Just the other day, The Austinot published my story, “Texas Conference for Women Takes the Town This Week,” an introduction to this annual event that aims to empower women’s professional and personal lives through education, inspiration, and shared experiences. Yesterday, I got to attend.
Let me just say…wow. Here’s a brief run-down of my experience, plus a few tips for making next year’s Texas Conference for Women a personal success.
Inspiration and Wisdom
Hands down, that had to be the morning’s talk by Life Is Good “Chief Optimist” Bert Jacobs, who brought me to tears several times. Because I can’t resist a book (especially one inscribed by its author), I hustled over to the store to buy a copy. Unfortunately, I hadn’t hustled fast enough; by the time I got to the signing line, they’d closed it down. His parting message: “At the beginning, everybody says we need more, but all we really need is more time. Protect your time with your life.”
There were too many panel discussions to catch, which meant you had to be pretty selective. I was pleased with my choice,”Reviving Your Career: Actionable Steps to Achieve a Professional Renaissance.” The notes I took include a lengthy list of quotes from each of the five panelists. Here are a few:
“Write a ‘Hell No’ list, from most trivial to most profound.” ~ Laura Simms
“Know what you want, be able to articulate why, and figure out what is the wow.”~ Sheryl Adkins-Green
“Resentfulness is a red flag; it means I need to pay attention to me, to get back to myself.” ~ Wendy Wallbridge
Tory Johnson interviewing Robin Roberts was fabulous. Clearly, the two have a practiced and easy rapport developed over years of working together on ABC’s Good Morning America (plus, they were reprising their 2014 appearance at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women). Honestly, it felt as though you were sitting on the couch in the living room with a couple of friends. I confess that I don’t watch morning shows, so I didn’t have a fan relationship with Roberts. That’s certainly correct in the past tense, because I’m a fan now. She has a very direct and simple presentation that still reveals wit, intelligence, and drive. As a self-proclaimed “thriver” after dealing with cancer, Roberts is truly inspirational.
Get Off of Your Seat Award
While its delivery was a little wooden, the content of actress Patricia Arquette’s speech was electrifying. Arquette embellished on brief comments made after accepting her Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2015 Oscars. Her speech ranged over the need for equal pay (especially for women of all types, colors, sexual orientation, and gender expression), passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, definition of feminism, and how “our negligent system” handles rape cases. Arquette’s a feisty lady who pulled no punches, lobbing zingers left and right to applause.
“Let there be no mistake — Texas is Ground Zero [for equal pay].” ~ Patricia Arquette
Watch Arquette’s Acceptance Speech:
Do men go to conferences, look around, and think, “Damn, there are a lot of fine people here!”? Outfits and stylings were smartly professional. People watching was fabulous. Truly, this was a well-heeled crew. And when luncheon keynote speaker Robin Roberts showed off her amazing shoes, it was a be-still-my-beating-heart moment.
There was a lot of cool stuff to be seen (and had) in the Exhibitor Hall. Yes, local retailer Book People completely suckered me and I dropped some bucks on books by speakers. I did manage to resist a host of jewelry, scarves, lifestyle products, and more. I rejoiced to see Bandera (Cowboy Capital of the World and my favorite place on earth to run) and Texas State Parks represented. There was even a fledgling Health &Wellness Pavilion as well as a Small Business Marketplace, with everything from resume reviews to product pitch time.
Many of the men’s bathrooms had been converted into women’s restrooms, which made me wonder on behalf of the small group of attending guys. Were some toilets left sacred for their undisturbed peeing pleasure? (I hoped so.) This transformation did, however, blessedly alleviate long bathroom lines for ladies.
In case you’d like to go next year, here are
10 Tips for Attending Texas Conference for Women
- Don’t wait to register; 2015 sold out, with some 7,000 in attendance.
- Bring something to huddle under, as some of the rooms were frigid. You’ll get a handy tote bag, so don’t hesitate to bring a few things (I brought a refillable water bottle).
- Be prepared to walk at a brisk pace to make it from one session to another on time, as they are spread out among multiple floors. Though the shoe game is intense, you may wish to opt for comfort.
- Unless there’s a pre-arranged meeting place, you will never find your friends. You will, however, discover a lot of people you didn’t expect to see and make tons of new acquaintences.
- Taking CapMetro Light Rail? Be sure to buy a ticket, and take an earlier train than you think necessary. The morning train was extremely crowded and ran late. At the end of the day, let the crowds thin out rather than join the crush. You can find something to do downtown during happy hour, right?
- Do your due diligence by mapping out seminars to attend before arriving (there’s an app for that). Yes, some good stuff will be missed; there’s simply too much to cover it all. To help guide your selections, set an intention for the conference.
- This is a social media-friendly group, and you’ll tweet up a storm. Bring your phone charger — there’s a Networking Lounge to sit and plug in inside the Exhibitor Hall. In case of flagging energy, there’s also a coffee bar.
- Don’t worry about your seat at lunch. Because of the multiple screens and excellent sound system, there’s no bad seat in the spacious Austin Convention Center.
- Be sure to pay as much attention to WHO is involved as WHAT is being covered. For example: the local leader meet-ups were an excellent place to make connections. Roundtable discussions around social media varied depending on the facilitator. Panels were another method to experience some of the various experts who gave other talks.
- If possible, consult a veteran for recommendations. As a newbie, I missed things that a more experienced attendee would’ve pointed out. There’s all kinds of hands-on stuff, for example — I could’ve learned how to make a blanket to donate to Meels on Wheels at the Community Connection Pavilion.
For all those things I should’ve seen or could’ve done better, there’s always next year. I’m sure I’ll be there.