Sonia gave a presentation this morning at Wichita State University as part of its Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series. She spoke about lessons learned over our 20-year history, showed short videos of our work and team, and walked the audience through current plans for Mid-Continent Airport’s new terminal – branded to reflect Wichita’s heritage as Air Capital of the World.

Throughout her presentation Sonia wove in branding tips and the importance of standing out. WSU President Don Beggs told her only today that he’d never forgotten the top hat she’d worn to deliver a commencement speech years ago. “He didn’t remember the speech, but he remembers the hat!” she said to laughter.

She told the group how, early in her career, she left a good-paying job at Boeing to follow her inner muse. A colleague there wished her well saying, “She was fuchsia silk in a gray-flannel world.”

During the Q&A, realtor extraordinaire Cindy Carnahan asked: “How old were you when you figured out there was no box for you?” “Oh about 7,” Sonia replied.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Numerous anecdotes reinforced Sonia’s point that you need to differentiate yourself from the competition to grow and thrive. That means getting outside of your comfort zone. Shaking things up with compelling messaging and creative. Choosing brand engagement channels that foster dialogue and relationships.

One attendee questioned how social media has any application to marketing. Lon Smith, director of the Kansas Aviation Museum, quickly jumped in with feedback about the new digital tools Greteman Group helped him launch. He said the museum realized a 200% increase in attendance this past month as a direct result and was recently contacted via Twitter by a potential funder from Southeast Asia. “If you think social networking tools don’t work,” he said (nicely of course), “you’re wrong.”

Thank You For Being You

Sonia received many kudos after the event for her wisdom, enthusiasm, inspiration and chutzpa. While public speaking isn’t high on her fun list, she’s good at it. Because she keeps it real.

Click here to check out more photos from the presentation.