Midwest Travel Network Conference 2019 Speakers #MWTravelCon19

Keynote Speaker

Marlo Anderson, a serial entrepreneur and futurist is best known for being the founder of National Day Calendar.  Trending over 450 times last year, with an average daily Social Media reach in the hundreds of millions, National Day Calendar is the most popular trending topic of all time.  National Day Calendar is followed daily by more than 20,000 media outlets including Elvis Duran, Ellen Degeneres, Fox & Friends and Good Morning America.

Marlo’s direct online following now numbers over 12 million people.  He has appeared in most major newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to the Fargo Forum, appeared many times on national news programs and in many magazines including Time and Entrepreneur. This social media phenomenon is also the host of the radio talk show The Tech Ranch and affectionately known to his followers as the “Guru of Geek.”  This unique platform has given Marlo first-hand knowledge in emerging technology trends and hardware.

With a passion for start-ups, Marlo has been directly involved in the creation of Pakkage, Talking Trail, Zoovio, Awesome 2 Products, 3sixty5 and National Day Calendar.  His community projects include 1 Million Cups ND, the North Dakota Automated Vehicle Collaborative, The Old Ten Scenic Byway, North Dakota Music Hall of Fame and the Mandan Independence Day Parade to name a few.  Marlo resides in Mandan, ND.


Sara Broers: Being The Best You Can Be

Bio: Sara Broers is a Midwest travel enthusiast who resides in Iowa. She is the CEO of Travel With Sara, the Co-owner of the Midwest Travel Network, and the Co-owner of Home Grown Social Media. She hopped on Twitter and started blogging in 2008, and has not looked back. She is passionate about sharing her love of the Midwest with others and helping destinations make connections that make a difference. Travel Iowa and the Iowa Economic Development Authority recently awarded Sara the 2019 Outstanding Individual Leadership Award.

Sara is also the founder of the North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club, where more than 400 people have made valuable business connections over the past 5 1/2 years. She is also the social media instructor at World Wide College of Auctioneering and an auctioneer. She and her husband are the parents of two grown sons and Sara is the daughter of a proud Iowa farmer.

Mary Tastad and Mike Kopp: Get Off the Beaten Path: With Your Camera


Bio: Mary Tastad is known internationally among women Harley riders as Sidehackmary. She is an avid photographer and motorcyclist with a background in architecture, design, and fine arts. Mary spends the major part of her time traveling the United States with a camera in hand. Her photo entitled “Winter Reckoning” was chosen as a winner of the 2014 North Dakota Governor’s Art Contest. The landscape, people and culture of Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana captivate Mary as a beautiful and spiritual place.

Mike Kopp is a career journalist, first as a radio and television broadcaster, then as a newspaper editor in the Badlands of western North Dakota. He won six awards for newspaper photography and five awards for broadcast documentaries. Mike has hiked, canoed, camped, bicycled and ridden horses in the Badlands of North Dakota for over 35 years. His photos have sold to collectors across the United States and from galleries across North Dakota.
They are known for “sense of place and time,” as each is accompanied by a story giving the collector a sense of place in North Dakota.

Summary:  As photographers (Mary’s Photos, and Mykuhls Photography), we capture and share images of wildlife, rugged landscape, rodeos, powwow, mountain biking and events. We write about our exploits hiking, camping, exploring and enjoying the Beautiful Badlands of North Dakota. We’re thrilled to connect local spots or events, communities or cultures with others who haven’t visited the region.

Bill Clevlen: Notes from the Road

Bio:  “Bill On The Road” was born after becoming fed up with so many negative stories, focusing on bad things about cities and states instead of highlighting the positives. Based in St. Louis, I’ve been on the radio for 20 years and switched to travel journalism in 2013.  I’ve been a talk show host, comedy writer, video producer and voice over talent.  I grew a simple travel website into a full-time business.  These days, my road trip ideas and stories are heard on 30 different radio stations, including nationally on SiriusXM satellite radio.  In addition to radio, I produce video content, a podcast, and speak about travel in venues all across the U.S. in what I call the “Rediscover America Road Trip Tour”.   I’m the author of two books: 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die, and Driving Across America – a collection a short travel stories.  Outside of the travel world – I’m an avid Pickleball player and the announcer for the annual Mid-America Emmy Awards.

Summary: I’ll share some of my favorite road trip stories and discuss some of the things that have worked for me as I’ve expanded my audience beyond St. Louis, Missouri and the Midwest since 2013.  We’ll throw in some trivia games and of course, lots of laughs along the way.

Alicia Underlee Nelson: Getting Unstuck: Crafting a Creative Life

Alicia Nelson

Bio: Alicia Underlee Nelson is a freelance writer and photographer who loves tracking down uniquely local stories and immersive, off the beaten path travel experiences in the Midwest, the prairie provinces of Canada and around the world. She is based in West Fargo, North Dakota, but she will follow a story wherever it takes her. Her popular blog Prairie Style File is where you can learn more about Alicia and her life in the Midwest.

She has covered North Dakota travel for Delta Sky and AAA Living Magazine, written about travel and food and craft beer for Matador Network and trivago’s Room5.  She has covered breaking news for Thomson Reuters and her photos have appeared in USA Today and in North Dakota Tourism promotional materials.

She is the travel and fashion editor for an Area Woman Magazine and is also the primary contributor and photographer for both sections. She also covers and photographs regional art, local business, fashion, community and cultural events for The ExtraHigh Plains ReaderThe Red River Promoter and The Good Life Men’s Magazine and numerous other regional publications in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Summary: Keeping the channels of creativity open is a challenge. Creating for a living or as a hobby requires mental flexibility, innovation, mindfulness and developing new ways of seeing the world. This class will help students identify and work through creative blocks, develop habits that encourage creativity and create an action plan to complete a creative project of their choice. The course will include in-class discussion, journaling exercises, small hands-on projects and exercises.

Stacy Brooks: Blogging and The Legal Jargon You Need To Know

Stacy Brooks

Bio: Stacy Brooks has been blogging since 2011. Her blog, Tangled Up In Food, features food-focused travel writing, recipes, and tips for making the most of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s vibrant food scene. She has worked with destinations and brands including Visit St. Paul, Travel Manitoba, Stonyfield Organic, and Barlean’s. In addition to blogging, Stacy is a freelance food and travel journalist, and her writing has been featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Living, and Twin Cities Eater.

Before making the leap to writing full time, Stacy spent several years in the legal field as an intellectual property paralegal. She’s fluent in legal jargon and actually enjoys delving into government rules and regulations.

Summary: From FTC disclosures, copyright and the things that can prevent you from being successful in the world of blogging. Stacy will help you understand all of this legal jargon and how it applies to you. Do you wonder what all of those “big” words mean? Stacy will open your eyes as to what a contract should have and why these things need to be there. With new technologies and government guidelines coming out all the time, this session will help you know what you should be watching for so you don’t find yourself in the midst of a legal battle. The government rules and regulations actually tend to stay the same, they just need to be re-interpreted again and again as new technologies come out.

Steve & Ann Teget: Why Engagement Matters: Building authentic relationships with your audience

Steve & Ann Teget

Bio: Steve, a recovering middle school principal, and Ann, a former public and government relations executive, are now full-time travel bloggers and influencers at www.postcardjar.com. They work together with companies, destinations, and CVBs to tell authentic stories of midlife travel through their personal experiences and eye-catching photography. They currently split their time between homes in Nebraska and Oklahoma. You can follow all of their journeys on social media @postcardjar.

Summary: Travel writers and influencers Steve and Ann Teget will show you how to build an engaged audience for your blog or destination. With so much social media content available today, they’ll teach you how to stand out from the crowd and become relevant to your followers. In this session, you’ll learn tips on how to be authentic, track engagement, create opportunities for interaction, keep in touch with your audience, and be consistent with your brand. This session is relevant for both bloggers and destinations.

Linsey Knerl: From Blogger to Freelancer and Back Again: Diversifying Your Income as a Travel Writer

Linsey KnerlBio: Linsey Knerl is a blogger, author, public speaker, and mom of six who has created written content for brands like HP, Walmart, Mastercard, Flexispot, and American Express. She’s shared her tips for building community and growing reach at SXSW 2010, FinCon, the ASJA New York event, and GROWNebraska’s MarkeTech event. Find her work at LinseyKnerl.com or follow her on Twitter at @LKnerl.

Summary: Blogging gives us a unique set of skills that translate easily into other types of travel writing. Linsey shares how she grew her 11-year blogging business to a six-figure writing career, through diversified projects including column writing, brand marketing work, print journalism, and brand ambassador work. She’ll discuss how to keep ethics standards so that you can work with various clients and make big money!

Justin Ell: Fill Your Destination With Tourists 365 Days of The Year

Justin EllBio: Justin Ell is a North Dakota Native. He was born and raised in Bismarck, where he graduated from Bismarck Public School and Bismarck State College, with a degree in Business Administration. Currently, Justin is the Executive Director of the Medora Convention and Visitors Bureau. He works with tourists all over the world helping them plan their trips to see the town he represents. Justin enjoys meeting and working with the various people he meets through this job. Justin is the past president of the ND Jumpstart Coalition. He is also a board member on the Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association, Medora Chamber of Commerce, and Medora Zoning.

From a very young age, Justin started performing in theater. He has a deep love for Medora and all it has to offer. He attended the Medora Musical 54 times, just last season, always seeing something different at every show. In his spare time, he likes to hang out with his dog, Dakota, and cat, Gio while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Badlands. Dakota was named after the song Dakota, from the Medora Musical.

Summary: Justin will share tips on how you can maintain and grow your tourism base 365 days of the year. It’s no secret that destinations have weather challenges that can keep travelers from visiting at different times throughout the year. Medora, North Dakota is home to 133 people and swells to thousands on different days throughout the year. Medora is in a part of the United States that experiences all four seasons and has had success with keeping tourism alive all year long.

Nicole McDonald: Pinning Your Way To Success 

Nicole McDonaleBio: Nicole McDonald, is a 10-year blogger, author of the ‘Extraordinary Art’ saving series, non-credit college instructor, part-time content creator and social media manager for a national brand, and self-proclaimed Pinterest addict. You can find her money-saving tips, easy recipes, and meal plans at www.MomSavesMoney.net.

Summary: Pinterest has more than 250 million monthly users and is an incredible tool for any sized business or blog with a local or national audience. Pinners create, try and buy from pins they find on this visual search engine. Learn how to optimize your Pinterest business accounts and drive traffic to your content and products using keyword, search engine optimized descriptions and pinning strategies. McDonald will share tools to automate your pinning and tips to decipher your Pinterest analytics. Learn why followers don’t matter, but SEO does. Pinterest drives traffic and sales to your business or blog with this smart pinning strategy.

Jay Jay Goodvin: Being True To Your Audience And Evolving = Success

Jay Jay GoodvinBio: In the fifth year of The Iowa Gallivant, JayJay has carved a niche into traveling the Midwest with a primary focus on his home state of Iowa while expanding throughout the country. Born and raised in Iowa and later lived in Arizona, Montana, Cape Cod, Florida Keys, the Black Hills, Austin, Central Illinois and is now back in his hometown of Iowa City.

The list of fans and projects of The Iowa Gallivant has been growing since the Inaugural Midwest Travel Network Conference in Clear Lake, IA in 2018. He is now the Executive Director of Historic US Route 20-Iowa with the focus of showcasing its 35 communities that make up the 333 miles of America’s longest highway through Iowa. A current contributor to the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area magazine, Little Village and all the while in his 4th year as the host of Iowa Irish Fest in Waterloo. The Iowa Gallivant is in the 4th year of their Scouting RAGBRAI series which highlights Iowa towns on the world’s largest annual bike tour route. This all goes along with the 2018 launch of his podcast Road Trip 7 w/ The Iowa Gallivant. He has also partnered with The Iowa Pork, Iowa Beef, and Iowa Egg Council.

JayJay has spent most of his life cooking in restaurants and kitchens across the country and brings this knowledge into his writing and adventures. The obscure, corny, historic and legendary is also a major emphasis in The Iowa Gallivant along with featuring some of the Midwest’s smallest and greatest communities.
“Our favorite destination is always the next one.”

Summary: JayJay continues to evolve in the blogging space. He started out sharing his love of Iowa with The Iowa Gallivant and quickly became a well know name in Iowa. He will show you how you can pave your way to achieve your next big goal. After the Midwest Travel Network’s Inaugural Conference in 2018, he took what he learned, and stepped up his blogging game. Through the many partnerships he has formed, he has been able to make valuable connections to help place communities on the map. His session is one that bloggers and destinations will appreciate.

Chris Dorfschmidt: Augmented History: How Augmented Reality is Changing Visitor Experiences

Chris DorfschmidtBioChris Dorfschmidt is the current Site Supervisor and 15th official Caretaker of the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site. Trained as a Social Studies teacher, he has a unique 15-year background in historical interpretation, problem-solving, exhibit design, exhibit maintenance, gallery management, videography, photography, and a passion for technology that allow him to explore and create an engaging and unique experience for visitors.

Chris holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education from the University of North Dakota and an Associate’s degree in Geographical Information Systems from Bismarck State College.

Summary: With new technology new opportunities, advances in smartphones and apps are changing how we look at our world.  Chris will share how he is implementing new technology into a 135-year-old hunting cabin and how museums are improving how we use technology to make them an engaging experience that is worth the visit.

Tim Trudell: Starting Small, Building Big

Bio: Tim is a writer/online content creator, who calls Omaha home.  He started writing The Walking Tourists blog with his wife Lisa in 2011. Beginning with exploring their backyard of Omaha, The Walking Tourists expanded  coverage to the Midwest, exploring places on and off the beaten path. Tim loves sharing stories about people and places in his native state of Nebraska. Tim’s stories of Omaha led to greater opportunities, including writing the books “100 Things to Do in Omaha Before You Die” and “Unique Eats and Eateries of Omaha” (due out in mid-May). Tim is the primary author of both books, with Lisa handling the social media and promotional efforts.

As a former community journalist, Tim’s background also includes working as a project manager and a team manager for telecom account managers. His love for writing led him back to the profession as a freelance writer. Tim enjoys writing about personal profiles, sports, military and veterans attractions, as well as minority issues and accomplishments.

Tim and Lisa have two adult children from his first marriage, as well as three cat kids – Gus, Lassiter and Shawn. Tim is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Native American Journalists Association, North American Travel Journalists Association and the Nebraska Writers Guild.

Summary: Tim’s topic for the conference is “Starting Small, Building Big.” He will explore how working locally with attractions, restaurants and visitors bureaus can provide the foundation to bigger things, including expanded travel opportunities and book deals.

Kay Maghan: “It’s Not the Wild West: Creating Blogger + CVB Partnerships That Work”
Public Relations ManagerGulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Bio: With 17 years’ experience representing destinations and resorts in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, Kay Maghan is a seasoned travel and tourism public relations professional who has learned the keys to being a solid PR pro are building relationships with media, responding quickly to media needs, and constantly looking for the back story … that unique angle of a place and its people that brings something different to the table. Kay has served as co-chair of professional development for the 2015 Society of American Travel Writers Convention in Las Vegas, served on the local host committee for the 2013 Society of American Travel Writers Convention in Biloxi, Mississippi and is past chair of the PRSA Travel & Tourism Section, serving on its board for eight years. Previously handling tourism PR for her native Mississippi Gulf Coast while with GodwinGroup in Gulfport, Mississippi, she “traded Coasts” in mid-2014 becoming PR Manager for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Other work experience includes Hershey Entertainment & Resorts in Hershey, Pennsylvania; Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania; and the Jackson, Mississippi Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Nick Cusick: CVB Panelist

Bio:  Nick Cusick is the Marketing & Media Relations Manager for Visit Saint Paul where he is responsible for managing marketing and media efforts as well as market development and travel trade. Cusick graduated from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication and Adventure Tourism. He has worked for multiple newspapers with Lee Enterprises as a journalist and editor and in 2014 switched to the tourism industry, taking over a one-person CVB in Muscatine, Iowa, before returning home to Saint Paul in 2015.


Eva Faircloth:  “It’s Not the Wild West: Creating Blogger + CVB Partnerships That Work”

Eva Faircloth began her career in the newspaper industry, first as a writer and then editor. She has worked in the marketing and public relations industry for more than 15 years, serving as a content director, vacation rental marketing director and a blogger relations outreach coordinator. Eva FairclothFaircloth recently established her own company, Front Porch Network, where she and her team focus on building relationships and connecting people with the brands and products they need. Coming from a background where she has been on both sides of the fence, as a writer and as a brand, Eva brings a unique perspective to the blogosphere.


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