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Pay It Forward

21 Apr, 2015

Bringing Back the Best of Build Business

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Read time: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

By Falynn Schmidt, CPSM, Associate AIA, LEED AP

In May of 2011, SMPS DC announced a new grant they would be awarding later that year. The press release said, “In anticipation of a fantastic Build Business this year in Chicago, the SMPS DC chapter came up with an exciting new grant.” That was it. They had me at “in anticipation.” Everything else faded as my mind pictured the famous skyline of world-class Chicago architecture, the thousands of other marketing professionals filling the plenary ballroom, and the program book of break-out sessions with all the interesting choices.

I was that kid in college: when classes were announced for the following semester, I poured over the course catalogue, weighed my options, and filled in my schedule with delight. Thank you SMPS DC: you have brought me back to my happy place. I downloaded the Build Business agenda and got out the highlighters.

For years I had wanted to attend Build Business, SMPS’s national conference. The Mecca of marketing, I knew that is where I would find my people. The potential for learning and networking were reason enough to skip around the room. The quality of courses and the in-depth knowledge of fellow SMPS members promised to help me take my career to the next level. Connecting with colleagues from around the country and learning from their expertise seemed like the best use of $2000. Only I didn’t have $2000.

The Pay it Forward Grant [PDF] that SMPS DC so brilliantly created (and should be rolled out nationally) gave me the opportunity to compete for the chance to attend. It also gave me the opportunity to create my own program to bring the best of Build Business back to those who helped me go.

To brainstorm how exactly to “pay it forward,” I thought about what would bring value to attendees, how the program could be implemented and scaled, and how much it would cost. I approached the program and the application like I would a project proposal by asking what brings value to the client, how will the project be managed, and how much will it cost. Then I answered each section of the RFP…I mean grant application…by breaking it down into its parts and detailing my response in clear steps and bullet points. Just like a proposal, I tried to make my application clear, concise, and visually interesting.

The program, called Bringing Back the Best of Build Business (or B5), has three parts and focuses on including as many participants as possible.

  1. Before the conference: Build Business attendees meet each other at a networking event to help forge relationships. This means everyone knows someone who is attending so s/he can find a friendly face at the conference. At the networking event we introduce the local learning event that will take place after the conference and ask attendees to present something they learn at Build Business.
  2. At the conference: We ask attendees to take good notes so they can present what they learn at the conference when they return to DC. This encourages people to pay attention and assimilate what they learn by preparing to teach it to their peers.
  3. After the conference: Build Business conference attendees host a round-robin education program where they present what they learned to those who were unable to attend, literally bringing back the best of Build Business.

Receiving the Pay it Forward grant meant I could attend a world-class conference with experts in my field, expand my network nationally, and learn from the industry’s best. Creating B5 meant including as many SMPS DC members as were interested and getting them involved as presenters or participants. It meant that the experience of Build Business could expand exponentially as attendees brought what they learned home and passed it on to their peers.

As the deadline for the latest Pay it Forward Grant is approaching, I encourage SMPS DC members at all levels to take advantage of this exciting opportunity. Receiving the grant is an achievement for yourself and for your firm, and it benefits the entire SMPS community. You have the opportunity to learn more about what you love to do and then share it with your peers as the newest local expert.

To see an example, you can find my grant application online here: *Note: SMPS DC does not publish Pay it Forward Grant applications*