikTok for myself. My core goal is to create content that brings me a sense of happiness and pride. Hearing Annie speak was the perfect reminder that if I start there, the rest will fall into place.  

I loved listening to Jaime Waydo, the chief technology officer and co-founder of Cavnue. So much of my background involves working with automotive clients, and it was intriguing to hear her company’s approach to mobility. She had the audience think beyond autonomous vehicles themselves and consider the infrastructure that will make it possible for autonomous vehicles to successfully and safely operate. 

I’ve heard a lot of presentations like hers, but what made Jaime’s special was how she opened her story. She shared how she ran over her family’s mailbox within the first few minutes of getting her license. As funny as her story was, it was also vulnerable and it helped her build an excellent point that young drivers are responsible for the majority of accidents, simply due to human errors that come with inexperience. She then connected this dot to autonomous vehicles and how once fully and ideally developed, they could reduce human errors (like running over mailboxes).  

By sharing this relatable, human story, she helped the audience visualize just how much data is required for an autonomous vehicle system to work safely and synchronously. Technology, the vehicle itself, data from human experience…it all must be connected. Jaime made autonomous vehicles feel human, which is what will ultimately drive autonomous vehicles forward.  

My absolute favorite talk was the day’s closer, PRAT International Founder & CEO Darnell Blackburn. He opened his talk by sharing his first (and only) skydiving experience. By the time he and his wife landed on the ground, she was raving about her experience, saying how her instructor walked her through the experience and helped keep her calm. Darnell, on the other hand, had a very different experience. His instructor hardly said a word to him, which left him stressed out and afraid. It turned out his instructor was highly experienced and didn’t want to patronize Darnell by over-coaching him; something he would have preferred as a first-timer.  

And that was his big lesson: Is it better to treat people how you want to be treated, or is it more considerate to treat people how they want to be treated? Is “The Golden Rule” holding us back from establishing stronger connections?

Is it better to treat people how you want to be treated, or is it more considerate to treat people how they want to be treated?


As a creator, this made me think about the lenses through which we view the content we’re crafting. From podcasts to written pieces and press releases, it’s important we take the time to consider the many different lenses our content will be viewed from. How often do we stop and think about what our audiences’ individual experiences are – from loss, racism, sexism, trauma and others and how that will alter their lens? Once we began to shape our content in ways that resonate far beyond our own experiences, we will begin to form deeper, more meaningful connections.  

I didn’t expect to love this duo so much, but I really enjoyed hearing from Voice Over Artist Christopher Johnson (who also emceed the event) and Coach/Instructor/Athlete Julie Barnes Maurer. They talked about their unlikely friendship and all the amazing things they’ve inspired each other to do over the years. Despite being from different walks of life, their shared passions forced their paths to keep crossing, TEDxDetroit included, which they took as a sign from the universe to form a bond. Their chemistry on stage was proof of that.  

This of course reminded me to never judge a book by its cover! It’s an old saying, but the meaning is timeless. You can’t really understand the true meaning of it until you realize it applies to everything. We judge everything – people, food and even ourselves. It’s our instinct, but what’s stopping us from training ourselves to be more fair, balanced and open as we navigate life? You never know when you may meet someone in life who can completely shift the trajectory of your path, and preconceived notions might prevent you from going down that new, better path.  

Christopher and Julie were a testament to that. He shared that, despite his fear of water, Julie eventually inspired him to compete in multiple triathlons. This resonates with me and my journey at Franco. I never thought I would work in an agency, but here I am. I wasn’t sure what this new path would bring me, but rather than letting the fear of the unknown take over, I took the chance and opened myself to new possibilities.  

The same word kept popping up while this group reflected together: Connection. And that’s the beauty of TEDxDetroit, isn’t it? As an agency, we’ve been attending this event for years, and for such a good reason. The committee and the speakers do a phenomenal job at making attendees feel a deeper connection to Detroit and the world around us. 

At the end of the day, connection is what we all yearn for – as integrated communications professionals; as friends; as parents; as human beings. Connection is what allows us to become better versions of ourselves. Connection is what allows our agency to expand and our team members to grow. While each presentation at TEDxDetroit was so different, they were all connected…and aren’t we, too?  

Would you like to explore how an integrated communications program can help foster the connections that matter most to your business? Contact us to start a conversation.