Sailing the High Seas (literally) in the Pro-Am Volvo Ocean Race

23 May

What’s that one dream, goal, wish, or aspiration in your life?  Think hard… What’s tops your bucket list?

How about traveling the world?

That’s exactly what six teams are trying to accomplish in one of the most riveting, physically demanding, thrilling, and dangerous races in the world – the Volvo Ocean Race – and I was fortunate enough to get a first-hand experience at what they’re living and breathing for nine months!

This one-of-a-kind competition stops at only 10 ports worldwide, and Miami was lucky enough to host the only North American stopover for a two-week duration. What’s even luckier is the fact that I won a Facebook contest held by the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau which landed me a spot to sail with French team Groupama in the Pro-Am race on May 18, 2012.

This incredible experience is hard to describe in words so I’d like to use a couple analogies… This is like swimming laps with Michael Phelps, or shooting hoops with Lebron James, or singing karaoke with Rihanna.  These guys (yes, male-only teams) are facing extreme weather conditions, crossing the equator four times, and living on a boat for nearly 40,000 miles in the deep ocean waters. Only the great survive. And only the best are crowned champions.

I had the pleasure of competing on French team Groupama with about ten other male guests (I was the only female) in Pro-Am Race 3 against Abu Dhabi, Puma, Camper/Emirates NZ, Telefonica, and Sanya. The race course was set up just off the coast of South Beach, and the race lasted for about 30 minutes. Weaving around each other, and jibing back and forth, these gentle giants powered through the pristine Caribbean waters in hopes of  earning points for their team. Remember that scene in Titanic where Jack and Rose stand on the ledge of the bow with their arms in the air as if they’re flying – that’s what sailing with Groupama felt like.  But the actual sailing wasn’t the only “wow” factor. It was also getting to meet these superstar sailors and learning the ins and outs of operating a sail boat (remember – this is the equivalent of getting free throw pointers from Lebron James)! I was also fortunate enough to get a personal tour underneath the deck from media crew member Yann Riou. He showed me where they “sleep,” eat, produce videos, and even the mechanical parts of the boat. Mind blown (and lost). Only about six guys can sleep at one time in their tiny little cots. The loud rumblings are sure to put a permanent ringing in their ears. And they have zero privacy. If you’re looking for heroes or idols to look up to – these are your guys!

I won’t bore you with any additional attempts to try to get you to understand and feel what it was like racing with these superstars. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves… You can also view all my photos on Facebook. There’s also a short, candid interview with Yann at the bottom of this post – be sure to check it out! Questions? Comments? Leave ’em at the bottom 🙂

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The Ever-Changing World of Social Media and Business: Are You Prepared?

4 May

Social Media and the “Big Picture”

We’re almost half-way through 2012 (believe it), and it seems like many businesses are finally understanding that they need to incorporate social media into their company’s “big picture” in order to survive and thrive in today’s current and future economy. In past years, businesses always thought social media was a personal and private online activity, a fad, a place to find funny videos and pictures of family and friends. So, how in the world does the future of social media and technology contribute to a company’s success? Let’s count the ways…

“Glocal” Online Internet Usage

Did you know Americans spend an average of 30 days a year on the Internet? This isn’t just an American phenomenon either. While nearly 70% of Americans engage in social networking, Brazil dominates that number at about 90%, according to Nielsen and the Pew Research Center.  Whether it’s at home, during work, or on the go – children, adults, and the elderly alike are all consuming online media. In fact, it’s predicted that in less than two years, mobile Internet usage will surpass online desktop usage. We are no longer living in a global world; we are living in a “glocal” world where information travels across the globe in a matter of seconds, thanks in large part to the fab five – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google Plus as well as tablets, smartphones, and apps. Everyone is now given a voice, and companies big and small should be paying attention. Make an impact not just ten miles away, but thousands of miles away with the click of a button.

It’s All About Visuals and Sharing

It’s true – a picture is worth a thousand words, and there’s an app for everything. There’s no wonder why LinkedIn is buying SlideShare or why there’s an app that merges Pinterest and Instagram together. Capturing the essence of your brand visually using images and videos and sharing it across social media platforms will have a much greater effect than what most companies are doing. Remember – quality over quantity.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

We live in the digital age where everything is changing at a constant yet rapid speed. It takes time, skill, and passion to stay up-to-date. However, if your business stays on top of these trends and ahead of the curve, it could be a significant game-changer and differentiator. Maybe there’s an effective way to incorporate gamification or augmented reality into your marketing strategy? Perhaps the highlight app will incorporate LinkedIn contacts making the app your right-hand business tool? Maybe not, but you’ll never know if you don’t try, and the possibilities are truly endless.

The future of business depends on the ever-changing world of social media and technology. Who knows what will really happen in one, two, or five years from now, but we do know tools are being created each day to bring people closer and closer together. Embracing this change is key to understanding and interacting with your audience which will ultimately prove your success.

Want to learn more about the future of social media and tech? Read my 5 great tips from SXSW.

5 Key Takeaways from SXSW!

29 Mar

Alas, SXSW has ended, my mother has flown back home, and Ultra is no longer pounding in my head… Now, I’d like to share with you my recap of SXSW! 

Not going to lie, I’m basically copying and pasting what I already wrote for my Firm’s blog post recapping SXSW, but these are my 5 major takeaways from this year’s conference:

  1. Content, content, content!  Have you ever heard the expression, “content is king?” Well this is true now more than ever. Content strategy, creation, and curation were covered in multitude. Creating good content is not an easy task, but thought leaders shared some helpful tips:
    1. Create a content strategy that includes workflow, substance, structure, and governance revolving around your core strategy.
    2. Experiment with different types of content: text, photos, graphics, videos – and be sure that all content is flexible and tailored to your audience and platform with a specific goal to achieve.
    3. Write with a journalist mindset. Content is all about real-time marketing, storytelling, and an editorial point-of-view.
    4. Do more with less. Increase the quality of your content, not quantity. And it’s smart to re-use and re-purpose good content.
    5. Don’t forget to use a little humor.
    6. Is your content compelling to readers? Visible to search engines? Linkable to partners? Shareable through social media? And transferable to mobile devices? Make sure it is!
  2. Social media is here to stay. It’s evolving and becoming even more personalized. Integrate social media efforts into the entire marketing plan, and turn your employees into your online activists. And how do you prove ROI? That’s still a burning question among all the experts… My favorite tips include creating your own value system, benchmarking, and paying attention to the final outcome of your efforts.
  3. Data is no longer boring. Data is now fun, interactive, and visual! All companies have mounds of data that can be interpreted visually to create stunning infographics, interactive charts, and useful, eye-appealing content.
  4. Search engines aren’t what they used to be. How do you improve your company’s Google or Bing ranking? There are many solutions such as creating great content, focusing on the user experience, including meta descriptions, leveraging social media, and much more.
  5. Future technology is really cool and a little creepy. Creating an online, automatic, and personalized alter ego from online data is already possible. Google Plus Your World is changing and personalizing our search results based on our profiles, searches, and friends’ online activity. Augmented reality is soon going to become reality. Instead of revolving around your mobile phone, your phone will revolve around you. And location-based technology will be even more interactive and automatic.

What did you learn at SXSW? Please share in the comments section!

SXSW – I’m Coming for You! Here’s My Top 10 Tips and Bucket List.

7 Mar

It’s now March 2012 (what the…where did the time go?), and that means March Madness on steroids! It also means it’s time for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival! Although there are three sections to SXSW (interactive, film, music), I will be attending the interactive portion only (for work). This is my second year to the wonderful city of Austin, and hopefully I learned some valuable lessons last year that are applicable to this year.

Things like…

  1. Expect 5 hours of sleep per night (if you’re lucky).
  2. It’s pretty chilly – bring cardigans, sweaters, sweatshirts, etc.
  3. You could survive on free food and drinks the entire festival. Seriously.
  4. Sometimes your schedule of sessions relies entirely upon geography – some of the hotels are spread out!
  5. Network, network, network!
  6. Go to some “personal” sessions for yourself – in whatever interests you. You can apply anything to your line of work and industry.
  7. Even though you’re walking around downtown Austin A LOT, you’re also eating A LOT (mmm bring on the BBQ and tex mex)!
  8. Take advantage of the phone charging stations in the Convention Center. You can literally drop off your phone, and they’ll lock it up in a box, charge it, and you can come back whenever to pick it up.
  9. Talk to the people sitting next to you in the sessions. Don’t bury your head in your phone/computer/tablet.
  10. If you don’t like the sessions you’re in, check out the other sessions’ hashtags to see if they’re worthwhile to switch into. Just be careful that its session/room isn’t full. Otherwise, you’ll be left in the hall…
This year, I’ll be conducting a fun Twitter campaign for my Firm – Kaufman, Rossin & Co. Therefore, between March 8-14, I’m asking all of you to tweet @KaufmanRossin and me (@Aubrey_Swanson) why you love accountants with #ILoveAccountants. I’m literally going to wear a bright t-shirt every day at SXSW and approach strangers, asking them for their #ILoveAccountants tweets. I also have some sweet Kaufman, Rossin sleep masks to hand out to some lucky twitterers! Click to learn more about #ILoveAccountants.

I’ve also made a SXSW 2012 bucket list 🙂

  1. Ride a mechanical bull
  2. Eat my weight in brisket
  3. Run 3 miles at least 3 times
  4. Gain at least 100 #ILoveAccountants tweets
  5. Sing karaoke
  6. Late-night chicken and waffle truck run
  7. Take a picture with a CEO or founder of a legit (the average American would recognize) company
  8. Ask a Google employee, “Seriously, what were you guys thinking when you created Google Plus?”
  9. Make it to Gary V‘s #secret_wine_party 😉
  10. Tell a stranger, “Save a horse. Ride a cowboy!”
Have a good SXSW tip or something to add to my bucket list? Leave a comment! If you’re coming to SXSW, email me or tweet me, and let’s meet up!

Social Media Week Miami – Taking the Talk Offline

22 Feb

For all you social media nerds in South Florida, last week’s Social Media Week Miami (#SMWmiami) served as a local social media geek haven. With six panels each day spanning over five days, sessions covered a wide, but focused, range of topics including personal branding, event planning, fashion, real estate, music, food, social good, mommy bloggers, and much more – all centered around social media, of course!

While each panel left me reminiscing about a helpful tip, idea, or just confirmed my own social media strategy and implementation, being part of #SMWmiami was most memorable due to all the new and old faces I was fortunate enough to meet and see. Before stepping foot into the Adrienne Arsht Center, the major host of SMWmiami, I assumed the room would be filled with familiar faces from Social Media Club South Florida, Chevy crawls, tweetups, and the like. Boy was I wrong (and pleasantly surprised)! The 150 capacity room was packed full of social media enthusiasts – mostly new faces. This week-long event brought together PR and marketing specialists, curious minds, and lots of newbies. Each night there was a different networking event where, believe it or not, we could socialize in person. These in-person events are always the best part of social media!

Say what?

Yes! In-person networkers give us social media addicts the chance to meet the person behind the Twitter handle or brand name. I can go months of tweeting someone without ever physically meeting him/her, and then when the opportunity of meeting in person presents itself, we can skip the whole “Hi, my name is Aubrey. I’m the social media coordinator at Kaufman, Rossin, an accounting firm, and Lit Software, the developer of iPad apps for attorneys” elevator speech because we’ve already engaged in [online] conversation. That’s when the real relationship building begins, and I’ve met some of the most amazing people because of our online/offline interactions.

SMWmiami introduced me to very fun, intelligent, like-minded people, and I can’t wait to stay in touch (online and off). For those of you who just came out of the woodwork, are still curious about the South Florida social media community, or just want to meet new people, I definitely encourage you to join the local groups and attend events. Contact me if you’d like to learn about them!

SMWmiami was just a preview to what’s to come. Next up – South by Southwest (SXSW)-Interactive in Austin from March 9-13. Let me know if you’re coming! I’ll be launching a fun social media campaign for Kaufman, Rossin 🙂

Big thanks to The brpr Group for organizing SMWmiami! All the sessions were free and available to anyone. Also, thank you to all the wonderful panelists who volunteered their time, tricks, and tips as well as AT NIGHT for taking the below photo at the Mandarin Oriental reception.

Let’s Go Art Basel -ing!

1 Dec

December 1st. To most, that marks the first day of the 25 days ’til Christmas countdown, but to Miamians, it means the first of four days of ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH!

Here’s your guide to Art Basel Miami Beach 2011 – a list of events that I’m attempting to make appearances at:

Thursday, December 1:

  • 5th Annual Art Under the Stars Event – 6-9pm, Coconut Grove Bank, 2701 South Bayshore Drive, 2nd Floor | RSVP: 305.808.3701
  • FriendsWithYou Opening reception – 7-10pm, 3930 NE 2nd Ave, Ste 202 | RSVP: RSVP@friendswithyou.com
  • Locust Projects’ Art Basel Reception – 7-9pm, 155 NE 38 Street
  • Scope Miami Official Pre-Party – 7-10pm, Spinello Gallery, 150 NE 42 Street
  • Reloaded Party – 7-12am, Internum, 3841 NE 2nd Ave, Ste. 101 | RSVP: eric@ddmadvertising.com
  • Contemporary Asian Art, 7:30pm, Mandarin Oriental, 500 Brickell Key Drive | RSVP: aspang@mohg.com
  • Duncan Quinn Anarchy in Miami – 8-11pm, 4040 NE 2nd Ave, The Moore Building #102 | RSVP: grady@duncanquinn.com
  • Absolut Vodka Cocktails Perfected – 8-11pm, 27th Street and 2nd Ave | RSVP: thursdayrsvp@epoplife.com
  • Launch of Refinery29 Miami Edition – 9-12am, 297 NW 23 Street | RSVP: refinery29@taraink.com

Friday, December 2:

  • Vogue Lounge – 12-7pm, Sagamore Hotel, 1671 Collins Ave
  • MIAMI Magazine Arts & Power Issue Release & Art Basel Soiree – 6-9pm, 3925 N. Miami Ave | RSVP: Miami@baltususa.com (subject line: Miami magazine event)
  • Macallan Scotch Soiree – 9-12am, The Raleigh, 1775 Collins Ave | RSVP: Macallan@bmfmedia.com

Saturday, December 3:

  • Essex House “Natives” Exhibition Cocktail Reception – 7-9pm, 1001 Collins Ave | RSVP: marketing@clevelander.com
  • Javier Martin – 7-10pm, Artecity, 435 21st Street | RSVP: miami@baltususa.com
  • Fete a la Plage Soiree – 8-11pm, Shelborne Hotel, 1801 Collins Ave | RSVP: stbarth@oceandrive.com
  • Fisker Automotive Reception – 8-10pm, Raleigh Hotel – AD Oasis, 1775 Collins Ave | RSVP: fisker@archdigest.com

Sunday, December 4:

Ongoing Exhibits:

I foresee a lot of art, alcohol, hipsters and sleep deprivation. That’s definitely my idea of a fun weekend! Enjoy 🙂

*Note* – Many deadlines to RSVP have passed

#SeaTweetup Social Media Scavenger Hunt Today – Here’s Your Tasks!

18 Nov

The committee members of the first ever #SeaTweetup on the Norwegian Sky have created an awesome, fun, and entertaining Social Media Scavenger Hunt for our passengers! It will take place today from 2:00-4:00pm all around the Norwegian Sky ship. You can meet the organizers and receive a printed task list at our home-base which is on the Pool Deck in front of Breakers Bar.

Text version:

Rules:

  • Hashtag: #SeaTweetup
  • List of scavenger hunt items will be made available through links tweeted by all organizers as well as @SeaTweetup and Facebook.com/SeaTweetup. Hard copies will be available upon arrival at Norwegian Sky on Pool Deck.
  • All items must be photographed and tweeted with #SeaTweetup.
  • When finished, each contestant must come to the pool deck to show the organizers.
  • To confirm, organizers will check contestant’s Twitter stream to make sure each item is properly documented.
  • If all items are not properly documented, the contestant may continue to try until time is up.
  • Winner(s) will be randomly chosen from all correct entries.
  • Winners and prizes will be announced during Sail Away Tweetup & BBQ on pool deck at 5:00pm.

Scavenger Items:

  • Bubbling Water
  • Piano
  • Flotation device other than life-preserver
  • MillerCoors Logo
  • View from Outrigger Lounge
  • Dolphin
  • Old man with books
  • Photo with a Norwegian Sky crew member
  • Frozen drink
  • Norwegian Cruise Line sign

GOOD LUCK TO ALL PARTICIPANTS! 🙂 

#SeaTweetup Itinerary – Sailing out Friday!

16 Nov

Here’s the final #SeaTweetup aboard the Norwegian Sky itinerary! Some of the activities include 2 sponsored cocktail parties as well as a beer and food pairing by MillerCoors (prior to departure), a Social Media Scavenger Hunt (prior to departure), tweetups, Social Media Roundtable Presentations, group dinners, dancing, networking, free food and WIFI cards, and… THE BAHAMAS! Oh, and you’ll be part of the first ever tweetup at sea! You’ll also be leaving with a bag FULL of SWAG 😉

There’s still time to reserve your spot! You have 24 hours to book prior to departure. Prices went down to $225 per person (including food)!

iSad. Are uSad?

6 Oct

I’m typing this new blog post on my iPad (which I received from Kaufman, Rossin for TrialPad work purposes)… When I go running, I listen to my blue Apple shuffle (“inherited” from my ex)… I don’t own an iPhone because I stand strongly by my Droid. I have a 17″ HP laptop which is now two pieces held together by tape, and I frequently work/play on my functioning HP netbook.

I am not an iFanatic. But the loss of Steve Jobs is still gutt-wrenching.

“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”

“Where were you during 9/11?”

“Where were you and how did you feel when you heard Steve Jobs died?”

I was in my car. I had just pulled into Publix when they announced the iconic Steve Jobs’ passing. I was listening to Y100 and thought it was either a joke or a mistake. I quickly pulled out my Droid and checked my Twitter feeds… It was true. “RIP Steve Jobs,” “#ThankYouSteveJobs,” “#iSad,” inspirational Steve Jobs quotes – all occupied my Twitter timelines.

Why is the world coming to a stand-still? How did Apple attract such a cult-like fan base? Apple wasn’t the first to invent the computer, music, phone or even mp3 player, so why are iUsers and non-iUsers alike commemorating this man and this company? Because any John Doe knows that Steve Jobs has revolutionized technology and the way the world revolves. He is a visionary. The world’s greatest entrepreneur. A husband and a father. A respectable man who kept his private life private. His speeches are inspirational and mind-blowing. Who doesn’t wish they could come up with the hundreds of memorable quotes that have rolled off Steve Jobs’ tongue? What college drop-out isn’t using the excuse, “Steve Jobs dropped out of college and look what he’s created. I could be the next Steve Jobs!” And now, thanks to our high-tech prying and to Wikipedia, I’ve become aware that Steve Jobs is adopted, just like me, so perhaps I can say “Steve Jobs was adopted and look at what he created. There’s still hope for me!” (ironically, today is my legendary Airplane Day – the day I graced America and my family with my presence).

What will be Apple’s next move? What will be the next iInvention? Who knows…? No one knows because nobody except for Steve Jobs could ever fathom the idea of the iWidget. It will be interesting hearing everyone’s thoughts at tomorrow evening’s Refresh Mobile October meeting where I have been given the honor to present on TrialPad… I now look at it as a great opportunity to exchange ideas and discussions with so many mobile and Apple enthusiasts as well as an opportunity to commemorate and celebrate Steve Jobs’ life and stunning creations.

Apple will now turn the page and enter a new chapter, while never forgetting the visionary behind them.

RIP Steve Jobs. You will be missed.

Career Fairs: The Good, The Bad, The….Huh?!

20 Sep

It’s mid-September… The beginning of Fall… You know what that means – college football, pro football, Octoberfest, Halloween, Iron Fork (S FL residents), Thanksgiving, cooler weather, etc…etc… It also means recruiting season for companies everywhere! Career fairs, school/organization networking events, tours, interviews, resume critiques, presentations, and lots more! Now that I’ve been on both sides (eager job-seeking students and employer), I’d like to highlight some of the things that are associated with career fairs and share with you the good, the bad, and the things that make you say “what the…”

Employer side

The good:

  • Meeting new people – students, other employers, the awesome career center staff
  • Getting to gloat about my awesome job and amazing company – Kaufman, Rossin & Co.
  • Learning about students and their accomplishments – it’s awesome to find out where they’re from, what they’re studying, where they’ve worked, what organizations they’re involved in, what their talents are, and why they’re interested in our company
  • Traveling!
  • Change of scenery – out and about, away from my desk 🙂
  • Getting to know my coworkers better (spending 3-6 hours together at a booth definitely qualifies as quality time)
  • Collecting tons of giveaways and goodies

The bad:

  • Awkward handshakes
  • Lots of germs
  • Aching feet (heels are the devil)
  • The two extremes – cocky, “entitled” students v. too quiet, confused students
  • Unprepared students – do your homework, kids!
  • Always being “on” – it gets tiring after 5 career fairs
  • Not being able to give every student an interview

The “what the…”

  • Outfits (ehem, skirts) that make me question if we’re at a career fair or a club in South Beach
  • Improper hygiene
  • Those who grab giveaways just because they’re free and don’t even have a conversation

Student side

The good:

  • The great opportunity to meet the people you hope to work with someday
  • Getting to know companies more in-depth
  • Face time with HR directors and recruiters
  • The potential to land your future career
  • Practicing skills needed for interviews, networking, and the real world in general
  • Dressing up and showing off to your lazy classmates who choose not to attend the career fair
  • Exemplifying to your professors that you’re serious about your career
  • Receiving resume critiques

The bad:

  • Depending on your school, having to choose between attending class or the career fair
  • It’s still hot in South Florida… Which means you’re trucking from class/dorm/home in the humid hot heat to the location of the career fair = sweaty mess
  • Trying to find that “perfect” suit
  • Saying the same thing over and over to all the companies you’re interested in
  • Awkward conversations
  • Nervousness – it’s very nerve-racking!
  • Not landing a follow-up interview

The huh…!?

  • Falling (in front of the line to check into the career fair, in the career fair, in front of your hopeful future employer)
  • Stuttering
  • Losing your train of thought
  • Awkwardly waiting in line to speak to an individual employer while his/her coworkers have zero students to talk to (the favorites game – aka: I need to speak with this person because he/she is more important and makes the hiring decisions)
  • Being dismissed by rude employers
  • Any embarrassing moment – food stuck in teeth, sneezing, hiccups, etc.

What are your favorite and worst parts of career fairs? I’d love to hear from employers and students alike!

Disclosure: This blog post is written based on my own observations, own opinions, and own humor 🙂 Not to be mistaken by opinions of my employer, coworkers, schools, or anyone/thing inbetween. Enjoy!