10 Jun 2010

For many years now I have made the effort to attend a variety of women’s events. For the majority of these years I have been sorely disappointed, at times frustrated and on occasion felt ripped off. In the past year this has begun to change. I’ve attended a couple of really good events for women. Having finally attended these types of events I now have some insight into what I call The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of women’s events and I’d like to share this with you.

The Ugly: the ugly women’s events do not start on time and run late. If there is food it is either wretched tasting or food any health conscious individual would prefer not to consume (think meat dishes with heavy sauces and over-cooked, mucky pastas). The speaker or workshop turns out to be little more than a very basic introduction to a subject- Wikipedia provides more helpful information on the topic than the speaker does. Sometimes the speakers are poor presenters- their presentations are not well constructed, insufficiently rehearsed, and monotone. All too often, they run over time. Then there’s the race to collect as many business cards as possible; it’s like speed dating. You learn little and if you connect outside of the event it rarely leads to anything concrete. Conversation with the women in attendance quickly digresses to family life and children. I’ve dubbed this diaper talk- you know when your kids are young and at almost every play group or play centre some mother feels compelled to share the details of their child’s bowel processes. Please ladies. There is a place and time for this type of talk but a business women’s luncheon is neither. I will gladly tell you I have a husband, a daughter and a dog, but I’m at the event to talk about and learn about other things that will help my professional life. The place for a rant session about the challenges of being all to everyone is on the deck or in the sunroom with a couple of girlfriends, some nibblies and either strong coffee or a couple of bottles of wine, not at a business women’s event. Please don’t get me wrong, the women I meet are all very nice people, but ladies if we want to succeed professionally we need to step up to greater challenges and on occasion step out of our roles as mothers and wives. Our husbands have no problem going out to business functions and letting us parent in their absence. Let’s return the favour.

The Bad: The bad events sometimes make me sad because they were once good events but for some reason the quality and management of the event declined. This could include everything from unattended registration tables, malfunctioning audio/video, speakers that are allowed to ramble on or have little to say and sandwiches made with stale bread and little filling. Really interesting women representing a variety of professions and sectors who once attended have now been replaced by multi-level marketers.

The Good: the speaker has something interesting to say. She or he may stumble a bit if they are not professional speakers, but they are accomplished in their fields and able to share valuable information and lessons learned. Yeah! You learn something new. The food is good, it isn’t unhealthy and it isn’t mucky. If fills you up, its tasty and you enjoy it. The women you meet are doing interesting things not just professionally but in their communities and recreationally. They ask for your card and give you theirs: you do the same in earnest. Not everyone follows-up but you always end up expanding your network by adding at least one more interesting, bright and engaged woman to your network. Time and money well spent.

The Elusive Excellent: these events meet and exceed your expectations. The speaker blows you away. You find yourself either nodding enthusiastically or furiously writing down notes. You meet and have interesting conversations with people from sectors you would otherwise never come across (the marketing manager for Burt’s Bees located in the Evergreen Brickworks Project). You learn from the speaker and from those you speak with. You begin relationship building by meeting and being introduced to women doing extraordinary things – head of the Chamber of Commerce, CEOs and CFOs of larger for profit and not for profit organizations, politicians, lawyers, IT specialists, entrepreneurs, artists- people who are doing creative and innovative work. And almost all of them say something to the effect that they never think of what they do as exceptional, they just do it because it needs to be done, its fun and they can. Oh ladies, how your humility impresses the hell out of me. This is where you want to be; this is how you strive to live; these events inspire you to be all that you can. Notice I haven’t mentioned the food. At these events its secondary, but not surprisingly it tends to be delicious, sometimes intriguing, and worth talking about. I’ve been to two of these events in the last year. The first was last fall’s Women of Influence luncheon- yes the ticket wasn’t cheap but it was a great investment and the other last night- Women of Waterloo Region. Many are familiar with the Women of Influence series and likely few with the Women of Waterloo Region. I’ll rectify that next post.

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