Whew! What an adventure this was.

A few weeks back, I had the honour of attending the three-day NAIAS Digital Summit with Ford Canada.  It was an amazing experience that started on Sunday and ended on Tuesday night. I thought this would be an opportunity to catch up on sleep (my two-year old still doesn’t sleep through the night) but I was wrong… I fully enjoyed all three of those days and stayed up way past my bedtime in order to soak it all in.

It all started on Sunday when I caught an early morning, and super rainy, flight to Detroit. I landed early enough to head to my hotel room, have a shower and relax a bit before heading downstairs for some lunch. It was here that I met Alex, Seth, Megan and Mizar. I joined their table and had some great conversation, including one about Eddie Vedder’s lack of pronunciation on Yellow Ledbetter (still laughing about this one).


Sitting upstairs pre-event, Tweeting, and totally shy and nervous about meeting everyone

After lunch and more relaxation, we headed to the Henry Ford Museum where we got to take in a lot of old and historical vehicles and other memorabilia related to the various eras that impacted transportation in general. The best photo I saw was one that depicted car seats from back in the day. Oh how many light years (and security wars) we have come since then.


Car seats from way, way back in the day


The entrance to the Henry Ford Museum


Some of the cars inside of The Henry Ford Museum

Ford had also done the place up right. It had a DJ booth, that was a partnership with an artist, food stands featuring food from various parts of the world, a candy bar and more. We sat, laughed, talked and enjoyed ourselves and it was here that I met Gina, Chris and Heather (whom I’ve known forever but had never met in person).


The art-inspired DJ booth at the Ford party


The night flew by and we returned to the hotel but stayed in the hotel lobby chatting into the wee hours of the night. Joining us at our table, in addition to people I’ve already mentioned earlier, was Lyndon, Martin, Tamara, Craig, Sean and Fred.


Stacked cell phones – we made a rule to avoid picking them up and to engage in real conversation

The next morning we met in the lobby of the hotel and headed to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, which was a very cool experience. We got to see how a Ford F-150 was made and we walked on a suspended catwalk around the perimeter of the factory. We got to see first-hand how Henry Ford affected the future of assembly lines and how he created an extremely efficient process. Although we couldn’t take photos inside of the factory, it will be something I will remember for a long time to come as the innovation, yet hands-on approach, was very, very cool.


The “living roof” of the Ford factory – it helps offset the company’s carbon dioxide emissions


The Ford “Rouge” Factory in Dearborn, Michigan


A historical look at Ford’s most popular vehicles over the years

After the factory tour, we headed to lunch at Greenfield Village, which is actually part of the Henry Ford Museum grounds. It’s this area of land that is converted to a time long, long ago and on the property is an old-fashioned inn, which has a restaurant in it. It was at this restaurant that we ate lunch. We had a gentleman come out, dressed in old-fashioned garb, and welcome us while telling us about the “current” times. The food was delicious (and so filling!) and it was a perfect way to spend the afternoon.


The Greenfield Village inn – so good and a true blast from the past

Once lunch was over, we were whisked back to the hotel where we took in a few sessions at the hotel that were put on by Ford. I learned a lot and got to hear first-hand how the technology that Ford is using is both innovative and green.


Watching the Ford sessions on innovation and green technology

That evening, we headed to the TechShop (which I wrote about here) and had a fabulous evening. On the bus road over to the TechShop, I met Paul, a fellow WordPress geek so we spent some time chatting about websites and sub-contractors and other business-related activities. After the TechShop experience, we did another round of gab in the hotel lobby, which lasted until the wee hours of the morning but it was so great to meet and talk to people all over the world!

Our final day was met with a 5:45am wakeup call, which was so early that I almost cried real tears. But alas, I endured the morning and finally started to wake up a bit when we arrived at the Joe Louis arena (where the Detroit Red Wings play) for the Detroit Auto Show.

The first thing we did was attend the Ford press conference, which exceeded my expectations. I was expecting to be standing around while someone talked at a podium about innovation and technology but this was like an entire theatrical presentation. It was really awesome.


The staging area of the Ford Press Conference where they dropped the new Atlas
Concept truck from the roof


The floor was instantly flooded with media… 

After the press conference, we had the morning to explore the auto show, which we did, and then we met for lunch around noon before calling it a weekend. It was a lot to take in all at once but it was incredibly worthwhile and so, so much fun.


Just one of the elaborate set ups at the Detroit Auto Show


My favourite car from the auto show – the Acura NSX – aka “Sex on Wheels”

So, what did I take away from it all? Well, I’ve learned that Ford is a car company that is listening. Listening to the needs of its customers and responding accordingly. Listening to the trends in technology and incorporating them into their vehicles. Listening to the environment and responding by using the latest innovations. It’s incredibly inspiring and I’m going to tell you now – my next vehicle will most definitely be a Ford.

Huge thank you to Craig, Ammar, Mehboob and the social media team at Ford (including Scott Monty, Karen Untereker, Rob Santos, Tony McCloud and Melanie Taylor) for inviting me along to such an amazing and memorable event.

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Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the three day NAIAS Digital Summit. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time. My opinions posted here are my own.