IWL Women’s Leadership Conference 2012: Two Key Takeaways

I had the pleasure of attending the Indiana’s Women Leaders Conference on October 2, 2012. Traffic was an absolute nightmare because even the slightest sprinkle of rain sends Indiana drivers into a world of panic and I foolishly under dressed for this auspicious occasion. The normal attire for SEO conferences is a nice shirt and jeans – nerds don’t go all out.

Fashion issue aside, the conference was full of great information. Speaker presentations and breakout sessions related to the conference theme, “Present & Future: Choices, Chances, and Changes”.

Key Takeaways

Networking is super important, y’all. If you aren’t networking or are networking incorrectly, your chance for professional success diminishes. Colleges, universities tell students that networking is important but they don’t take the time to teach them HOW to network. Isn’t that silly? Hazel Walker shared a pretty cool statistic from her new book “Business Networking and Sex (it’s not what you think)“: 12K people were asked, “Has networking played a role in your success?” 91% responded “Yes”.

It’s better to build your network when you don’t need it than start one when you do need it and it’s too late.

Here are a few ideas on how to groom and grow you network:

  1. Ask for what you want. What’s the point of having a network if you aren’t going to use it? Be clear and make sure to explain how you can help them in the future.
  2. Create a list of accomplishments and update this list frequently. Be ready and prepared to brag about recent accomplishments with your current and potential contacts, employers, etc.
  3. Perfect your handshake. The correct handshake has nothing to do with how hard you shake: it’s about wrapping your hand completely around the other person’s hand with purpose.
  4. Follow up with everyone you meet. Don’t let any opportunities pass you by because you forgot to follow up!

Communicate your career needs, wants, and aspirations. Every panel member, and most of the speakers, stressed the importance of communicating your needs, wants, and aspirations to your employer and your mentor. It’s critical to take the time to figure out your career priorities (both short and long term) and then have a conversation to figure out how to take action on those priorities.

If you aren’t happy with your current situation, it’s on you to make a change. No one else is going to do it for you. Be the master of your career destiny! Stretch yourself to take on intimidating challenges – you learn as much from failure as you do from success.

Suggestions for next year

I have three suggestions for the event next year – mainly, embrace the world of social media.

  1. Include social media handles and information for all presenters in both the packet and on presentation slides. I like to credit quotes to the speakers but this information was not readily available. I had to search for their handles during the presentation and I’m sure I missed some awesome knowledge bombs! I couldn’t find the conference hashtag! It didn’t appear anywhere on the presentation slides or inside the conference packet. It wasn’t on any of the signage, either.
  2. Do not host a keynote speaker at lunch. I was interested in what she had to say but also wanted to network and socialize. Socializing won.
  3. WIFI! Please for the love of GOD give me WIFI! The Indiana Conference Center wanted $99 for a single day’s use. Perhaps there is a way to incorporate this into registration fees? I’d pay more for internet.
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