PPR Strategies


Takeaways From Last Week’s Ignite Talk at the IEDC Annual Conference

Last week, I traveled to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the IEDC Annual Conference. I got onstage as an Ignite presenter for the first time after helping many other people over the years create and plan for their Ignite presentations. It was a great experience that went with the theme of my talk: It allowed me to learn and grow in new ways!


The IEDC Annual Conference’s unique format of Ignite presentations forced me to stretch myself as a speaker. With 60 seconds to speak per slide and 8 slides total, I had to take my preparedness to the next level to stay in the exact time frame while sharing the ideas I wanted to get across.

In the process of creating and rehearsing the talk, I reworked it 10 different times before getting to the final product! (And thank goodness I had to send the slides in early – no more editing allowed.) 🙂

The IEDC Annual Conference focused on talks and workshops based around how we can “turn disruption into innovation and opportunity.” I spoke on something I’m very passionate about: how to foster talent and develop internal economic development leaders.

Here are a few of the key ideas I shared on how to develop leaders within an organization:

  • What’s [My Team’s] Why? We all need to figure out what our “why” is… and sometimes our team needs our help developing their why. You can help people figure out their “why” by giving them access to information and resources so they understand how their role fits into the big picture. You can help them to understand: How does their job matter? How is it impacting the community?
  • Create An Environment Where Everyone is Encouraged to Learn. At PPR Strategies, we’re always learning how to do new things or taking classes to improve a skill. Last year it was podcasting, a couple of weeks ago it was LinkedIn newsletters, and next week it’ll be something else! A great rule of thumb is to encourage team members to take a class or learn something new and then to bring that information back and share it. This creates a ripple effect of new knowledge spreading throughout the team.
  • Be a Mentor. You have a unique perspective and skills to share, whether you’re just out of college or you’ve been in economic development for decades. Everyone’s unique perspective adds to the whole – Gen Z may be quick to adopt technology; Gen X may have interpersonal skills learned through experience. When all team members draw on their own individual strengths and abilities and share those with others, everyone benefits.
  • The Window Never Closes – It Just Might Be Stuck. For the past 25 years, my biggest career regret has been that I didn’t take the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) exam. Now, I have a team member that I’ve been supporting to get her certification, and after a few  years of taking classes, she’s well on her way. Some colleagues and team members encouraged me that while that window looked like it was closed, I just needed to open it! I’m happy to share that I’m beginning the certification process now, after 25 years of working in this economic development space. It’s never too late!
  • Ask for Help. As an economic developer, you’re an advocate for your community. If you have a special project that your team would like to accomplish, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Getting outside support is a powerful way to grow your team’s capacity and step into new territory you wouldn’t explore otherwise.

I hope some of these keys inspire you to keep learning, growing and stretching yourself, and to encourage team members to do the same. Our organizations and communities will be better for it!

‘Til next time,

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