I am finally getting a chance to post after a whirlwind of activity surrounding the first SMB Exchange event that I co-created with Arik Johnson of Aurora WDC and Ravi Nayak of the Toronto Board of Trade. And I can announce publicly that the event was an overwhelming success!

But before I get to what people said about the event a few words about what it was and why we created it: We felt there was room in the market for a focused event which really delivered networking and learning to entrepreneurs. We used a planning process that enabled us to think differently about the event to make this event unique in the market and maximize value to attendees.

We wanted to give start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators an opportunity to exchange ideas, share experiences and learn from their peers so they could accelerate their business growth.

Through consultation with other business leaders, this one-day event addressed the unique needs of Small and Medium-sized businesses and identified solutions that enhance the effectiveness how they presented their value propositions to the market. Here are the topics that we put together with the help of our Advisory Committee:

 

What made this event so different? We constructed theme topics that were facilitated by SMB business leaders, who had relevant experiences they shared to address all of the attendees’ challenges. (And we banned PowerPoint presentations!) So instead of the traditional podium talk with a question and answer after we arranged all the seating in 2 semicircles facing each other so attendees could see everyone else in the room.

Then we had the two business leaders presenting for each session give a brief case study on how they approached challenges with their business and we then facilitated a discussion with all the participants and built on the initial cases. In this way all the attendees could contribute and tap the collective wisdom of the other attendees in the room!

Other key parts of the day were a facilitated networking session with attendees “30 second” elevator pitches to build an initial relationships and a working lunch where attendees presented their own challenges to their table and got personalized advice based on the group’s experience. Many business cards were shared around the tables at these parts of the day!

We also built an online community for networking before the event which gave attendees the opportunity to start the conversation and come prepared to build relationships.

Finally, we have had great feedback to the event! Here are just a few of them:

“SMBX2012 was an exceptionally valuable day for me and my business. From the breakfast keynote to the selection of breakout sessions and the facilitated networking, I was impressed with the quality of the organization, speakers, and fellow participants – I learned a lot, got a chance to introduce myself, my business and my goals, and came away with immediate and longer term opportunities. And to top it all off, the food was plentiful and delicious! My idea of a day well spent.”

– Angela Meharg, (Attendee)

The event was well organized and well attended and exceeded my expectations especially considering it was an inaugural event.

Congratulations to all on the organizing team.”

– Rob Henderson, President, StudentAwards, (Presenter)

“It was a pleasure and honour to participate! Congrats on a great event! ”

– Maggie Fox, CEO, Social Media Group (Presenter)

“It was a great event. Honoured to be part of it!”

– Sunny Verma, President, TutorBright (Presenter)

As with most new innovative offerings this required a lot of different thinking about what was capable and a great team that worked hard and really over-delivered to make the day a success. So thanks to the team and also to all the participants- we couldn’t have done it without you!