Recap and Review – Verizon presents: “The Big Payoff NYC”

On Friday, May 15th, I was invited to attend “The Big Payoff NYC” presented by Verizon Wireless as VIP Press. I was simply asked to attend the event, enjoy myself, live tweet my experience and later write a blog post about it. I was not paid to attend. I was not given any gifts to attend. (Sometimes for the Verizon events, we receive gift cards or cool swag because we are a part of the Lifestyle Blogger program via The Online Mom and Verizon Wireless.) No such thing was promised. I was simply asked to attend and engage with the event through social media.

OVERVIEW OF THE NIGHT

According to their eventbrite information, Verizon has an ongoing nationwide 2015 “Potential of Us” City Session program. (I’m not entirely sure what happens at these city session programs.) This particular event, an exclusive evening of entertainment featuring Vin Keatin, Syesha Mercado, Dj KayB, and Melanie Fiona, was held at  Madiba Harlem at MY IMAGE STUDIOS (MIST).

The event also included an open forum panel led by NBC Apprentice finalist & MSNBC commentator, Kwame Jackson; Live Events Coordinator at Essence, Michelle Nance; CEO & Founder of Mama Foundation of the Arts , Vy Higginsen; Founder & Publisher of Abernathy Magazine, and Willie Jackson; Cast member in Youtube Web-series “Triangle”, Ryan Cross; CEO & Founder of Katalyst Live, Haithem Elembaby; Director of Publicity for the Entertainment Communications division of CBS Television Network, Noelle Llewellyn; Producer, Writer & Musician, Anthony “RoseGold” de La Rosa.

The Idea of the “Potential of Us” Campaign

The Potential of Us campaign began during Black History Month and was created to empower the African American community to leverage technology in pursuit of their passion and to take hold of their futures. One of the taglines of the program is, “Don’t just celebrate history. Create it.” <– I love that. I hope they gave a bonus to whomever came up with that copy.
With the idea of empowering the black community in mind, according to blogs like Divas and Dorks, “Verizon brought together some of the most influential personalities in the entertainment industry to share insights on building a lucrative career by tapping into one’s genuine interests.”
#PotentialOfUs

The Execution of the #PotentialofUs and The Big Payoff NYC

Listen, I love Verizon. I’ve been a devoted and paying customer for years. So much so, that I jumped at the chance to become a lifestyle blogger for them. I also like the idea of combining tech, culture, entertainment, business and more. On top of that, I like that part of celebrating this initiative includes concerts with amazing talent. But, I think the execution of this event did not meet my personal expectations. I had a fun time but my expectations were not met.
Let me tell you why.

THE PANEL

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First, there was the open forum panel discussion. In theory, its a great idea. Fill the panel with people doing amazing things with tech, entertainment and business and discuss key topics such as branding, marketing and technology. Next, open the panel up to any questions the audience may have.
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There were two issues with this.
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1. I personally wish we had been provided more information regarding what would be covered in the panel. I arrived hoping to learn something I had not before. Being as to how I live and breathe social media, most often you won’t catch me at an Intro to Social Media event. Parts of the panel felt just like that. That may be needed for some people. But with that being said, when hosting these kinds of events, inform your audience of what they can expect. I left that event with someone who booked a business consultation on social media from me and he was connected to the event itself!
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2. When the audience was allowed to ask questions, most people framed their questions in a way where it became a 1 minute or 5 minute plug for them to market their hustle to the panel and I’m guessing the rest of the audience. I didn’t come to this event to hear pitches from the audience. I came to hear how to better engage with tech and social media and to hear insights I hadn’t before.
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Be that as it may, most people attending these kinds of events either want to learn, want to be seen or want to get a deal. Knowing that is the case, perhaps Verizon and others who host events like this can do what WeWork does for their DemoDay. DemoDay is like a smaller version of SharkTank.  A handful of tech companies are given the opportunity to have a short 5 to 10 minute presentation. They get to pitch their ideas with powerpoints, demos and more. There is an expert panel filled with the best of the best in business and tech and they who asks similar questions as found on SharkTank. BUT you’re not going to get an investor and a deal at DemoDay. You simply get an investor’s feedback, their questions and advice. Next, the audience gets to ask questions too.
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I’ve attended two Demo Days and loved them and live tweeted during the event. Since most people are trying to come up in their entrepreneurial endeavors, I think rather than a panel talk where the basics of social media are covered such as remembering when you tweet something you can’t take it back, we could have reversed the evening and created an event that served as a platform for the audience to be heard since they used their time to ask questions to promote themselves in media, fashion, music and more. This is, if we really are trying to share insights on building a lucrative career.
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THE MEET and GREET

After the panel ended, everyone was asked to leave their seats, press included and we were escorted to two different rooms. From what I gather, the general public used that time to take pictures on Verizon’s step and repeat as well as meet with Melanie Fiona. The press was escorted to a different room where for two minutes we were able to hear Melanie Fiona welcome us. It wasn’t really a meet and greet. That was fine. I was able to spend that time listening to Keisha Katz of NBC explain to a gentleman the difference between being a blogger/writer and being an associate producer or producer for NBC. Ultimately he wants to be a producer. (Here’s another instance where what people want is to pitch their ideas and get practical advice on how to take their career to the next level.)
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If you know me, I’m a bit of an introvert. At most events, I hid behind my camera or my phone as I’m live tweeting. I tend to walk into a room understated and could care less about my status even though I’m grateful for what that status affords me. But, if you ask me a question on social media or business or marketing or on what I do….I’m going to share the world with you. And that’s what happened and that is how I ended up learning more about Keisha, the blogger and other collaborative ideas. That conversation was one of the highlights of the night.
 
#PotentialOfUs.

The Concert

The concert would be another of my favorite moments of the night. The highlights being the incredible, earthy, down-to-earth and authentic Syesha Mercado, pictured above, who could have my left arm if it meant watching her perform all day and the electric, soulful, erotic siren that is Melanie Fiona who could have whatever she wanted from me.
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Melanie Fiona gave me my entire life back. I’ve been a fan of hers for awhile but had never seen her perform live and it is a sight to behold. I should have known when I saw her team hanging dreamcatchers on stage and when the three foot fringe hanging from her mic reminded me of a flogger.
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What I think needs to happen in the cases of concerts and technology and social media is a better understanding of ways to engage with tech, still share via social media but still be present. Like all in one moment, I want to just listen to Melanie and mentally BE there but I also want to take pictures with my DSLR camera since I’m a photographer and press AND I want to take pictures with my Verizon #VZWBuzz phone because well, I’m a lifestyle blogger for them and I knew I needed to share those images and use that hashtag AND I want to tweet or instagram what’s going on AND….how can I do that all at once?
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#PotentialOfUs
How can I be present and share and capture and engage at the same time? Where is that app? How can I show the panelist that I’m listening to their every word when body language and eye contact speaks volumes but I appear disinterested when really I’m live tweeting their comments word for word. How can I do both? We need tech and ideas and brainstorming sessions for that!
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LIVE TWEETS and  the HTC ONE M9

Going into this event I knew I was to live tweet my experience using the #PotentialOfUs hashtag. I wasn’t paid to do it. I didn’t receive free swag, as I mentioned. I was just given priority seating, when all was said and done. You all know me. I don’t fake shit. I don’t gloss over shit. I don’t pretend to like something because I received it for free. I am authentic, truthful, real and raw. So every tweet, every post, every update is what I want to say. (Remember, when I first told you all about becoming a Verizon blogger. What I said still stands true.)
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So here I am, at the panel and concert, live tweeting up a storm. With the amount of people in attendance, I was actually shocked at how many people were not tweeting. Did Verizon reach out to twitter users to attend this event or just the general public? Maybe one of the requirements for this free event was a twitter account? Either way, at the same time that I was live tweeting, there was a competition going on for people who used the #PotentialOfUs hashtag. We were instructed to post selfies and also use a gazillion other hashtags too. I did neither. I just kept live tweeting from my perspective. Little did I know, that the amount, variety and types of tweets would lead me to being the one person who won the latest HTC One M9  Verizon phone.
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I had no IDEA! I was ecstatic. In fact, they took me backstage so that Melanie Fiona could officially preseny me with the Verizon HTC One M9 herself. Ahhhhh! The whole moment reminded me of when I attend “The Blackberry Experience” and my live tweets led to me winning a phone there as well. (And half my tweets were about my crush on the stage manager who was running the light board for the concert! I used the right event hashtag though and kept it tech related.)  I might be on to something!
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#PotentialOfUs
There was a bit of miscommunication between the PR Team, Verizon reps and more regarding the phone, me winning it, who I was as a blogger versus someone being PAID to attend but once I explained what social influencers do, who I represented, how I was not compensated to make up tweets and how I actually was a Melanie Fiona fan….they eventually gave me my new phone. I personally love the HTC phones. They take great pictures! See the image below. See how awesome I look. See how that was taken in the mirror using the HTC One Remix phone last October. See…..! Now imagine what I’m going to get into with this new HTC phone during all my upcoming travels!
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Empowering African Americans

Let us go back to the purpose of the Big PayOff Event and an even bigger issue, the purpose of The Potential Of Us campaign. Is Verizon empowering African Americans? Did The Big PayOff succeed in its intended goal? Was attending worth my time?
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Let’s answer in the reverse.
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1. I’m so glad I attended The Big Pay Off as I enjoyed the one-off conversations and the concert. I also love that while the event had its challenges in logistics, social media engagement and the panel, it inspired me and has pushed me to come up with better ideas regarding these issues.
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2. Did the event reach its goal? I guess so. I think it was supposed to be a star studded talk and concert tour to celebrate their bigger idea which is the Potential of Us campaign. I mean, it was also supposed to bring the most influential personalities together so they could share insights on building lucrative careers by tapping into one’s genuine interest. That goal being met depends on which audience member you ask.
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3. Is Verizon empowering African Americans? Well, I’d say they are empowering the brands and personalities they engage with while build more brand loyalty. I know they are a great company with amazing initiatives all across the board and all across the world. That should never be diminished or disregarded. They do so much and it is inspiring. And I know that the fans or customers who engage with Verizon at events like these are inspired and encouraged and have a good time. But is Verizon empowering African Americans communities to leverage technology in pursuit of their passion and to take hold of their futures?
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Its a tough question to ask when being African American is….I don’t know.
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  • We have hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter because of issues between black people and the police.
  • We have these ongoing yet viral fights that are filmed and instigated by crowds of teens in social settings because violence is prevalent and getting a blurb on World Star Hip Hop is all the rage these days.
  • Closer to home for me, as someone whose mission it is to create platforms for women to engage and discuss and grow in sexuality, sensuality, and self expression, you have black women singled out as black jezebels and twerking whores. Like we don’t get to be sensual and sexual creatures without being a fetish or taboo or a trend that needs to go away.

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I don’t know. For all the tech and access that Verizon has, while still aligning with their business goals and their brand identity…frankly I think they could do more. The concert was fun. The panel was interesting. I won a new phone. But I’m pretty sure that someone else just used their phone to record a black man being shot somewhere in America. What are we gonna do about that?

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Addendum

I finished writing this blog post around 6pm EST and now its 10pm EST and two things happened afterwards.

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1. I decided to ask my facebook friends what were the biggest issues in the African American community. Since Verizon and I’m sure others want to empower us, I wondered if we all were on the same page as to the challenges. What is affecting our power? What are the issues in our communities?  That post and  the various comments can be found here.

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2. I haven’t seen any news articles or cell phone images and social media shares of another black person killed by a cop in the last four hours….but do yourself a socially conscious favor and google “Chicago Cops and Black Man Wearing Antlers.” How can we use the power of companies like Verizon and the power of tech and the power of social media for socio-political causes? (For one, go read “Provoke – Under the Influence of Change. I mean, if Augusto Boal could find a way to use theater performance to enact political change, I am sure we can use business/technology/social media…to do the same too.)

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Dear Verizon, Melanie Fiona and everyone else involved, thank you so much for having me involved. We still have a lot of work to do though and there’s a bit of a disconnect. Lets work on that together. I’ve got some ideas!

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PS. I took a ton of photos of the night. You can view them here.

"Jawbone Up by Verizon Wireless"

*Disclaimer –  I’m a Verizon #VZWBuzz Lifestyle Blogger and I received a special VIP Press invite to attend The Big PayOff NYC. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own because otherwise what would be the point? 

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CHECK OUT MY OTHER VZWBuzz Posts such as The Philosophy of How to Be the Most Productive and  How Technology Makes Dating Awesome and How to Date a Football Fanatic and  Can I Vlog On My Nokia Lumia Icon and And If You See No Light, Let It Shine From Within and 3 Awesome Uses for Bose Sound MiniLink and Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE and Jawbone Up | Tips on Wellness, Fitness & Health and  My Day At Twitter

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About
Sheena LaShay is a Wild Magical Woman, Intellectual Sensual Shaman and Cultural Provocateur. Keeping it simple, you could say she's a Writer and an Erotic Artist.
Comments
  • Ximena
    Reply

    Haha–LOVE the comment about the copy–for me part of the fun of learning about business is how much more awareness it brings in. I love to critique slogans, brand names, and logo designs. So much thinking material!

    I’m always surprised when you describe yourself as an introvert–possibly because you are so vivid with your words that it’s like hearing your voice out loud. Could be that’s why you hear that so often. #WordArtist

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