My 140 Characters Conference Speech #140Conf

23 Dec 2011

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When I originally set out to write my 140 characters conference speech, I had put all my thoughts down, and then started to write about each point. My wife Wendy asked me if I was recording it or timing myself. The thought hadn’t occurred to me yet. Once I felt I had enough written, I timed myself. 3 1/2 minutes. I either had to slow down my speech or write a lot more. So I started to write on every point I had jotted down. I wrote, and I wrote, and more thoughts came to my head, so I wrote about those too. I timed myself again. 31 minutes. Ugh… now I have to take stuff out. So I did. I finally brought it down to 9 1/2 minutes. I figured better to be a little under than get cut off.

This was my first time speaking in front of a crowd. As well as being extremely nervous to do so, My lapel mic fell off within the first 10 seconds. I was stunned… you have got to be kidding me! Before I knew it, Tricia Mumby (of Mabel’s Labels), the official timekeeper, ran up and quickly clipped my mic back on. I figured after that point, what could go wrong? Well, my speech was on my iPad, and while Tricia was re-clipping my mic, I must have swiped the screen the wrong way, because I could no longer find my speech. I was shaking too much to figure it out, so at the first opportunity, i tossed my iPad on the couch behind me, and reached for the cue cards in my back pocket.

Here’s the problem… while reattaching my mic, the timer was still going. So, I had to cut a lot out of my already toned down story.

So… a lot of people were asking me what I cut out from the live speech. Well, here it is.

It’s amazing what a little tweeting will do

So this time last year, I was employed. I was the senior designer at Canada’s largest community newspaper.

October 21st is a day I will remember for a long time. It was the day I was called down to Human Resources for a meeting, for them to tell me they had good news and bad news for me. The bad news was that my position was being eliminated. The good news was, they had an attractive severance package for me. And yes, that is exactly how they put it.

I saw this day coming for a long time. They had appointed a senior digital production manager to oversee me and my team, and to immediately find synergies between our division and the division he came from. The rumour mills were all a buzz that our company would be outsourcing all ad design to India and China by the end of 2012. Well, it was true, and me being packaged out was the first step.

Now I’m not sure how many of you have ever lost a job, but that was my first. So many things were running through my mind at that moment. I wasn’t worried about the papers they were showing me, the package they were offering, or my personal possessions at my desk… I was wondering what my wife would think. So as per company policy, I got escorted out of the building. I get into my truck, and drive out of the employee parking lot for the last time. For over 12 years, this was the best part of my day. Leaving. Now it was for good.

I start driving home, and finally work up the courage to call Wendy. I call, and tell her what just happened. She pauses. I tell her I’ll be home soon. It was a long drive. I didn’t worry about listening to the news for the traffic report. I listened to music. It didn’t take my mind off things, but it helped pass the time. I get home, she gives me a huge hug, and tells me “everything is going to be alright”. That’s all I needed to hear. If any of you are not already following her, she is sitting right there, and is @mapsgirl on twitter.

So we sat down that night, and Wendy tells me I should start to use my twitter account more. I didn’t really understand the power of social media at the time. So I sign on to twitter, and see that I now have about 200 followers. I was following about the same. So far, I had just tried to jump into conversations with people I did not know and had never met. Some people knew me as “mapsgirl’s DH”. It was fun, and everyone was quite nice! I have been on twitter since 2009, but didn’t start using it until August of last year. I had my company logo as my avatar. It would be another month or so before I started to use it properly.

As I was using Facebook a lot more at this point, I decided to put up a positive status update: “is now a free agent”. On my Big Daddy Kreativ fan page, I posted “new expanded hours”. The resulting comments were mixed “oh my gosh” and “what happened” from those who figured out I lost my job, and “Congratulations” from those who knew I had already started to build my brand. With these comments came the private messages. I did not bash the company I had worked at for over 12 years, or divulge any information of what was going to happen over the next couple years at work with the existing employees. The plan was already set in motion to outsource all design work to India and China at all newspapers in the chain, and not just where I was. They were aware… just not of the logistics.

In September of last year (so prior to losing my job), there was a book launch to be held at a local coffee pub. Wendy wanted to go but couldn’t, so she suggested I go… “because all the cool people from twitter will be there”. I had still yet to meet anyone off twitter, and frankly, the thought scared me.

Some of those people are here today, and I have gotten to know them quite well. The book launch was in Oakville, and it was for an author who had marketed this book solely on social media. His name is Scott Stratten. I bought his book that night, and got him to sign it.

The title caught me. UnMarketing – Stop Marketing, Start Engaging. What the hell did that mean? So I started reading it. I couldn’t put it down! The book was written so well, and it was chock full of vital information on the proper use of social media. Some have criticized it as “common sense”. Well apparently I did not have common sense, or just wasn’t in the know about what was written in this book. Now I’m not saying this book had the same effect on me that the Harry Potter series did, but it did change the way I interact with people on twitter.

For example… Chapter 17 (pages 63-69)… How Twitter changed my business. Scott talks about what really worked well for him… “Tweet Constantly”, “Tweet Quality”, Tweet Retweetable Content”, “Be Authentic”, and lastly “Use a face picture”. Use a face picture? Alright… I’ll give it a try. The response I got once I changed my avatar from my logo to a picture of me was incredible. One response opened my eyes… it said “it’s great to finally meet you”. Okay Scott… I got it. Now wherever I go, people recognize me from my avatar pic.

My family and friends were very supportive of me after I lost my job. I started volunteering – more than I usually do – at my daughter’s school and at my church.

Two things stood out:
– I had been contacted by only 3 people from my former place of employment… a place I worked at for over 12 years, and had developed what I thought were great friendships.
– people on twitter started spreading the word about my freelance business like crazy. Those same people offered words of support, advice, and encouragement, and even invited me out to “tweetups”, to which I would ask Wendy, “what the heck is a tweetup?” Now I attend them as frequently as I can, and even run them with my friends Troy Claus and Danny Brown of Bonsai Interactive, and Chris Farias of Kitestring Branding Studios.

I had some decisions to make regarding my future. After chatting with Wendy, my parents, a few awesome people I had met through twitter including Laurel Crossley (who gave me some amazing advice), I came to the conclusion that I needed to either work full time trying to find a job, or work full time trying to build my brand. I could not do both. But I still needed to get my name out there and find ways to make money when things were slow.

So last December, I started working on an online apparel store I was going to launch in January. I did not want to launch with one or two designs, I wanted to come out fighting with a ton of cool and funny t’s that people would be interested in. This was solely a side project meant to keep me busy between design projects. I launched in January as planned. The store did better than I thought in sales, but the word was just getting out. What happened next was the exciting part.

I was contacted by @CocktailDeeva – and she asked if I could design her a few t’s for her appearances on the Steven And Chris show. I was like “heck ya!”. So I designed her some shirts, and put them up in my shop. I tweeted out “hey everybody, check out @CocktailDeeva’s apparel line at my online store” with a link. It was retweeted by @CocktailDeeva to all her followers. Next thing I know, I get contacted by @those2girls to create the design for their #TiaraArmy shirts, Jason Dykstra, Momstown Burlington, G1000 Home Inspections, and Barley Sugar Creations to produce her Soap Nuts shirts. Not bad for a side project! It was around this time I decided to stop looking for employment elsewhere, and work on building Big Daddy Kreativ.

Things got crazy. I was contacted by a former colleague I had worked with for years. He was now the publisher of a magazine company in Toronto. He asked if I would like to take on designing a few of his magazines. Um Sure!

I get asked all the time “how did you get your followers so fast?” * (at the time of writing this, I sat around the 8000 mark). Well that’s easy. I attribute it to a few things. Follow people that interest you. Get out to meet people from twitter, even if it means driving out to Hamilton for a tweetup at Bronzies; going to Cambridge for an ice cream tweetup at the Indulge Caboose; attending a social night at Bingeman’s in Kitchener; taking the Go-train into Toronto to meet some great people, or attending Tweetstock in Brantford! Like any relationship, it takes time and effort to build it into a strong one. I have made some great friendships from twitter, and I venture to say a lot of them are better friends and are more supportive than people I have grown up with or previously worked with. Participate in Follow Fridays. Recognize those who impact or influence you. People will do the same for you. I have hit the top 10 in the Canadian Follow Friday list several times.

It also requires you to talk about your company, but avoid the hard sell. That’s easy for me because my background is not in sales. I tweet 1% pitches to my apparel store or messages telling what I can do or offer, and the other 99% is spent engaging. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what the ROI was in that? My answer… Relationships.

I leave you with this… if you had to choose between working at a job that you are miserable at, or starting your own company and being your own boss, what would you choose?

I realize there is fear.

– But I won’t have a regular pay check…
– How will I pay the bills?

Take the leap.

It was forced upon me. But like a ton of people have told me since October 21st, “this is the best thing that could have happened to you.” They were right.

Cheers everybody, and thanks for having me!

Craig Silva

Craig is a passionate and seasoned travel, food, and lifestyle writer, whose words paint vivid pictures of the world's most captivating destinations. His work not only inspires others to embark on their own adventures but also fosters a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity of our world. He captures the essence of each locale, offering readers a glimpse into the cultures, landscapes, cuisine, and experiences that make travel so enriching. Craig is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). If you are a PR agency or brand and would like Craig to review a travel destination, vehicle, restaurant, product or service, please send him an email.


  1. I’m so inspired and motivated by your story Craig. It’s never a seamless journey but I never knew just how much came out of this experience for you. There’s obstacles and hurdles and you jumped them. And you continue to jump them. You may not had a choice, but you did made the choice to rebuild and to focus. So inspiring.

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