Yes, the latest #IrishBizParty conference took us the whole way to stunning Killarney, with delegates travelling from all over the country for yet another ‘must attend’ conference for Irish SMEs brought to us by Samantha Kelly, aka Tweeting Goddess.

A full line-up of high quality speakers were complemented by networking opportunities and free mentoring sessions provided by Vodafone, where they brought experts in areas such as social media and Ecommerce, which businesses could access for free in what was dubbed ‘speed mentoring sessions’.

MC Chris Mack of The Brand Geeks began by introducing the Lord Mayor to open the day, and we were then treated to the day’s first speaker, a Cork woman in Kerry no less, Susan Hayes, ‘The Positive Economist’. A witty, energetic talk was packed with advice on tips and networking, and the room was challenged to define their SMART goals for the day. Her stories were real, and I have no doubt this woman will achieve her goal of standing on stages across the USA as a renowned speaker.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”

And I’m convinced she is the very woman who will determine her own destiny, “or die trying” as she admitted herself.

IrishBizParty Conference Killarney

Ken Armstrong followed Susan, this time with a very personal tale of a self-dubbed “reformed fatty”. This guy has gone from 33 stone, unable to walk the half a mile to work, to a motivated and energised man who last week cycled 85km through the mountains, and who now faces a daunting cycle challenge around the Ring of Kerry. Ken took us through his personal journey, and how his own story impacted on his business. “If it’s not working, change it” was the simple but powerful message.

Samantha Kelly followed a quick networking break, and told her own story, from Dragon’s Den to Tweeting Goddess. We got a host of Twitter tips from the Goddess, and practical advice for all businesses to implement. We then heard the Twitter story of Claude Saulnier of Wandsoft, who became intrigued by Twitter when a tweet he put out appeared in a French newspaper and word got back to him here in Ireland. It was an eye opener as to the power of the platform which prompted him to learn more and embrace tweeting for his business.

Steve Spade brought a bit of showbiz to proceedings with some magic. Steve, dubbed ‘Ireland’s answer to Houdini’, is an illusionist. The audience were captivated and afraid for his volunteer, with the fear that the poor man was to be impaled in front of our eyes. He wasn’t, thankfully. This was something completely different for a business conference, but thoroughly enjoyable!

Susan Hayes Speechless

After lunch came the highlight of the day for me, Wayne Denner. Don’t let the Jedward-like appearance fool you, this guy knows his stuff! Online reputation is what Wayne’s all about. His slick deck of Prezi slides matched his style – original, animated and fun. He had us laughing at tales of his mother embarrassingly using Facebook and text speak in the wrong way, but used the humour to make some very valid points about your ‘digital tattoo’, which everybody has – yes, everybody! Wayne is focusing on educating young people about their online reputation, and in the next week or two we should see his book hitting the digital shelves, “The Student’s Guide to an Epic Online Reputation”. It’s easy to see how young people would relate to Wayne. He’s not just another stuffed shirt coming to give a talk on what not to do. This is what I want my son to learn at school – how to make the most of your online presence and make it work for you. Every school should have this guy in.

“The biggest threat to our online reputation is us”. – Wayne Denner

Wayne Denner Online Reputation

Elaine Carroll of Mespil Solutions followed to tell her story of how she came from 12 months ago collecting social welfare, to now, where Mespil Solutions have opened 4 offices and have achieved great success.

“It’s not the turnover that counts. It’s the leftover”.

Again, she provided practical tips for the room to help grow their businesses.

The next speaker, Mags Durand O’Connor, certainly made the greatest emotional impact on the room. Her story was very personal, and explained why she now works tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention.

A day filled with inspirational stories of highs and lows was finished off perfectly by the incredible Marissa Carter of Cocoa Brown tan. This woman has gone from failing her business and marketing course in DIT and getting fired from her job in the same week, to becoming one of Ireland’s most noted entrepreneurs, having sold over 3 million products to date.

“When I created Cocoa Brown, I wanted to be ruthless. I wanted to annihilate the competition.”

Well, this slight lady who must be all of 5’2” has done a pretty impressive job of it so far, with her products stocked in all the major retailers, sweeping up every award in front of her, and even taking herself and her Cocoa Brown crew to the Oscar’s to spray tan the stars.

Marissa Carter Cocoa Brown at the Oscars

Cocoa Brown goes to the Oscars!

“It was a dream of mine to become a market leader. I am living the dream.”

A powerful story to finish off an inspirational day. What actually baffles me most about these IrishBizParty conferences is how on earth they manage to keep the cost so low. They have great speakers, a great venue, lots of benefits, and yet, it only costs €30. Fantastic. I can only assume it’s down to the sponsors, who this time around were Sage, Vodafone, The Brehon Hotel and CastlePrint.

If you missed out on a ticket for this conference, the next one is due to be held in Mayo in November, so contact Samantha Kelly for details – I’d highly recommend it.


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Aine Bermingham of Utter Digital (@UtterDigital)


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