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This is my first year at Summer Brand Camp. I’ve heard so many great things about it, and I’m excited to be a camper! So, I asked Chris Ebbeler and Dom Perry (Chili’s Bar & Grill) and Gini Quiroz (K&N Management): What really goes down at Summer Brand Camp?

It’s true. Your company is paying for you to have this much fun.

Chris told me that it’s not just another conference with overcooked chicken. “First timers should suspend disbelief. You won’t believe that your company is really paying for you to attend and to have so much fun. It’s energetic and up-tempo in a very relaxed setting. You’ll be surrounded by people with big ideas. It’s not about change just for change’s sake but to change for the right reasons. Be prepared to have fun – more fun than you can imagine.”

Gini added, “You’ll have so much fun that you won’t believe how quickly it passes.”

Get Your Mind Right

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Dom told me to “Come in vulnerable and with an open mind. When you do that, the places you’ll end up are much more rewarding.” He shared a great analogy, “Imagine a bulls-eye made up of three rings: comfort, stretch and panic. Get in that stretch ring and you’ll be set for Summer Brand Camp.”

Chris warned me to get ready to tweet. “It’s a shareable event, with lots of social media activity. Participate and have fun!” And in case you were unaware, our hashtag is #SBrandCamp and has boasted more tweets/reach than the #NRAShow in previous years. We are so powerful that we trended on Twitter during our first ever Twitter Chat (next one scheduled for 4/30 at 2pm CT!). #Breaktheinternet, campers!

What kind of information can I expect to get?

You’ll hear from industry thought leaders, but Summer Brand Camp is not just a bunch of talking heads.

Chris commented that, “The speakers and the break-out sessions are relevant and on point. Everything is targeted to your business. With thought leaders and idea generators in the same room, people will be thinking through some of our industry’s biggest challenges: engagement, turnover, Fight for 15, immigration and the activist NLRB.”

Dom explained, “Expect to be inspired. There’s something special and unique about the atmosphere. It’s filled with very engaged people who want to share best practices.”

What kind of people will I meet?

Summer Brand Camp is truly a big pow-wow. We may come from different companies but at the end of the day we’re all part of an industry that we love and work hard to improve.

Chris noted, “We compete against each other 7seven days a week. For these three days that’s not what it’s about. Instead, let your guard down. You’ll know that you’re in the presence of good people who are truly your friends, even if they work for the competition.”

bo7q7ECw_400x400Gini shared that, “As a newbie, as much as anyone says you’ll fit in, you need to dive in. Everyone is so nice. Go to all of the sessions, to the service project and to the evening activities. You’ll build relationships with people that will last into the next conference. You’ll also discover that the people you meet don’t just want to help you – they’re eager to help you. We all want to elevate the industry and share our best practices.”

Dom commented, “It’s a real eclectic mix. The restaurant professionals you’ll meet are in marketing, HR or Ops and range from millennials to seasoned C-level executives. It’s a tribute to Joni and Wally’s leadership that they can assemble a group of fierce competitors in one room like this.”

What will my takeaways be?

Gini’s a self-professed “repeat offender” at Summer Brand Camp. It’s enriched her work and personal life year after year. “You’ll come back with ideas and you’ll start bragging about the experience to other people. That’s what happened to me. I first went to Summer Brand Camp five years ago and now a whole group of us goes. It’s wonderful because we all come from a different discipline – HR, operations, recruiting and training – yet we all return to work with a new focus.”

g5qRNVi3_400x400Chris told me, “Of course, there will be good blogging, but take good notes. You’ll realize that you have a blank canvas to work with and that Summer Brand Camp will fill that canvas with lots of great ideas.” I’ll try to make Chris proud on the blogging front, but I suspect most of the good sharing occurs when campers call each other up throughout the course of the year for help and advice.

That Summer Brand Camp feeling will last all year long. Dom said that, “Summer Brand Camp reignites my passion for the industry. The restaurant industry isn’t a 9-5 desk job. You must have the hospitality gene to be successful. Summer Brand Camp challenges us to collectively take the industry to the highest possible level and is simply inspiring and enlightening.”

Thanks to Chris, Gini, and Dom, I’m ready to pack my gear and head to Summer Brand Camp. Will I see you there?

HR Virtuoso is a proud sponsor of the 2015 Summer Brand Camp. Join us on Twitter @hrvirtuoso and share in this life changing experience! Click here for more information about Summer Brand Camp and to get registered.