Having recently attended panels that convened some of the usual presenters for businesses owned by Black (and other people of color) that were poorly realized because of their design, including having irrelevant and/or unprepared presenters, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who should be on these panels as well as about what I’d like to hear covered. So, here it goes.
Have facilitated networking at these events and/or distribute or post names of the people and businesses and organizations that were invited.
It’s such a waste to have a roomful of people and not mine the wealth of information or assist people in making connections. Some people are naturals at networking. Others aren’t. And even when you’re a forceful networker, it’s hard to effectively work a crowd at some of the big events. The sheer numbers of people mean you always feel you’ve missed someone.
Limit the Presenters – Three panelists and a moderator tops.
- That’s what manageable. That’s the optimum number to convey information in a 1-2 hour panel.
- Please require that they actually prepare their remarks. (Very few people can talk meaningfully without some notes – especially on panels that are about business or community affairs, etc.)
- Limit presentations to 10 minutes. (Enforce this.)
- Encourage them to have visuals – a PowerPoint is helpful.
Elected Officials – If the organizers feel they must invite elected officials, limit to two (one from the City and one from the State) who are allowed to speak.
They take up too much air time (mostly on generalities not specifics), are often self-congratulatory, and spend too much time introducing other politicians in the audience.
- Have one person – only -make welcoming remarks.
- Have a list of sponsors on your program and/or projected on the wall and/or posted on signs. If you must read them – do just that – read the list, don’t have them all make remarks.
- In making introductions, read one or two sentence bio statements. We don’t know to hear about every award, every degree, every publication and every claim to fame of the speaker! (Most of us in the audience assume that the panelists earned their spot and don’t need convincing that they are accomplished.)
Q&A – Allow it.
- People, whether they’ve paid an attendance fee or not but most especially when they’ve paid, should have opportunities to ask questions.
- There is always wisdom and information in the audience.
- Thoughtful questions actually get more information out of the panelists.
Just make sure to have someone facilitate the Q&A so that no single person dominates and the people who don’t actually have questions but want to lecture or sermonize or have emotional issues can be dealt with diplomatically.
We can do better:
- Than having these panels during Black History Month (and, for women-owned businesses, Women’s History Month). A statement reiterating this face is made during comments on these special occasions but still, there is persistence in scheduling these presentations and convenings during these months. (I would love to see a spreading of the wisdom and the love throughout the calendar year.)
- Than being used by large organizations as evidence that they’re doing real diversity work by having events that are essentially photo opportunities for them to fake commitment to community.
Let’s hear about:
How business owners have built their businesses without government contracts (since so many say they haven’t had any).
Whether having an MWBE certification actually results in paid contracts?
How people funded their business originally?
How many people employees they have.
How many Black people and people of color they’ve hired.
How many Black people and people of color they’ve used as interns.
What businesses owned by Black and other people of color do they use/support?
Have any businesses been able to collaborate to provide health insurance, fund human resource functions and marketing?
How many of them have formal business training?
What lessons have been learned in running businesses for 2, 3, 4 decades.
Do family-owned businesses they have succession plans in the works?
For people who’ve discontinued their businesses – why and where there things looking back that might they have done differently?
Following are some of the Black business owners in the Boston area that I’d love to hear present more frequently. (I don’t pretend that this list is comprehensive. These are businesses I’ve come up with off the top of my head.)
City Fresh Foods /City Growers – Glynn Lloyd
Proverb (Marketing agency/firm/shop/consultancy) – Daren Bascome
Vanguard General Services – Ernest Washington, Jr.
Bay State Banner – Mel Miller
Financial Education Associates – Jacqueline Cooper
Kelley Chunn & Associates – Kelley Chunn
Frank WIlliams –
Petsi’s Pies – Renee “Petsi” McLeod
Ethnica Caterers- George & Sharan Huggins
Causemedia/More Advertising – Donna Latson-Gittens
C. Thomas & Associates – Carole Copeland-Thomas
Cheryl Straughter – Soleil Restaurant
Jet-A-Way Waste Management & Recycling – Darlene Jeter
Slade’s & before that Graphix Printing – Terrell Calloway
Prestige Image Photography – Kamissa Barry
Merengue & Vigigantes (restaurants) Hector Pina
Wally’s – Elynor Walcott
Walnut Cleaners – ???
Flames Restaurants – ???
Former Long-term business Owners:
Rosalyn Elder – Jamaicaway Books & Treasured Legacy
Cassie Farmer – New World Security
A Nubian Notion – Jake Abdal-Khallaq
I’d like to give a shout-out to Richard Taylor, owner, Taylor-Smith Properties, who gave a wonderful presentation at the BHMBus Comm Forum at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. He gave wonderful context on the state of Black-owned business over the past 30 or so years and made suggestions about measures that would help Black-owned businesses. I don’t know him at all but his were the most useful comments of the evening.
Thanks for allowing me to rant and rave.
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A reader sent me this comment personally because she’s forgotten her password and didn’t have time to find it or reset:
What excellent suggestions for re-formatting black business panels! I agree that most of these black business panels have been poorly put together and are practically useless to most who attend. I so agree about politicians on panels – it’s more of a dog-and-pony show with absolutely NO substance for their being on the panel.
Years ago, I used to attend all the Boston School Committee meetings when it was an elected body and write up the minutes for a nonprofit that monitored the committee’s votes, discussion, etc. It was a lot of profiling and we ended up calling them the Boston Fool Committee!