How Dell World 2015 Expanded This Entrepreneur’s View

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The following is a guest post from Natalie Zfat, a writer, entrepreneur and social media influencer. Dell frequently works with Natalie and her company The Social Co. 

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When I was invited to speak at Dell World about emerging trends that could potentially disrupt my business, I knew I had to bring my A-game because I would be speaking to the disrupters themselves.

Dell World, now in its fifth year, is Dell’s annual conference, where 6,000 tech industry attendees travel to Austin to explore the company’s latest innovations, industry predictions and thought leadership.

As the co-founder of social media agency The Social Co., I was most excited to learn how companies were using social to inspire and activate their audiences – but that notion quickly expanded.

Dell Founder and CEO Michael Dell set the tone for the week during his opening keynote Wednesday, saying “Technology doesn’t support the business model. Technology is the business model.” He also spoke extensively about the company’s acquisition of EMC.

“EMC? Sixty-seven billion dollars,” he said. “Being the master of your own destiny? Priceless.”

One of my first stops at Dell World was Dell’s Parmer South Campus, where I joined a group of 20 fellow writers to tour Dell’s testing and design facilities. We had a reasonably intimate encounter with Dell’s Rugged line – their roughest, toughest product collection – used by the U.S. military, among others. Journalists had the chance to literally hose down laptops and drop them onto concrete – simulating what the testing facility does to ensure the products are durable enough for tough terrain. “If Batman had a notebook, this would be it,” commented Dell’s VP of Commercial Client Solutions Kirk Schell.


The Rugged notebook going through a machine that closely resembles a car wash.

My next stop was the Women in IT luncheon, where I interviewed Carey Lohrenz, the Navy’s first female F-14 fighter pilot. Lohrenz spoke candidly about the 10 years she flew a $45 million fighter (“Your body feels like it weighs 1,800 pounds, which doesn’t make the five pounds you gained at Christmas seem too bad,” she joked.) Now a best-selling author, Lohrenz shared with me her love of apps, her best advice for someone entering the workforce and her thoughts on the wage gap. Tune in later this week for a video of that conversation.

As a social media entrepreneur, perhaps one of the most interesting talks I participated in was the Social Selling panel (you can watch it here on Dell World Live). I was joined by Dell VP of North America Commercial Marketing Bryan Jones, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Ari Lightman, Find and Convert CEO Bernie Borges, RockStar Consulting President David Fish, and Altimeter Group Founder Charlene Li. Li moderated the panel, where we discussed how companies are empowering their sales forces to use social media for relationship-building. Jones pointed out that Dell’s sales team uses social to create relationships and connect with their customers in new ways – while Lightman spoke to the Social Selling report CMU collaborated with Dell on.

As a journalist and creative, I took a slightly different approach than my fellow panelists, arguing that the most important task in social selling is keeping the conversation authentic. People don’t want to feel like they’re constantly being sold to – especially not on social media – so it’s important to know when to speak up – and when to sit out.

Other highlights from the week included Northside Festival’s first-ever Austin meet-up at Brazos Hall and a Social Influencer group bike pub crawl, where we broke a sweat – literally – to deliver lightning talks about what emerging trends keep us up at night. As a content creator, I shared my personal goal of constantly engaging my audience, especially considering the onslaught of content being published to the internet. (Fun fact: Two million Instagrams go live every 60 seconds.)


Bike pub crawl aside, there was no shortage of entertainment at Dell World. Austin-based rock duo Little Hurricane performed at the ACL Live at the Moody Theater – and John Mayer headlined the Dell World stage. (He too shared his tech woes, complaining about how everyone has to spend two hours on their birthday replying to texts.) The struggle is real.

My last stop was somewhat fitting: an Influencer Breakfast where I sat next to Dell CFO Tom Sweet. Sweet has experienced a busier year than most Dell employees, traveling to Boston weekly to close the EMC deal (though he told me it hasn’t stopped him from waking up at 4:30 a.m. for his daily workout.)

Sweet echoed Dell’s statements during his keynote the day before: “Go big or go home, baby.”

Looking forward to the next 30 years of even bigger and bolder innovations.

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Natalie ZfatPutting the “social" in social media, Natalie and her company The Social Co. have partnered with some of the largest brands in the world, including Rolling Stone, Food Network, Refinery29, American Express, Travel and Leisure, Levi’s and Dell.

Hosting videos and events, curating original content and implementing full-scale social media takeovers, Natalie gains millions of impressions for the brands she advocates for.
This year, Google named Natalie one of 60 Fun and Interesting People to Follow on Google Plus. And, you can follow her on Twitter at: @nataliezfat.
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