SEMA Member News July 2020

By Ellen McKoy

YEN Leverages Technology to Deliver Learning Experiences

YEN select committee member Jeremy Headlee of Icon Vehicle Dynamics.

With more than 1,000 members—all younger than 40—who work and reside across the United States and beyond, the Young Executives Network (YEN) strives to deliver resources to help young professionals sharpen skills and advance their careers.

From regional meets-ups and Lunch and Learn events to the SEMA Launch Pad competition presented by YEN at the SEMA Show and the annual awards networking reception, also held at the Show, there are various ways in which network members can stay connected and expand their knowledge throughout the year. One resource in particular has proven especially beneficial: YEN’s Live Chats with industry notables.

Using the Power of Technology

Young people in general and Millennials in particular often lead the way in adopting and using technology and in being able to use technology for work wherever and whenever. So it’s not surprising that YENsters, as they are known, would be the first group within SEMA to have utilized technology in the form of Facebook Live Chats to deliver information and inspiration.

“The Live Chats are a way for our network to leverage Facebook’s live video-chat technology to invite industry icons and industry standouts to share their knowledge, insights and experience with our general membership,” said Jeremy Headlee, who heads up YEN’s social-media and Live Chat initiatives. “Our members are all over the country, so this is our opportunity to bring some very experienced folks in front of our audience and allow them to share their stories with everybody, because we don’t get to see or talk to each other outside of the SEMA Show and a couple of other events throughout the year.”

When the Live Chats were first launched, each interactive session was limited to 20 minutes. More recently, YEN expanded the window.

“When we started the Live Chats, we put on a cap of 15 to 20 minutes,” Headlee said. “Since I’ve been involved, the select committee has seen the value in letting them run longer. But we also try to be cognizant of our audience. Most people watching are young professionals on their lunch break, so 20 minutes to an hour is our sweet spot.”

Prior to each Live Chat, the members of the select committee put their heads together to craft questions for the scheduled guest presenter.

“We’ll come up with a handful of questions to help get the talent comfortable and get the conversation rolling,” Headlee said. “We’ve had great success with the audience accelerating the conversation from there.”

Delivering Value With Every Session

From the outset, YEN has attracted some standout talent. Early guests included Wes Buck, editor-in-chief of Drag Illustrated; Matt Beenan of BuiltRight Industries, who won the 2018 SEMA Launch Pad competition; Formula Drift driver Vaughn Gittin Jr.; and members of the SEMA staff.

Episode topics vary depending on the industry talent’s background and expertise. Some sessions center on general business and career advice, others on the SEMA Show and member benefits.

“We’ve also talked about how to improve brand awareness, especially with social media and new technologies,” Headlee noted.

During his time in the spotlight, drift driver Gittin Jr. talked about sponsorships and partnerships between companies and racers or enthusiasts. Beenan, on the other hand, shared advice for entrepreneurs trying to get a business off the ground.

“We got more and more successful with the first few Live Chats that we did,” Headlee said.

To build on YEN’s early success, the select committee has expanded the program.

“We decided to do one Live Chat each month in 2020, and we’ve been successful so far,” he said.

This year’s lineup reads like a veritable who’s who. Performance industry legend Gale Banks was the headliner for the January Live Chat. The February session spotlighted time-attack driver Sally McNulty, who drives a modified Subaru STi for Snail Performance and also races for Honda Performance Development. In March, Tate Morgan, founder of the Gambler 500 Rally, provided what Headlee described as “a very interesting Live Chat” on the unique and environmentally friendly off-road rally. The April session featured YEN member Joe Opperman, director of public affairs and marketing for the IOLA Car Show and Swap Meet, whose chat sparked conversation on engaging youth to help perpetuate the aftermarket industry.

Going forward, YEN has lined up YouTube sensation and car guru TJ Hunt for the May broadcast. The select committee is also preparing for future Live Chats beyond that, and Headlee expects that members will continue to derive value from every episode.

“Seeing the success of the Live Chats we’ve done and the ability to talk to a large group of people across the country at one time, I think we’ve just scratched the surface,” he said. “Live Chats will continue to be polished, evolve and get better and better.

“In my opinion, the topics we cover—whether it’s business advice, technology or how to navigate SEMA as a whole and take advantage of some programs and benefits—offer great advice for the YEN membership. The ability to put industry standouts on our Live Chats to share their knowledge is amazing. The advice, insights and experience-sharing of some very successful people in our industry is infinitely beneficial to our members.”

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