Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals survey

A screenshot of the survey the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals is taking of professionals 40 or younger in the Omaha metro area.

One of the best ways to communicate a big idea is to tell a “small story,” Ari Shapiro told an Omaha audience Thursday.

Shapiro, host of National Public Radio’s afternoon on-air news magazine “All Things Considered,” gave the keynote speech at the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Summit. His address focused on his role as a reporter and interviewer.

“The news lets me know what’s happening in the world. Stories help me understand the world and how I fit in,” said Shapiro, a 2000 graduate of Yale University.

Stepping into someone else’s shoes through the medium of story is more important than ever in an America that feels “so divided between urban and rural, Trump country and Clinton country,” he said.

The stories we choose to share in person or on social media can connect us or put up walls.

“I hope you will all choose to connect,” Shapiro concluded.

Shapiro’s message resonated with Omaha designer Nicole Malone, 38. The summit isn’t just about business, she said. It’s about personal development and celebrating where we live, and storytelling is part of that.

Malone attended a break-out session in which an architect talked about the importance of telling the “stories” of Omaha’s old buildings. How you tell the story, Malone said, can mean the difference between preserving them or tearing them down.

The daylong summit, held at the CenturyLink Center, drew more than 1,500 participants.

The annual event, organized by the Young Professionals, a chamber affiliate, is intended to promote personal and career growth and foster community development, said Allison Schorr, this year’s YP Summit chair.

The summit offered more than a dozen breakout sessions on work-life balance, creative uses of data, diversity and Nebraska’s civic health, among other topics.

Creighton University professors Jennifer Moss Breen and Leah Georges, faculty with the university’s doctoral program in leadership, offered more than 200 listeners tips on being good “followers” in the workplace as part of a morning breakout session, “The Power of Followership.”

Being a good follower doesn’t mean being passive or a “yes-man.” On the contrary, it requires speaking up, being a problem-solver, being engaged.

Learning to be a good follower is how you become a good leader, Georges said. So don’t be afraid to ask your bosses how you can do a better job, as well as how you can support them. Added Moss Breen: “You’re not losing anything by trying to help your leader.”

A midday forum featured Omaha mayoral candidates Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Heath Mello.

The summit also honored five young “change makers” who have made positive contributions in the Omaha area and beyond: Aqua-Africa Executive Director Buey Tut; Charles Drew Health Center’s Dominique Morgan; Matt Dwyer and Jay Lund, co-founders of GreenSlate Development; and Gina Ligon, management professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Business Administration.

Looking ahead, YP manager and chamber staff member Luke Hoffman said he and others are awaiting the results of this year’s Diversity & Talent Inclusion Survey, an online survey aimed at taking the pulse of the region’s young professionals, age 40 and below.

The survey is sponsored by YP and the Urban League of Nebraska’s Young Professionals, among others. This year’s results and an analysis are expected to be released in May, Hoffman said.

This year’s survey is a follow-up to a similar survey in 2015 that was completed by more than 1,400 people. It found that young black professionals in Greater Omaha were five to six times less likely to recommend the Omaha area as a place to live and work.

Hoffman said he and others hope to use the latest survey to find out “what’s needed to create a more welcoming and inclusive community.”

In addition, he expects the results to inform the planning and content of next year’s summit.

This year’s survey is available until 5 p.m. today at surveygizmo.com.

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