This blog post is written by our Digital Event Enthusiast, Darcy Gabriele.
Being a new member of the Washington State Chapter Board, I was excited to connect with other brave volunteers focused on Communications and Marketing for their chapters. All the conversations I had highlight just how much the Events Industry is filled with badasses! I met men and women who run their own businesses, who plan 300+ meetings a year, who craft intimate high-level executive meetings, as well as other event technology professionals. Despite these high stakes, high pressure jobs, they’re volunteering their time/energy/expertise to give back to their MPI chapter- I feel kind of intimated to be on the board!
My 5-day trip started out with Chapter Business Summit, which brings together chapter board members to better learn how to serve on boards. Then, WEC officially kicked off with a swanky party on a beach next to Lake Ontario. Visit Toronto pulled out all the stops. The perimeter of the beach was lined with tents, each tent was represented by a Canadian city, serving food and drinks representative of that city. In essence, we got to take a food tour around Canada by walking from tent to tent! Poutine for days. The coolest part- that I am definitely stealing for my next party- was a giant bubble maker, that made bubbles into different shapes! Imagine the sky over this beach party, lined with maple leaves and T.O. signs to bring the Canadian joy to life.
No event is truly successful without killer content to unite the attendees together. Just between you and me, I think this event had the best content of any conference I’ve been to, to date. So, without further ado, a round-up of my favorite sessions from WEC19:
The Opening Session- Dena Blizzard and Vinh Giang.
Have you seen Dena Blizzard live before? She CRUSHES it- seriously, the best emcee I’ve seen. Sharp, entertaining, witty… she has it all. I think she’s a professional comedian, which makes sense. A little stalking told me she had an off-broadway show, does a reoccurring Boardwalk show in Atlantic city, and tours a bit too. I’m keeping an eye out for the next time she comes to Seattle!
Also part of the opening session was master magician Vinh Giang, who blew us away by successfully guessing which long word (defined as more than 6 letters) a random audience member selected from the entire novel The Shining. Seriously, she turned to a random page, picked a word, closed the book, and the book was taken off stage. She didn’t say anything that would indicate how he would know. But he guessed it after asking 2 random, seemingly unrelated questions. I truly have no idea how he did it (the word was thunderstruck) but I was so impressed!
Boss Up: The Secrets to Climbing the Ladder to Success
This all-female panel gave a very inspiring talk from successful women at different points in their careers. The conversation was free-forming and loosely structured, which I love because I think it makes it more authentic and relatable. Talks like this sometimes get criticized for not communicating new information, but I think hearing these words of wisdom is important because it hits me in different ways depending on where I am in life. I’m sure I heard all this same stuff when I was just starting my career, but now, closer to turning 30, it hits in a different way. Certain things resonate now for the first time, or things that resonated in one way now resonate in another way.
Gender and Authenticity in the Workplace: Alignment between personal and professional identities
After a long career cycling while expressing as a man, Ron Renee Roley started working for Nike full time. It was at this time they came out as queer and gender fluid in their personal life, but soon they realized how crucial it is for them to express themselves as they identify in all areas- both personal and professionally. Coming out at Nike, Ron Renee found a supportive culture that embraced them for who they are. Building off this, Ron Renee gave a passionate and fascinating talk on the importance of creating a work culture that allows people to live authentically. Why is this important?
50.8% of transgender teens said they have attempted suicide
90% of transgender individuals have experienced harassment in the workplace
26% of transgender individual have lost their job due to being gender non-conforming or transgender
50% have or will experience violence from their partner
Those are strong stats- I believe, and everyone at Evia would agree with me- that humans have a responsibility to create a society that embraces all individuals, across all identities. And one aspect of that is workplace culture. Ron Renee did a great job of outlining ways to be a strong ally, as well as ways Ron Renee supports a culture of belonging. They do this by always being open and approachable to questions, holding space for others to feel safe, presenting their authentic self, by being vulnerable in their self-expression, and by staying in their center (not shrinking, and not puffing up either). I really enjoyed the talk, and recommend viewing more by Ron Renee if you have the chance!
Leading a High Converting Sales Team- to Win & Attract More Leads
While I’m not actually a Sales Leader, and this talk was geared towards those who manage a sales team, I was blown away by Ciara Feely’s process for improving sales processes, and creating high-functioning sales teams. She started her talk by challenging a myth she often hears- “we just need more leads- it’s a numbers game.” Not true! Generating more leads is NOT the fastest path to profitability. I bet a lot of sales leaders who aren’t on the ground forget that. Ciara walked through an action plan for profitability in the sales process, and helped the audience in the room really get in the head of their clients. She also shared great habits for sales teams to develop to make them more profitable. I won’t share her secrets here, because I think it’s worth checking out her program yourself!
How AI will Impact Your Business Today and Tomorrow
At Evia, we talk about AI and Machine Learning all the time, because we’re pioneering the implementation of that technology for digital events. That being said, I always love to tune in to hear how other people are using it and talking about it. Ross Simmonds did a fantastic job outlining where the industry sits, and shared some incredible new softwares and technologies I had never heard of before. We watched a demo of a Google Bot talking with and scheduling a hair appointment for someone else- and truly, you’d have no idea there was a robot on the call. The AI-bot would even do little human elements like say “mm-hmm” at just the right moment. I know what you’re thinking: that’s kind of creepy! But let’s be honest… how surrounded are you by AI today, and don’t even think twice about it? Robots scheduling our appointments are going to be the norm in just a few years.
He showed us another cool software for sales teams that listened to sales conversations, and made note of how often the sales person spoke versus the client, and would ping the sales rep reminders when the machine felt he or she was talking too much! It even compiled data when men interrupted women, and sent them a reminder to not do that (when does that technology become available for in person environments, too? Bar conversations will never be the same).
That’s a wrap! A roundup of my favorite WEC sessions. Did you attend some that weren’t on this list? Would love to hear! Unfortunately I don’t think every session was recorded (they should be!) but I’ll keep an eye out of those speakers at a future event.
Darcy Gabriele represents Evia, making digital events worry-free since ‘93. Specializing in livestreaming, content capture, and video player development, Evia is the leader in digital events. Interested in bringing livestreaming to your next event? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org !