2019 MVRC Recap

Top Takeaways from the 2019 SMPS Missouri Valley Regional Conference

We’re all in this together. No matter what size firm you work for and no matter the size of your team, we all experience the same challenges. Whether it’s the ever-present trial of getting technical staff to shine as business developers or balancing five proposals at once, the major roadblocks we face are largely the same across the industry. That’s what makes attending an event like the SMPS Missouri Valley Regional Conference (MVRC) so valuable.

The tips, tricks and lessons learned through sessions or just networking with peers are guaranteed to be useful to take back and implement at your firm. Everyone here “gets you,” and as a one-person marketing department, that can make all the difference in mustering up the courage to continue tackling a jam-packed career in a sea full of technical staff that don’t always understand what it is we marketers do.

As a first-time attendee to the 2019 SMPS MVRC, I came away feeling energized and filled with new approaches to start right away. Most of the sessions I attended had many practical, relatable and doable tips. I could write several pages on all the knowledge gained, but I’ll spare you by just including the top highlights from the conference.


Clients are choosing to partner with firms that they genuinely like working with and ones that they trust. You may not be the most award-winning firm, but if the client can count on you and know that what you say, you mean, they’ll come back to you time and time again.

  • Be genuine. Establish a network and be kind, helpful and really mean it! People can tell when you’re not interested or engaged. Consider ever person to be important, and every bit of information gleaned as worth your time. You never know who can introduce you to the right person. You may be only a few steps away from reaching the key decision maker that’s been eluding your calls for years.
  • Debriefs are a must. Even if it’s not a current project, conducting client debriefs are essential to building trust. Clients are more likely to stay with you, even if they had a bad experience, if they were heard and feel validated through a debrief. By honestly asking ways you can improve, you’re showing you care about their experience and want to find ways to improve it.


A consistent theme through many sessions was how to get technical staff to help with “nonbillable” or marketing and business development activities. Two of the best tips were:

  • Help them, and they’ll help you. Maybe they’ve got ten different projects with multiple deadlines and a client who is difficult. How can you help them? Take some things off their plate, or just bring in some snacks as refuel. Build those connections and become their friend. In turn, they’ll look for ways to help you.
  • Find their reason to develop new business. If there’s not a personal reason for them to participate in business development, then it’s just another item on the never-ending to-do list. Maybe they want to be assured they have projects and work coming down the pike. Maybe they just want to have an excuse to go grab drinks after work two nights a week. Whatever it is that will motivate them to participate, figure it out and use it to get them plugged in.


There’s a lot of science behind effective business development. Much of it comes from being able to empathize and actively listen to your counterpart.

  • Emotional Contagion Theory. You can affect others for good with your behavior, speech and body language. Emotions are contagious, so walk into a room or meeting with confidence, happiness and genuine interest in the other person. Beforehand, get in the right mindset. Go to a quiet place like the restroom and talk to yourself to pump up your energy. Raise your arms in the air like you are at the best concert ever. This helps to build confidence, especially if you’re not quite feeling it!
  • Lose the Phone. Eighty-nine percent of users in a PEW study said smartphones came out in a social or professional gathering. Eighty-two percent said it hurt the conversation. Technology is eroding trust and relationships, right before our eyes. Put down the phone and give all your attention to the person sitting across from you.
  • Appearance Matters. Your attire, countenance and body language really do matter and make a huge difference in how people perceive you. According to Elliott Abrams, we size up new people between 30 – 120 seconds. That’s all you have to make a first impression, so make it count.

Attendees echoed the great experience had at the conference. SMPS St. Louis Board President Nora Bresnahan said, “MVRC is a relevant, inspiring resource for marketing and business development education, as well as networking with AEC professionals in the Midwest. The keynote speaker Mike Allison was very memorable with his presentation Building Relationships That Inspire Trust. I learned a new term that has stuck with me since – pistanthrophobia, the fear of trusting people due to bad experiences. Mike provided tangible tools to inspire trust related to first impressions, managing the narrative, and empathy.”

SMPS St. Louis Board member Chawn Stich was equally impressed with the keynote speaker. “The opening keynote speaker, Mike Allison – Faculty Lead at Cerner, was a great presenter in emphasizing the value of TRUST! Our first impressions must be on point, and we must manage what others observe to convey we have their best interests in mind.  Mr. Allison brought a very energetic, humorous, and reality-driven message to all in attendance,” Stich said.

Megan Hinrichsen, SMPS Board Member, felt the conference was a strong success. “MVRC was a practical, informative, reaffirming and inspirational experience. Speakers provided techniques and strategies immediately applicable to my own work, including how to foster and ignite creativity, manage fears, handle difficult conversations, harness the power of technical staff, and craft an engaging story. SEO nuts-and-bolts knowledge helped me reframe my firms’ website strategy to maximize impressions by better understanding the (current) Google algorithm. As an investment in professional development, the MVRC conference did not disappoint,” Hinrichsen said.

Like what you read and want to learn more? Check out some of the additional resources shared by presenters as must-reads post-conference.


Author:Natasha Day is the Marketing Manager for Bond Architects. She is an active SMPS Communications Committee member and has been an SMPS member for the past two years.

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