Putting together a conference that encourages and empowers women to make the most of their gifts and talents has long been a dream of mine. Just as I have attended conferences, consulted with coaches and done a lot of reading to reinvent my career and life, I wanted to share that journey and that information with others who find themselves embarking on a similar path. In the beginning, the idea of a conference like this was just a dream, but bit by bit the pieces began falling into place. The dream began when I read the book, The Path by Laurie Beth Jones which is one of the clearest directions I have found for creating a mission statement. You'll find it on my reading list. Next, I toured the MUST ministries facility with my friend and MUST event planner, Betsy Matthews and discovered what a gorgeous community room they have and how they make it available as a way to give back to the community. Finally, I talked with my friend and fellow author, Kathy Brunner, who immediately and enthusiastically said, "Let's do it!" when I proposed the idea of a women's conference. I would never have embarked on the journey without her support and can-do-spirit. We added Kim Wiggins to the team of planners. She brought her great organizational, technological and leadership skills to the group and we were off and running. How long did we have? Six months. Was this an ambitious plan? Could we have used more time and developed it more? YES! Was it successful anyway? YES!
Not only was the program successful but I learned five things that will greatly help us as we begin planning our Second Annual Called Woman's Conference for next year. I think these are valuable things to know whether you are planning a women's conference, reinventing your career or planning a book launch. Here's what I learned:
- Dream BIG--I admit that I'm not the best in the group at dreaming big. I tend to downplay things and dream small but expect growth. To really grow though you need to dream bigger and begin with the end in mind. We tend to get what we expect so don't undermine your efforts by dreaming too small.
- It always takes twice as long as you think and costs twice as much as you would think to reach your dream. Dream big but don't forget to count and conserve your resources. You will need to plan carefully and expect that your dream will take time to reach. Don't give up when you don't see the results you want right away. Give it time to develop. When I first embarked on a speaking career, I spent the first year developing things. Developing topics to speak on. Developing contacts and building relationships. Developing a plan or strategy. It was not only exhausting but sometimes discouraging. But it paid off. While I continue to do all of those things now, I also usually speak at least once a month, sometimes more.
- It's okay to ask people for things. Many times they are excited that you did. One of the things that we provided each participant was a goodie bag. My goal was to have everything in the goodie bag be donated by businesses that wanted to promote their product. In the beginning it was difficult to ask people for this but I really came to the point where it was fun because so many people were happy and eager to participate. I also learned a lot by about different businesses and their philosophy about giving.
- Be flexible and don't give up. Be ready for people to cancel and not show up. We had everything from a speaker who arrived an hour late (after the conference was over) to attendees who were sick and unable to come. I learned to be prepared for anything and to always have a plan B in mind.
- Support is critical-you don't have to go it alone. The two women that worked with me to plan the conference were amazing. They were both a powerhouse of energy and ideas. They were creative and hard-working. We enjoyed working together so much we are already planning how we will work together during the next year to plan our next conference. What a difference it makes to know someone has your back.
So there it is. A successful 2012 Called Woman Conference. I 'm already dreaming BIG about the next Called Woman Conference for 2013!