Have You Been to Leaders Breakfast?

Raise your hand if you’ve been to an IIDA Leaders Breakfast. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the eight cities that hosts the annual international series, your hand should be up. As one of the premiere events select IIDA chapters have the opportunity to host, Leaders Breakfast is the perfect way to cultivate connections and change your morning routine – leaving you feeling inspired! With the support of the event’s International Benefactors, Herman Miller and Interior Design Media, Leaders Breakfast is the place to be when you want to impress your clients or showcase your company to hundreds of industry associates. With record numbers of attendance at the first two breakfasts of 2015, the series is gaining the momentum it well deserves.

The IIDA Leaders Breakfast event series celebrates design’s importance in the global market place by honoring the people who are both the legacy and future of design. Each chosen host city organizes a breakfast that features a renowned keynote speaker to provoke and encourage new ideas, and recognize one city-selected honoree who has made significant contributions to the design industry. Honorees receive the coveted Leadership of Excellence Award and a special edition Charles and Ray Eames stool awarded by Herman Miller.

Image courtesy of Herman Miller

Image courtesy of Herman Miller

The sunrise networking gala begins around 7 a.m., when top-tier professionals from the largest companies in the industry start pouring through the doors. Designers, architects, directors, CEOs, industry members, media, sales reps, dealers, and students join forces, socializing and networking before the event. Soon enough, the coffee reception feels like a cocktail party filled with chatter, laughter, and camera flashes.

The Leaders Breakfast program begins by recognizing the honoree. The introduction and acceptance speeches are very moving; giving the audience an understanding of the path the honoree took to get here. The honoree for the 2015 Leaders Breakfast Atlanta, Stephen Swicegood, IIDA, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Principal and Managing Director, Gensler Atlanta, reflected on leadership and early conversations with Art Gensler himself. Swicegood urged the audience to “let go of who you think you need to be and be who you are.”

The program concludes with a thought-provoking, renowned keynote speaker to jumpstart your day with a dose of creative inspiration. Having had the opportunity to get to know the keynote speakers prior to the show, it is interesting to see their cool demeanor before they present as larger-than-life characters on stage. The 2015 Leaders Breakfast New York keynote, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture & Design and Director of Research & Development at MoMA, was calm as anyone simply attending the breakfast. She leaned over and asked me if her hair looked okay prior to stepping on stage before 700+ attendees. Her presentation awed the audience by combining art with critical analysis. Antonelli’s speech referenced MIT Media Lab’s Neri Oxman and her silkworm project, which Oxman presented at the 2014 Chicago Leaders Breakfast. “Design is not only cute chairs and fast cars, but it is also origami, 3-D printing, and, as much as possible, design is critical,” said Antonelli.

During the Atlanta breakfast, I spoke with keynote David Burkus, author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, who saw the breakfast as “the dichotomy of someone who spent their whole career in the industry paired with someone from the outside who is providing an outside voice,” and described the event as “not just a meal for your body, but a meal for your mind.” His speech inspired audiences to recognize how to get better ideas by growing their network and collaborating differently.

Not all Leaders Breakfast keynote speakers have messages of art or design, or even creativity.  The upcoming fall and winter keynotes will stretch from award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed, who will tell her powerful story of endurance, to Jonathan Perelman,  Vice President of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, who will address how to create shareable, social content and offer insight into how to maximize the content’s impact.

Whether your pocket is full of business cards of new contacts or your head is full of new ideas and perspective, a morning at Leaders Breakfast will always leave you with something brilliant to take away.


Learn more about Leaders Breakfast and register to attend an event near you!

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