I am bursting with information to share from the inaugural, sold-out 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. It was hands-down the best conference I have ever attended. All the speakers, panelists, and moderators were incredible, not to mention famous. I sat in the same room as future President Hillary Clinton!
While the conference exceeded all of my expectations in terms of content, many of the logistics can be improved for next year. One day is not enough. There was only wifi in certain areas of the Santa Clara convention center. I suggest that the organizers (considering we are in the mecca of techland) serve up free wifi for the duration of the conference to all of its attendees. Those of us with laptops took a hit to our productivity trying to ascertain where the free hot spots were. And what is up with the severe lack of food? Chicken salad and a dixie-sized cup of dessert were all that were served the whole day! Not a single granola bar or piece of fruit could be found. During lunch, I heard at least a thousand women grumble that they were starving.
Poor logistics aside, the conference was highly-motivating and inspirational. Here are the top things that I learned.
Connect offline. Go to conferences. Call your mother!
During a Q&A session, one attendee talked about how she was an entrepreneur, but felt stuck. The speaker told her, “That’s why you’re here. Come to conferences like this. Be inspired. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs or like-minded people who can motivate you.” She’s right. There is great power in connecting with others. Stop staring at your iPhone and go to a meetup.
Be your authentic self. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly.
No one likes a Pollyanna. Because seriously, who is perfect? One of the speakers talked about how we tend to compartmentalize our lives and share only parts of who we are: partner at a law firm, Ivy League… Rarely do we talk about divorce or being a single mom or overcoming depression. But what a great service we would be offering up to our communities and to each other if we reflected on our collective past and how that made us stronger? Not only does that convey strength, but it’s also our authentic selves. The speaker encouraged us to bring all of our different personas to the table, and not pick and choose our highlights. Another speaker echoed this same theme. She said that authenticity is at the heart of your power, and that when you bring your authentic self, people will trust you.
“What you might consider your weaknesses can become your strengths.”
That’s a quote from Candy Chang. I believe she characterized herself as an introvert and as a way of dealing with a sudden death of a loved one, she painted chalkboard onto the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans and stenciled the words “Before I die I want to…” It became an art sensation with 550 walls created in over 35 languages in over 70 countries. Through a simple idea, Candy has changed the way people in communities exchange information. She is one to watch as she is doing some amazing things as an artist and a proponent of building more cohesive and interactive communities.
I think the most important thing I learned from the conference is that all of these amazing, successful women had help and a lot of it. It seems simple enough, but I think a lot of us try to do way too much on our own. One partner at a law firm said she was always so embarrassed at how many helpers (maids, nannies, babysitters, personal assistants) she had marching in and out of her house, but all of that help is what allows her to succeed in life. Another speaker very quotably said, “When you put yourself first, you put your family first.”
Find it online.
The conference was $245 which isn’t chump change so I totally understand if people can’t afford to attend. You know what? No problem. If there’s a conference you want to go to and you can’t afford it or it’s too far away, I swear all of that information turns up online. For this conference, just search #LeadonCA. You can find Kara Swisher’s fantastic interview of Hillary Clinton here.
Also, a lot of the speeches were recycled or upcycled Ted Talks.
Here are a few to get your started.
There, I just saved you $245. You’re welcome.
Next up, I’ll post on my exclusive interview with the World and Olympic figure skating, and Dancing with the Stars champion Kristi Yamaguchi.