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After a fantastic week in Memphis, Tennessee, I’m back and giving a recap of the entire trip including my favorite Memphis spots. In addition, I’ll be sharing my notes from the Community Leaders Institute Expo  (CLIX) which I attended on April 4th and 5th. 

The community industry inaugural event provides training, best practices, and community building tips to implement into day-to-day operations. The CLIX event brought me to Memphis after I’d met the founder, RD Whitney, who invited me to join community leaders with years of expertise to connect with professionals like myself who are facing (and have faced) similar challenges that will help you prepare for the future of work.

A few focus topics of the event:

  • Strategy/Business Value – Community strategy, monetization, and sustainability
  • Cultivating and Nurturing Connection – Member growth, retention, and engagement
  • Community Leadership – Case studies, real-world examples of success stories 
  • Online Trust and Safety – Earning member’s trust, best practices, safety controls

Arriving in Memphis, TN

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Photo by Deb Schell © 2022 -

Wheels on the ground with a smooth flight, I arrived at the Memphis International Airport and took an Uber to the Courtyard Marriot in Downtown Memphis. 

After checking into the hotel, I found a small grocery store to grab some almond milk for my coffee and a few snacks. The evening was spent planning the coming days to maximize my time in this town known for the blues. 

Friday, after a client call, I adventured across the sky bridge from Front Street to Mud Island also known as Mississippi River Park

This park is part of a Memphis Riverfront Concept which is designed to help catalyze “Memphis Moment” at the place where the city began: the edge of the Mississippi River. Covering six miles and focusing on five zones including the Fourth Bluff, Mud Island, Tom Lee Park, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Park, and Greenbelt Park. Click here for more info about this concept. 

The city is located on a great bluff that rises above Mississippi and has been used for industry and transport and was cluttered with buildings and barges that obstructed the public from directly accessing the river. 

Now after much revitalization, the park is moving into a new era with redesigned walkways. The bridge offered an amazing view of the river and the city skyline. Once on the island, I found my way around the amazing miniature version of the entire Mississippi River with detailed areas of Memphis. I had a hard time finding any articles directly related to this part of the park. (If you are reading this and can send more information, please send it to

Two hours after stepping onto Main Street, I returned back to the hotel to refresh, drop off my camera gear, and head out for some music on Beale Street

Blues for an afternoon delight

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Photos by Deb Schell 2022©

Not only is Memphis dubbed Home of the Blues, but it’s also known as the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll. A short trolly ride to Beale Street, I found myself in the middle of what seemed like a street festival, except this was a Friday afternoon and apparently, this is every day for Memphians. 

Walking along, I stopped in a few shops and found a seat at Club Handy when I heard the song “Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay being played by Mac Truck and The Blues Groove band. I spent the next two hours enjoying the music and talking to a lively couple from Alabama. 

After getting my CD signed, I headed back to the hotel with souvenirs in hand and was exhausted from walking over six miles that day. 

CLIX Kicks off with hugs and smiles

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Photo by Deb Schell © 2022 -

Sunday afternoon I headed to the Renasant Convention Center to check into the conference and hope to meet some community professionals in person! As I walked to the door, I was greeted by RD Whitney, and a few moments later, by Heidi Williams, who’d just flown in from London, both leading the event. 

As community pros arrived, we smiled, bumped elbows, waved, and greeted each other, finding time to do the quick introduction and “meet and greet” conversations. 


The best moment was getting to see a few people I’d seen “online” for a while and actually chat with them in person! I was happy to see Adrian Speyer, Victoria Cumberbatch, and Piper Wilson, whom I’d all met in 2021 as I discovered the community industry and the wonderful people that make up this unique and diverse “community” as professionals. 

On Monday morning, the “official” kickoff to CLIX began with David Spinks who presented the 2021 “Community Industry” report

Amid tech glitches, over 300 community professionals discussed the “weirdest community” that they had been a member of until tech was reconnected and the presentation outlining the data and insights for planning a community strategy was well received by the audience. 

The 2021 edition of the Community Industry Report includes responses from 528 community managers who completed our online survey between November and December of 2020. 

Morning Breakout session - Online Trust and Safety

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Photo by Deb Schell © 2022 -

There were a few breakout sessions running concurrently during the event, in addition to the expo being open. I decided to head to the session titled “Moderating with Trust: Where Members Meet Community Governance” presented by Kelly Schott

My notes included types of governances, the Community Maturity Model outlined, and examples of different forms of moderation. 

  1. Communities can offer various terms for governance including; Policies, Guidelines, Rules of Engagement, Terms, and Conditions, Playbooks, Moderation Standards, and Platform Security. 
  2. The forms of moderation can be called guides, types of enforcement, models, or several others. Moderation offers online community members a sense of trust and is needed to create a safe and engaging online environment. 
  3. Kelly mentioned that a balance between proactivity and reactivity is helpful in the foundation with a reevaluation over time. Asking for members to complete short surveys, sending them direct messages, or connecting with how they feel will help determine if changes need to be made to current governance practices. 
  4. The biggest need for moderation is to respond to members’ concerns when terms are violated or members begin to feel uncomfortable. Community managers are tasked with cultivating a sense of belonging by understanding the members’ thoughts, feelings and ideas are being heard. 
  5. A few tips Kelly mentioned when working on updating governances include the challenge of keeping up to date as time passes on new language and/or new terms that need to be added or adjusted to moderation and/or rules. 

“Always be listening and talking to members and ask why or why not, before making changes,” said Kelly. 

A few ideas for cultivating connection while considering moderation: 

  • Create regular touchpoints 
  • Allow room for members to share their concerns 
  • Don’t take accusations personally 
  • Dig deeper and get specific feedback that is actionable 
  • Be transparent about guidelines, terms, conditions, rules, and policies. 
  • Review the 2020 Transparency Report to learn more 

Afternoon Breakout - Cultivating and Nurturing Connection

In the afternoon session, I joined the “Cultivating Advocates Out of Your Community” session presented by Christina Garnett, Senior Marketing Manager, Offline Community & Advocacy at HubSpot

The current state of ambassadors, advocates, or super fans of enterprise or large corporation support and practice communities, Christina says, is that many feel that they are under-appreciated, lack connection, and are more focused on the negativity that they experience in online communities than the positive benefits it brings. 

Advocates want a seat at the table and to feel like they are valued and heard. So where are those sought-after advocates? 

Here are key takeaways from this season: 

  • Christina says community leaders and managers looking for brand lovers should know what they are looking for and what makes a good advocate for their organization or company. 
  • Identifying that “diamond in the rough” takes people-watching skills and the ability to notice who’s raising their hands, volunteering, and showing up at events (virtual or in-person). 
  • Depending on the size of an organization, will determine the tech stack needed to get the data for reporting on community insights. Recognizing advocates doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simply noting members, using gamification, or just offering a seat at the table with member-led events allows them to feel a sense of ownership and comradery. 
  • Offer a “pick your own advocate adventure” style or create opportunities for brand love as it offers happy customers which brings engaged fans, and creates champions. 

Afternoon insights and goal achieved!

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Photo by Deb Schell © 2022 -

Closing out the first day of CLIX was a keynote presentation titled “Keeping Members Engaged in 2022: What The Data Reveals About What Really Works (and what doesn’t!).” 

In this session, Richard Millington, founder of FeverBee, shared real-world client data to explain the biggest actions to boost engagement and increase the retention of members. 

Over the past 13 years, Richard has helped to develop over 310 successful communities, including those for Apple, Facebook, Google, The World Bank, SAP, Oracle, Amazon, Autodesk, Lego, The United Nations, and Novartis, and many more. FeverBee helps organizations use powerful psychology to build valuable communities. 

Richard gave a few tips that I could not only relate to but was glad to hear including the fact that research and data he reviewed indicated that community members on average thought they were receiving too many automated messages and the content was stale. In addition, with over 26 member interviews and countless surveys, the results weren’t surprising. The below takeaways are specifically for support-related communities from my understanding but – please correct me if I’m wrong. 

  1. Members have no capacity for tech changes, moving to new platforms, etc. 
  2. Members-only visit when they have a problem and needed assistance 
  3. New members didn’t know why they should come back 
  4. Poor communication with members of the community 
  5. Pointless notifications create distance between the leaders and members 

Following Richard’s presentation, I went up to introduce myself and tell him a bit about my consulting business. Once I was talking for a few moments, I noticed someone next to me and glanced over at him. I followed up with him and he mentioned that RD had referred him to me as a potential client due to my experience with Mighty Networks

Scott Goldman and I talked about his new community and the opportunity to partner together during a conference in Miami the following Monday. 

After lots of chatting, and dinner over bbq at Central BBQ, Scott and I decided to work out the details and connect Thursday.

My goal had been to secure one new client from networking at CLIX and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Scott hired me and flew me down to Miami, Florida to attend the Bank Facilities Forum to interview his “ideal members” for this new community for the Certified Bank Buildings Professional CBBP ™ Accreditation members. (I’m writing this the day before I fly to Miami. Another post on this will follow.) 

Day 2: Cultivating Online Trust, Community Awards, and Creating Community Rituals

Victoria Cumberbatch 2
Photo by Deb Schell © 2022 -

My morning was spent getting the “details” outlined for my new client on my website. I’ve spent two months building my revamped website and I’m super proud of the hard work that will help me now save time and money by no longer having to do proposals for clients by offering set packages. But I did miss the first keynote session titled “Community-Based Marketing” due to my need for updating my client database and doing additional marketing myself, re-sharing my social media content on my LinkedIn


The first-morning session I attended was “Creating Awards Campaigns for Communities” with Simon Burton, a serial awards creator and co-founder of Football Business Awards, Sports Business, World Sports Photograph Awards, Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and Charity Film Awards

Simon highlighted the truth that genuine celebrations in business are rare and as community leaders, we should recognize individuals who stand out with authentic awards run with meaningful competition. 

An organization can benefit as well as individuals from awards that allow the member to feel recognized for their efforts, and secondly, that member will share their achievements with their friends, family, and colleagues on social media linking it back to the organization that provided the award. 

What is needed for an awards program? 

Simon lists just a few key steps 

  1. Secure judges that can be remote so it’s not a big-time commitment for them 
  2. Create a plan for announcement and recruiting applicants who will submit for this award 
  3. Set a close date for submissions and collect for judging 
  4. Have the judges review the submissions 
  5. Announce the winners and finalists 

Awards bring crowds of people and a red carpet isn’t necessary. (Although Simon prefers in-person big events to promote large organizations with sponsorships.) 

I’m considering taking Simon up on his offer to identify the top community consultants who bring experience and offer insights for others. (Right?!?)

The afternoon session started with rituals in the community presented by Victoria Cumberbatch, a community professional and good friend who’s been a part of the Community Consultants Collective in recent months. 

Having strolled into community building even as a substitute teacher, Victoria was able to progress to a myriad of community-based roles with nonprofits, and start-ups, and now as a consultant for individual community managers and companies needing some community know-how. She has a particular knack for operations, strategizing, brainstorming & collaborating, sussing out the perfect resource, & connecting all the dots.

During the interactive session, Victoria polled us for our feedback on rituals in our communities. Rituals provide guide rails, increase engagement, emphasize the feeling of belonging through inclusivity, make the community manager’s job easier, and promote values that the organization wants to demonstrate and model for fellow members. 

A few examples of rituals include milestones and shoutouts of members, cultivating community-led events, and offering themed months with gamification for top performers to donate, share, mentor, and participate. 

Following the session, I popped upstairs and met David Spinks. He greeted me with a hug and smile. It was a great moment since he really inspired me to learn more about the community industry, to begin with when I met him virtually in 2020.

Wrapping up, stories and cocktails

Central Station Drinks
Photo by Deb Schell © 2022 -

The final session that I attended was led by Isar Meitis CEO of Be The Stage ( a CaaS company (Community as a Service) spearheading a new category of marketing that they call Relationship Driven Growth. Isar is involved in the strategy definition and implementation of communities for businesses of different sizes and different industries such as tech startups, legal, healthcare, and real estate.

Isar is a serial entrepreneur from Israel, who held leadership positions in 3 tech startups before co-founding Be The Stage. Throughout his entire career, Isar learned that relationships are driving the world, and now his team gets to help other companies develop meaningful relationships at scale through community building.

During this session, I discovered that what Isar was talking about, using a talk show to co-create content with community members, is something that the Find Calm Here Community just started with our “Live Interview” series

Isar said that creating a fun and exciting way to educate and inspire community members builds deeper relationships over time while creating content that the community leader can use for marketing and repurposing on blogs, videos, and podcasts. By the end of this session, I had signed up for the Relationship Flywheel Bootcamp, which starts on April 25th. After broadcasting for almost two years now, I knew I needed a way to streamline my post-production process for myself and the FCH podcast producer, Callisa Mickle

After the event, I headed to Central Station (a Hilton hotel andl bar) to meet a few community leaders for drinks and casual conversation. Just as I sat down at the bar, Isar walked in and we started talking about the boot camp, my experience, and how excited we both are to have connected that day. 

The evening continued with a stop at Blind Bear, a not-so-hidden speakeasy on Main Street offering southern comforts. As a few of us wandered the streets and chatted, I was thinking of just how thankful I was for this entire experience. Thank you to the Community Leaders Insititute, RD, Heidi, and the team. This event will be the highlight of many years to come.

I came to Memphis with fingers crossed to gain a client, anxious about meeting new people, and unsure about this southern town. I left Memphis feeling a bit of pep in my step, more subscribers to the Community Strategy Podcast, elevated as a community leader, connected with new friends, and on the road again to Miami, to meet yet more potential clients, new friends, and to live a life that I’m grateful for each day. 

About Deb

Deb Schell is the Creator of Find Calm Here LLC — As a community strategist, she helps female entrepreneurs and executives find calm in building, launching, and growing paid online communities. 

With experience helping over 80 Mighty Network Hosts, Deb’s combined experience as a journalist, copywriter, photographer, artist, and sales professional align to offer clients a streamlined experience that is fun! 

Inside the Find Calm Here Community, she brings together community-builders who feel overwhelmed and offers tools, support, and accountability. As the Host of The Community Strategy Podcast, Deb shares conversations she has with community-builders who share how they’ve found calm in the process of building, launching, and growing their online paid communities.

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