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Deb Brown: Inspiring Small Towns to Take Action 

I teach small towns and community members the skills to take practical steps to a better community, quickly.

Specialist Speaker on Small Town Topics

You’ll receive common sense advice based upon my work experience and the experiences of other small towns I’ve helped. 

My programs on small business, what to do with empty buildings, customer service, marketing and economic development in small towns have been received by chambers, economic developers, tourism specialists, museum experts, business groups, and small town conferences.

I share examples and advice about creating the kind of community you want to live in.

This practical advice come from real world experience. Over 60 years on the planet has given me knowledge on how to do a lot of things and how to work with many different types of people.  I grew up on a farm and learned quickly how to be an entrepreneur with the first hog I owned.  I’ve had many side gigs that paid for education. Then there is the 30 years in Chicago doing everything from foreign casualty insurance underwriting to retail management.

I’m the co-founder of www.saveyour.town along with Becky McCray. We bring you practical advice on how to shape a brighter future for your small town. Recent experience includes Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce in Iowa Executive Director and the communications director at the Greater Franklin County Chamber.


Whether you’re looking for a keynote speaker, webinar, a workshop or a hands on visit, I can help your small town. 

Most often asked for presentations include:

Empty Buildings: What to do with them

Every town has them, some more than others. Most people don’t even notice them anymore, unless you’re a visitor or newcomer to town.  Then you wonder what kind of town have you landed in? Let me show you want other communities have done with their empty buildings, help you design a plan for yours, and begin to get businesses back into your town.

Audiences love this topic, it’s hands on and they leave realizing there is work to be done, but they can do it! 

Marketing in a Small Town

Big city folks love to tell us how to do things, and to just scale it down.  Guess what?  That usually doesn’t work.  I’ll share about both offline and online marketing, what you as a small town organization/group/business can do to get the attention you need, and other valuable tips.

My unique, hands on viewpoint of small towns makes this presentation a favorite with many participants.

Customer Service

Businesses are often resistant to the message of better customer service.  I can work with those businesses without causing offense and create action plans that work.  I address internal and external customer service, conflict resolution, and tourism as part of your business and how customer service can make all the difference.

Front line businesses in the tourism industry are partial to this workshop and small town leaders as well!

Big Ideas in Small Towns, Making Small Towns Open to New Ideas

Which small towns will survive into the future? Advances in agriculture, manufacturing, and energy all mean changes to jobs, economic development and tax revenues.  Given the certainty of change in our future, its time to start making your community more idea friendly.  Learn the three practical ways to improve the climate for new ideas and position your small town to thrive no matter what the future brings.

 This topic shakes up old ideas about small towns.  For towns facing opposition or stubborn negativity I offer a specialized version with practical steps you can take to draw a crowd of supporters, create more connection and move ahead with small steps.  

Embedded Community Experience

What does an Embedded Community Visit look like?  Often someone will meet me at the airport and drive us back to town – and in this informal get together, a lot of questions are asked, answers are shared and the process of the embedded community visit begins.  If I drive into town, sharing a meal is another great way to get together informally. 

Usually next up is a walk through (or drive through) town and I have the opportunity to see your town in a way you don’t.  Because I’m fresh eyes, I see things that you may miss.  Usually over dinner there’s more discussion and conversation.  

Because we’ve done our research, and talked with your key players before I come, I have an idea of the types of things you’d like to hear more about.  I share this with you in a presentation style event.  Sometimes it’s strictly a presentation, sometimes it is interactive – depending on your community! There is often a handout provided (online) that you can download at your leisure after I’m gone.  I encourage everyone to sign up for our weekly newsletters as well – there’s lots of information you will use.  We also have a private Facebook group you will be able to participate in and learn from.  Finally, you may wish to consider our Megaphone or Insider membership.  

When I come for an embedded community experience we begin the process with you of Gather Your Crowd and teach you how to use the Idea Friendly method.  We encourage you to bring together positive people to crowd-source the future of your town.  The old way of deciding the future was done by organizations and government, our new way is done by everyone.  The old way had someone in control, our new way is to get as many people as possible trying new things.  I show you how to Build Connections and Take Small Steps.

If it sounds informal, that is because it is.  Intentionally.  Because I want you to have practical steps you can put into action right away.  I’m not there to help you create a master plan that then goes back on a shelf to be dusted off 5 years later and rewritten.  I also want everyone in the community who wants to participate to be valued and welcomed.  Each embedded community experience is tailored to the needs of your community and what works for you.  

Important Speaking Appearances:

TEDx Brookings

Inaugural Rural X Summit, keynote speaker

Michigan Small Town and Rural Development Conference, keynote speaker

Mid America Chamber Executives (MACE)

140 Character Conferences – NYC, Cohost – Iowa, Host – Small Town, Cohost

Historic Preservation Summit Iowa

Western Area Chamber Executives Conference, Los Angeles,  small town keynote speaker

Iowa Byways

Misfit Conference

MidStates Economic Development Conference, keynote speaker

Stuart, Iowa Chamber Dinner, keynote speaker

Central Iowa Tourism, keynote speaker

Southern Illinois Economic Development Conference

Roscommon County, Michigan keynote speaker

Western Iowa Tourism

Milbank, South Dakota keynote speaker

Iowa Museum Association


Rural Economic Development Webinar – Blaine, Canada and Pro Learning Laboratory

SaveYour.Town Webinars Monthly with Becky McCray

National Realtors Association Webinar with Tyler Abens

What’s your next step?  You can check out the FAQ page or go directly to the Book Deb page!

TEDx Brookings Filming www.foreverydream.com RuralX 140Conf Small Town SaveYour.Town MisfitConf
    TEDx Brookings Filming www.foreverydream.com RuralX 140Conf Small Town SaveYour.Town MisfitConf

Book Deb

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Thanks for looking for more information!  You’ve come to the right place.

Keynotes are generally one hour in length (although this can be adjusted) and are prepared for you — it’s not the same keynote you’ll hear down the road.  Each presentation has been designed for your community, because I believe that’s important.  The cost is $3,500 plus expenses for travel.

Workshops are done in groups you design – who do you want at the workshop?  What topics do you want to cover?  How can I be of the most assistance to you and your group(s)?  Generally workshops range in length from one hour to half a day.  Do you want to do two one hour workshops in one morning with two different groups?  That can be arranged.  Workshops cost the same as a keynote, $3,500 plus expenses for travel.

Webinars vary in topics, and I often recommend you just work with Becky McCray and I both at www.saveyour.town.  This cost varies, and we can work through it with you.

Embedded stay – this is where the rubber meets the road and you’ll receive the most bang for you buck.  I actually come to your community  and the first day, do a walk through of your town (or drive through) and ask a lot of questions.  The next day is the keynote presentation on the topic you request.  The last morning we can sit down with groups you want me to work with, meet with your board, have a hands on workshop and hammer out what needs to be discussed.  The cost is $3,500 for a three day vsit plus expenses for travel.

Once or twice a year I take on a community and project at a reduced cost.  Are you doing something ridiculously cool and I want to be involved?  Small towns are my passion, and I want to help. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want, and let’s talk! 

Cell phone: 641-580-0103

email: deb@saveyour.town

Facebook: /debworks

Twitter: @debworks

Stay Up to Date with Deb

Idea Friendly Workshop

People too closed to new ideas? Open them up to be Idea Friendly Gather your crowd, make connections, and take small steps. We'll show you the research behind it, and the practical steps you can take to put it into action right away. Live video broadcast Sept 7 Or catch it on-demand until Sept 21 LEARN MORE  

Idea Friendly Workshopdebworks

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Deb Brown, Speaker