Photos special to Fargo INC!
The idea started back when I worked for the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, where we had launched a similar event series. Because of the size of the market, we hosted nine events a year there. But compared to a big metro with big speakers a dime a dozen, here I noticed that the opportunity wasn’t there for professionals to get access to big names. One of my first items of business when I came to Fargo was to launch Voices of Vision with this in mind. Of course, because our market is smaller, we only host one a year, but regardless, the event is gaining momentum and popularity year after year.
Voices of Vision is an annual event that brings nationally known thought-leaders to the community. It brings together people of all walks of life to hear from others with incredible stories. Through this, we hope to not only expose our members to these high-profile individuals, but give the same individuals the chance to see and experience our great community. Hopefully they are so impressed that they tell their network how great it is in FMWF.
Like all our signature events, we host the event over lunch and have opportunities for networking as well. Employees of our top-level sponsors even get private photo opportunities with the speaker.
- 2017: Shaquille O’Neal
- 2016: Robert O’Neil
- 2015: Rudy Giuliani
- 2014: Terry Bradshaw
- 2013: Jeb Bush
- 2012: Joe Theismann
- 2011: Bob Woodward
- 2010: Lt. Col Oliver North
Our aim with these events is to bring in big names that most people recognize. Cultural relevance is important. We look for people who are accomplished, with interesting stories and advice for our attendees. Often past speakers have included athletes, politicians or military leaders. Newsmakers, movers and shakers. But all of them have ties to business ventures and entrepreneurship.
Every year, we ask our members for suggestions who they want to see. We compile a list and I go over it with our events director to narrow down who we think a wide range of people would be interested in, who we think we can get and afford. We keep a running list year to year, watching who is relevant, interesting, in the news or talked about. Sometimes, we have existing connections to speakers (like Shaq’s college basketball coach with North Dakota ties), and other times, our work begins with an agent or speaker’s bureau.
(Behind-the-scenes) Speaker stories
I asked my staff to share with me some of their favorite moments and stories from the years. One of the favorites for all was Terry Bradshaw, who graciously spent extra time talking to attendees seated in the overflow room. His larger-than-life personality made for great stories and laughs all around. On his way out, he flashed us the Bison horns from the vehicle. A photo of it is hanging in our events director’s office.
Oliver North went pheasant hunting in western North Dakota just days before our event. Our VP says he had a very pleasant conversation with him in the car when he picked him up at the airport.
Joe Theismann had dinner with his friend/former Washington Redskins player Darwin Robinson who works at Ihry Insurance, at Doolittle’s the night before his presentation.
Jeb Bush sent a personal thank you letter to me after the event, commenting on how well run it was. Mike Thomas’ 10-year-old son also sent us a letter saying that meeting Jeb was the best day of his life.
The night before his event, Rudy Giuliani was trying to watch the GOP debate at his hotel. Turns out they didn’t have the channel, so our VP arranged a TV and spot for him to watch it at the Fargo Country Club. Our events director said that watching Rudy watch the debate was like watching most men watch football.
The year after that, we lost Rob O’Neill (a SEAL Team Six leader who was responsible for Osama bin Laden) at one point! Turns out he was running behind in his schedule, and when our staff went to check on him, they found him starting to change in the hallway outside his hotel room, which he had been locked out of. Before that, a veteran who works at Western State Bank gave Rob a “bracelet” and thanked him for his service. He was seen wearing the same bracelet still on FOX News later.
Last year, Shaq provided endless stories for our team. We provided him with a gift basket of local goods in his green room, and during the event, he gave Dot’s Pretzels quite the shout-out. Afterward, he received several boxes of Dot’s to his house. While backstage, he hung out with his uncle who had traveled with him. His request while back there? McDonald’s! His order was 24 McNuggets, a double cheeseburger, a Big Mac, supersized fry and a Diet Coke. Shaq’s humility and easy-going, laid-back nature was a bit of a surprise for our team, but as we learned from his presentation, Shaq is a character for the media, but Shaquille O’Neal is a pretty average guy. Shaq even made a point to introduce himself to, and thank, the servers and staff at the facility.
Coming November 14: Danica Patrick
This year, we’re thrilled to welcome our first female speaker, professional race car driver Danica Patrick. Tickets and tables have already sold out, and we’re so grateful for the growing interest in this series and speaker!
Stay tuned to see who we bring next year for our tenth annual event! Please feel free to reach out with suggestions who you’d like to see next.
FMWF Chamber of Commerce
202 1st Ave. N, Moorhead