Earlier this month, a group of ~75 employer branding and recruitment marketing practitioners descended on Austin for the first ever Talent Brand Summit (TBS), put on by the team at Talent Brand Alliance. This conference, or should I say un-conference, was part education, part community building and a whole lot of fun – we came, we shared, and we left no margarita unturned!

Here are a few of my key takeaways from the event:


#1 – There are no experts.

The first rule of Talent Brand Summit is there are no experts. When you’re in a space that’s only a decade old, it’s hard for any one person or team to have all the answers – we are all figuring it out as we go along, making the need for us to unite and continue to up skill the profession critical to our collective success.

To capitalize on the span of knowledge across attendees, the team behind TBS traded in the typical session model of one person at the front of the room with an idea and 30 slides, for non-expert led roundtable discussions on a set of progressive themes and group exercises. We worked through topics top of mind like employee advocacy and how to structure your team and moved into flexing our skills around gaining executive buy-in and presenting ROI of our activities.

Over the course of two days, session facilitators would pose a question to the greater group like “how would you target this persona” or “how would you request a new tool or program from leadership,” which we’d then work through at our tables and share our ideas back out to the room for broader discussion.

Dina Medeiros, Director of Global Talent Attraction & Employer Brand at Blizzard Entertainment, led my favorite activity focused on tackling the "b" word, budget. Dina doled out envelopes to the groups, each containing a different amount of investment to support a pipelining campaign to reach female developers. What I enjoyed about this activity is it highlighted the scrappy nature of our profession. For teams operating with $0 assigned budget, they dove into tools like Canva, leveraging employee advocates, and other no-cost channels to reach their goal. At the end of the day, we have pipelines to build and requisitions to fill, and we are going to figure out how to get there regardless of perceived obstacles.

Each facilitator’s topic built on the one before, culminating in a ‘pulling it all together’ wrap up, leaving every attendee with an actionable strategy and list of tactics to take back to their organization.


#2 – Community first (AKA Bryan and Will know how to throw one heck of a party).

There are countless options to be inspired and to learn how to be better at your job from blogs, to webinars, to vendor conferences and the like. Talent Brand Summit was not just about practical educational content, but how we can further the employer branding and recruitment marketing profession through community.

From the moment I set foot in Austin up through my Lyft ride to the airport to catch my flight home, I was surrounded by other practitioners wanting to talk shop. We empathised in each other’s struggles and celebrated each other’s success. We shared tools and challenged ideas, and we had a damn good time doing it.

The conference kicked off with a welcome reception sponsored by the team at Smashfly (thank you!), moved into team building activities around knife and ax throwing, bow and arrow shooting, and s’mores making, and ended with an Iron Chef Style salsa, guacamole and margarita throw down.

During the sessions, the summit organizers created an environment of trust and piqued interest that spilled over into an insatiable desire to continue to connect and learn from one another during community-building activities throughout the event.  

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#3 – We are just getting started.

Admittedly, I am not a big conference goer, but since Talent Brand Summit, I am armed to shake things up and re-evaluate how we communicate with our prospective candidates to give them the experience that they want.  I have a renewed motivation to keep championing this employer brand profession and the community we’ve built.

I had a blast being among the first to the summit. I am excited to see what future holds for this event and this space, and I hope that you’ll join me as I find out.  

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About Talent Brand Alliance:

We believe that employer branding and talent attraction professionals have a passion for creating a sense of community for employees at their respective companies. We take this passion and apply it to the growing ecosystem of talent branding professionals to empower learning, sharing and networking within recruiting. Join us!

About Holland:

Holland Dombeck McCue plays in the employment branding and B2B marketing space and currently heads up Recruitment Marketing and Global Employer Branding for Delta Air Lines. So, the opinions shared on the Talent Brand Alliance blog are hers and hers alone. She wishes it could go without saying, but hey, Legal runs a tight ship.