Popular Speaking and Workshop Topics

Whether you’re striving to support local entrepreneurs, planning a conference or trade show, or seeking an engaging speaker for your university or organization, AMIBA provides a menu of topics and outstanding speakers to help. AMIBA will work with you to identify the speaker or facilitator best suited to your needs and craft an agenda to achieve your goals (and if the best person for you is outside of AMIBA, we’ll refer them!). Our most popular offerings are below.

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers provides participants an up-close look at how an Independent Business Alliance functions and the lessons we’ve learned through our experience of helping more than 120 organizations. Building a culture of support for entrepreneurship, local branding, building a strong organization and sustainable funding typically are focus areas. We include plenty of discussion time and work with the host to achieve concrete progress in building your foundation. We’ll work with you to develop an agenda based on your goals and can combine elements of the presentations below. We suggest 3 – 5 hours for community workshops (see a sample agenda).

Developing and Sustaining Effective Buy Local Campaigns

This is our most popular presentation for conferences and trade shows as well as communities. “Buy local” campaigns launched with sufficient grassroots engagement and adhering to key principles have generated large shifts in local attitudes and spending. When residents fully appreciate the many benefits of doing business locally and feel “going local” is the community norm, they’re more likely to try an independent retailer before looking to Amazon or the chains. And they share their knowledge with friends and family.

You’ll see what AMIBA has learned through 17 years of advising successful campaigns and observing many that failed. Participants will see examples of the best ideas from groups around the continent and come away knowing keys to instigating and sustaining an effective campaign — as well as how to avoid the common mistakes that have killed several. Topics include funding your campaign, building membership, messaging and framing, examples from successful campaigns, and much more.

While we often will present this topic in just one hour at conferences, we suggest at least 1.5 hours for conferences and 3-5 hours when hosting a workshop to catalyze organizing in a specific community. See a sample outline 

Building a More Inclusive and Prosperous Community

Does your local economy provide the opportunities we need to enable broadly-shared prosperity and fulfill the needs of our people? How can we make it stronger and include those living on the margins?  What assets can we bring to the community by engaging those who are currently left out or struggling just to subsist?

Our conversation will identify the opportunities to address equity and diversity in our community, including facilitating opportunities for entrepreneurship and retaining our local independent businesses. We will learn about each other as individuals, as the institutions, organizations, and businesses we represent, and what we can do in those capacities to support growth and diversity by changing how we talk about future possibilities and increasing social capital.

Keynote: How Independent Businesses Are Beating the Chains via Community Engagement and Teamwork

Our most popular keynote talk for trade shows introduces strategies and tools independents across multiple business sectors are using within their communities to compete successfully.  We’ll highlight examples relevant to your constituents and/or geographic area to ensure the stories hit home with ideas participants can employ in their own business or organization. (The talk addresses online competitors as well as chains.)

See the conferences and trade shows that have featured AMIBA speakers.

Job Creation: Myth, Facts, and Provocations

Job creation is on everyone’s minds these days, but who creates jobs and why? While it’s easy to identify triggers for economic slumps, it’s tougher to plan for an economy less vulnerable to those outside disruptions. We’ll provide a range of tools with which communities can build a more durable and stable economy to increase long-term job creation and encourage entrepreneurship.

Main St. v Wall Street: Which Side Are Your Local Policies Helping?

What would it look like if national policies reflected the political rhetoric championing small business? We expose many ways in which corporate consolidation, chain proliferation, online shopping and job flight are driven by law and policy, not just market forces. We’ll then explore changes necessary to reverse incentives to create a pro-small business environment that can help more independents thrive.

What Local and Regional Government Can Do to Spark Entrepreneurship and Build Local Vitality

From public policy to connecting would-be business owners with knowledge, resources and capital, there’s much local governments can do to help local businesses thrive. Depending on your assets, challenges and other circumstances, we’ll highlight the tools, policies and actions likely to yield the most benefit to your community. (We’ll send a brief questionnaire to help focus discussion prior to your committing).

Integrating Local Food Systems

Integrating local food and farms into your broader support for local entrepreneurs is an important way to increase the reach of your work and create “big picture thinking” in your group. Lilian Brislen, a veteran of regional food system development and Independent Business Alliances, highlights the unique opportunities and special considerations presented by local food and farming/ranching. She’ll provide concrete examples of how to start small and grow big with local food and farm programs.

For urban areas looking to support regional agriculture, Nicola Williams and Laury Hammel offer expertise in regional food and beer festivals, farm to restaurant programs, and others through their food program leadership with the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts.


While the dominant political parties engage in endless sniping over tax rates and who pays, we encourage deeper questioning of what we tax, why, and what activities we encourage or deter through tax policy. For example:

  • We penalize businesses for adding employees, while rewarding with tax-write-offs for replacing workers with machines.
  • We reward construction of cheap, single-story buildings on the periphery of communities while penalizing high-quality, multi-use construction in our centers.
  • We subsidize centralization and waste, while often handicapping local and small-scale manufacturing and production.
  • How do we change the status quo and institute more sensible policies?

Additional Training Modules and Services for On-site Consultations

Note: For some of these topics, we provide strong entry-level trainings, but will recommend other experts for those seeking more intensive focus on certain elements.

Board of Directors Workshop and Training

For organizations engaged in pro-local business organizing, AMIBA offers a one-day seminar to increase board effectiveness, educate board members on their legal responsibility to the organization and to develop a work plan which the board can use over the following 12 months to track their performance and accomplish agreed upon goals and tasks. One 5-7 hour session or two 3-4 hour sessions are recommended. Click here for full outline 

Bettering your local businesses

Even the best-run “buy local” initiative will fail if customers don’t see attractive local businesses where they are treated well and receive excellent value! We focus on helping storefront operations improve their overall attractiveness, marketing and customer service by getting first-hand experience at a large sampling of your businesses. If you wish, this can include evaluations for individual businesses as well as collective impressions and recommendations (as part of an inclusive cost or offered a la carte to interested businesses).

AMIBA’s trainer will spend at least four hours walking your commercial districts, entering local businesses and interacting with employees. We will provide a written summary with overall ratings on multiple criteria, as well as prioritized recommendations and suggestions for specific trainings that may be useful for your business owners.  We document and photograph positive examples to spotlight your local businesses doing things well, which we provide you for subsequent use.

Even if you recognize the weaknesses of your local businesses and how they should improve, the “outside expert” view can help you get the message across.

Improving your community experience

Improve your town’s physical environment to enhance local business districts and make a better impression. This can include streets, signage, pedestrian access, safety, seating, beautification and other public infrastructure based on your preferences. A report can be provided in writing and pictures, or turned into a presentation or workshop. We can provide advice specifically to address the perspective of unfamiliar visitors as well as more general recommendations.

Understand where and why money is leaving your community

Surveying residents, business owners and institutions can yield valuable data to show where you have the best opportunities to “plug the leaks” in your local economy. AMIBA makes it easy for you to tap this valuable information at affordable cost. We’ll design and host an online survey for your community, compile and clean up the data, and provide both a concise overview of the findings along with recommended actions and guidance on where to begin.

Building your media presence

We’ll help your group develop skills in building media relationships, persuasive writing, effective presentations, editorial board meetings, using talk radio, organizing a letters-to-the-editor campaign and more.

Selling experiences (not just goods and services)
For any independent business competing against large corporations with superior purchasing power, “customer experience” is your best opportunity to excel. But what does that mean? And, for retailers, how can you close a sale when the “Amazon price” is just a phone tap away?
This workshop will track a potential customer’s journey from their first impression (seeing or learning about your business) to entering your doors to departure. We’ll explore how your business can stand out at each stage and how you can make a personal connection that keeps them coming back. Hint: engaged employees are key!
This event will also can tie individual business branding to the work of your local business advocacy, so local businesses and organizations are reinforcing each other’s key assets and messaging. Participants will be encouraged to share stories from their experiences about what’s worked as a business or about what’s turned them from a drop-in to a loyal customer!
Assessing your local tax and land use policy

This requires at least one on-site day for interviews, map reviews and tour prior to presentation of recommendations and workshop on day two. Create a priority list of areas for improvement to aid local entrepreneurs and generating support for implementing changes.

Creating jobs and wealth through localizing government and institutional purchasing

How to identify the areas of greatest opportunity through surveying and make it easier for local entrepreneurs to identify and fulfill them.

Smart growth for beginners

What it is, how it can save taxpayers money and why it can keep a lot more money circulating in your local economy. We can present general principles or include a pre-event local evaluation and community-specific recommendations.

Understanding place branding

What it is, what it can and cannot do. This is a critical precursor to a planning workshop, as misunderstanding is the norm, not the exception.

Developing your place brand and campaign

Note: we do not advise the following unless you have a sufficient budget to invest in developing and marketing your brand (for local artists, printing, media, etc.) In the first year, an investment of at least $5,000 plus $1 or more per resident is a recommended baseline.

This is an interactive workshop and follow-up consultation. We suggest planning at least five hours — ideally spread over two days for an initial brainstorm and planning. Please contact us for details on who should be in the room.

AMIBA is not a full-service place brand campaign developer; we simply facilitate your community brainstorming, guide you to consider key questions, relevant examples and best practices. We believe communities should employ local artists, media and other local talent to the degree possible to help fully engage your local businesses and residents — even though this is less efficient. However, we can suggest reputable full-service firms on request.

Please contact us with any questions or requests.

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