The speaker roster for the 2019 Tennessee Valley Utility Marketplace Forum was loaded with industry experts – and professional storyteller Kindra Hall, who encouraged her audience to connect to customers with stories, not statistics.

“You serve hundreds and thousands of people whose lives you touch every day,” said Hall, who keynoted the Nov. 19-21 event in Nashville.

“When you sense a gap between you and how they understand you,” she said, “fill that gap – not with more information, but with those stories that are out there, available for you to tell. Building that emotional connection will carry over to your brand.”

TVPPA President & CEO Doug Peters said Hall’s message – and the Forum’s general tone – was on point for the nearly 300 attendees.

“I thought the entire lineup of speakers was focused on customer communication,” he said. “With our members facing unprecedented challenges from third parties offering new products and services, [those members] will want to ensure their customers understand the role their local power companies play in their lives.

“That means communicating with customers will be at least as important as delivering affordable, reliable power,” Peters added. “So in my opinion, the Forum was on target and extremely timely.”

Among the Forum’s several other highlights were:

• A panel discussion including Lacey Jeffrey of Southwest Airlines, Glenn Allison of Tractor Supply Co., and Bryce Dalley of Facebook discussing how to embrace change and put customers first in a time of industry disruption.

• Chick-fil-A executive John Shackelford, who offered food for thought on defining purpose and culture; in Chick-fil-A’s case, he said, those originated with the “heart for people” possessed by its founder, the late Truett Cathy.

• A joint presentation on electric vehicles by Jenny Dileo of Austin (Texas) Energy, Joel Levin of Plug-In America and Ryan Stanton of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

• The closing presentation from TVA CEO Jeff Lyash, who said a “convergence of three things – digitalization, decarbonation and electrification” will be TVA’s primary drivers for the next 10 to 30 years.

The Forum also included 20 workshops/breakout sessions and numerous networking breaks. The event was presented by TVPPA, Seven States Power Corp. and TVA and co-emceed by Seven States/TVPPA Executive Vice President Betsey Kirk McCall and TVA Vice President Dan Pratt.