Social Media In Michigan: FutureMidwest Conference Is April 16-17

Posted Mar 9, 2010

Michigan may be facing tough times with economic recession. In a recent Eminem music video, there is a fact that says: “In 1950 Michigan was 1 of 8 states in America that collectively produced 36% of the world’s GNP.”  However tough economic times, corporate executive greed, and political chaos sent the city into a downward spiral.

But that does not mean that the city has given up on innovation and embracing social media. This is why I’m looking forward to an event called FutureMidwest. FutureMidwest 2010 is a conference being held between April 16th and 17th. The conference was founded by Adrian Pittman, Jordan Wolfe and Zach Lipson.

Presenters include Blagica Bottigliero, Ken Burbary, Evan Gotlib, Beth Harte, Scott Monty, Tim Schaden, Shiv Singh, Samuel Valenti IV, and Scott Hauman. The event is being sponsored by GM, Ford, and Downtown Royal Oak.

?Long term, the goal is to turn it into a South by Southwest-style event for the Midwest region,? stated Jordan Wolfe in an interview with TIME. ?It is going to be a mix of educational and entertainment over two days, focused on digital media, marketing, communications and entrepreneurship.?

I conducted an interview with the founders of Future Midwest.  Below is the result:

AP = Adrian Pittman JW = Jordan Wolfe

1. What inspired you to create a technology conference in metro Detroit?

AP: By the beginning of 2009, many of our larger clients were asking about social media, mobile technology and the like and whether they were tools they could utilize to benefit their businesses. We saw the conference as an opportunity to provide a practical primer on the changing trends in consumer behavior and access online and how to prepare/participate.

JW: I moved back from California mid-2008 and I was shocked by the mindset and lack of energy in the business community. Furthermore, every business networking event/conference I attended was flat and cookie cutter. I see the conference as one small piece that is necessary to create a vibrant business culture that people are excited to be part of. Also, the Midwest, particularly Detroit, is way behind the curve on implementing technology in everyday business. I see this is an opportunity to educate the business community in these areas.

2. Often time there is a misconception that people in Michigan are old-fashioned and the high-tech industry is centered around states like New York and California, how did they overcome these barriers to put together one of the biggest technology conferences in the state?

AP: Having spent parts of my career on both coasts, I can honestly say that Detroit/Michigan/Midwest plays a much larger role in the advancements commonly associated with those regions than people might realize. Within Michigan, however, the perception is different ? we?re aware of our contributions even if others are not yet. And everyone here was all too eager to support a conference that will bring our regional innovation in technology to the forefront.

JW: People in Detroit like to talk until they are in blue in the face about the state of the economy, what needs to be fixed and how bad the government is. I have always been the type of person who if I see a problem, I fix it. I do not sit there and talk about it. That has been my approach to the conference. This is a simple supply and demand imbalance. There is heavy demand for unique conferences and events in the area and no supply. All it takes is hard work and truly believing in a vision. That is how we were able to put this together.

3. When putting together a major event, there is a heavy focus on budgeting, choosing the right place, procuring all the marketing materials. How did the team come together and gather all the resources that they needed to put together the event?

AP: I?ve always felt that a professional is only as valuable as their network. It?s even better if that person has a close relationships and a strong track record with the members of that network. This conference is the result of such a network. Groups like Daggerfin, Franco Public Relations Group, iDetroit, General Motors, Urbane Apartments, the City of Royal Oak, Ford Motor Company and Verizon, to name a few, were instrumental. All played a key role in contributing even the most seemingly minute of details. At the end of the day, everyone really believed in the value of this conference and spared nothing to help make sure it happened.

JW: Completely agree with what Adrian said.

4. Are there any other events across the U.S. that the team used as a benchmark when preparing this event? If so which conference were they inspired by?

AP: For me it was TED, SXSW and the Landor conference series

JW: I would have to say TED out of all the conference I?ve attended. Longer-term, SXSW is a good benchmark for us.