The Women’s Conference is an important part of the history of women in business. I have attended many, and I wonder - is it relevant in the 21st century, or a dinosaur facing extinction? The traditional one day conference no longer meets the needs of women. It is important that this concept adapt. If we want to encourage women to speak up at meetings, why do we have them sit quietly at conferences? If we want women to be leaders, why don’t conferences demonstrate leadership skills by adding community outreach and opportunities to their conference? We must connect today’s skills with today’s events. A conference today needs to be collaborative, connected and committed.
How can conferences be “Collaborative“? Collaborative means working with other conferences! This is not happening today and is a wasted opportunity. Why do we have state conferences on different days, why not hold them all on one day, making a statement in itself? More co-ordination would mean a bigger impact. Business school and college conferences could use the same collaborative spirit. Many schools will invite other schools’ students to participate which is good, but they hold their own conferences separately. It would be great to see Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Michigan UNC, State Universities and others hold their conferences on one day and fill them with technology. Conferences need to show women how to be collaborative in their own careers. That would be something to see!
"Connecting” is the main purpose of most conferences, but are women “Connecting” well through these conferences? Often I hear complaints about the networking opportunities offered not helping enough. Conferences should be the best and easiest places for women to network. More audience participation is a key piece necessary to make this happen. And by that I don’t mean a few questions allowed at the end of a speech. Women 2.o does a great job offering women an opportunity to speak up with its pitch events and more.
And conferences need to be “Committed“. What is one day in the life of a woman’s career? What does a one day conference do for them? There has to be follow-up. “Women in the Boardroom” works well with this concept by supplementing its main conferences with connection events, virtual events and twitter chats. The Dare2bDigital conference made all participants “ambassadors” with tasks to be done the Monday following the event, to expand its influence. The great thing about this is it makes women feel the responsibility to carry the message further and integrate what they learned into their careers. Women need to evaluate conferences by the impact conference makes on their careers. What have you done to implement what you heard the first week after the event, the first month etc. By paying your admittance to conferences as many companies do, your company may see it as their way of helping you, rather than doing more leadership training for you etc, so it better be worthwhile.
The “three c’s” - collaboration, connection, and commitment, are the keys to success for the 21st century conference. In today’s world, Women are prepared with better education and higher skill levels. Women have the right technology with flex options, remote working, and an ability to connect with work at any time. Women are ready. Are today’s conferences ready for them?