(Conference schedule. Astrid Lium photos.)
The Simmons Leadership Conference attracted more than 3000 professional women to the Seaport World Trade Center on April 2. Known as the “world’s premier professional conference for women,” the 34th annual gathering marked its 2013 anniversary with a Women of Influence theme.
This year’s panel included an array of speakers from various backgrounds, including:
- Viola Davis, awarding=winning actress
- Josie Natori, CEO of Natori Company
- Terry Savage, personal finance expert
- Judy Smith, crisis management expert
Greeting the crowd at 8am was master of ceremonies Joyce Kulhawik, long-time broadcaster in Boston and Simmons College alumna.
Following her warm welcome, opening keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck provided “Leadership Lessons for Women in Business.” The Wall Street executive offered an inside view of the obstacles and opportunities influential women in finance and business face.
(Leadership Conference luncheon held at the Seaport World Trade Center on April 2.)
The morning and afternoon presentations included a mix of topics and backgrounds. The speakers––including marketing expert Kelly McDonald, Simmons professor and business consultant Stacy Blake-Beard, PhD, and co-authors Lois Frankel, PhD and Carol Frohlinger, JD––displayed their influence in the business world with inspiration, insight, and humor, touching on a number of issues:
- personal finance
- crisis management
- multicultural marketing
Attendees had the opportunity to meet the presenters during a book signing break, followed by the morning keynote speaker Charlene Li. Author of the bestsellers “Groundswell” and “Open Leadership,” Li is a social media expert and a board member of the Harvard Alumni Association.
Li discussed the importance of social technologies in the rapidly changing world of modern business. She underscored the point throughout her talk that “social media is about relationships, not technology.”
Li broke divided her talk into three parts:
In regard to strategy, she claims that most businesses fail when they lack clear business goals. “Strategy is what you decide to do and not to do,” she said.
In turn, Li set forth six phases of social business maturity.
- Planning: develop relationships with your audience, clients, followers. Monitor what people are doing and listen to their feedback. (Example: The American Red Cross monitors social channels during disasters and relief efforts.)
- Presence: Stake a claim, take a leap, and engage with others. (Example: Shell tracks its reputation impact on a daily basis.)
- Engagement: Dialogue deepens relationships, so it’s best for companies to develop rules for engagement. (Example: Intel’s social media guidelines.)
- Formalize: Organize for scale.
- Strategy: Become a social business and connect the dots. (Example: Sephora integrates social and digital elements into their community as well as in their stores.)
- Transformation: Business is social, and women are particularly social beings.
(Keynote speaker Charlene Li discusses social media in business.)
In regard to organization, Li referred to seven success factors, of which she offered two: planning details and having an initiative road map. She underscored the importance of filtering information. “We have to be parsimonious about what we focus on,” she said. “Choose carefully and let others pass.”
For her third part, Li outlined five ways in which companies can prepare:
- Align executives with clear business goals. Translate your social media to their world; don’t force them to understand your social media.
- Ask the right questions about value, not return on investment (ROI). (“How many of you calculated the ROI of your time spend at this conference today?” Li asked in jest.)
- Create a culture of sharing and build relationships that way.
- Master the art of failure. Google’s mantra is “fail fast, fail smart.”
- Determine your personal social strategy. Leverage connections and use your networks.
During the Q&A session, the first question came via Twitter. An audience member asked, “How do you deal with online rage?”
Li’s response: “Never feed the trolls. When trolls have no audience, they move on.”
Her final point was social media ubiquity. “I want social media right here all the time,” she said. “It’s so easy to better know people through social media.”