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Simmons Leadership Conference 2013

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(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:

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.

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(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
  • communication
  • crisis management
  • multicultural marketing
  • mentoring
  • negotiating

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.”

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Li broke divided her talk into three parts:

  • Strategy
  • Organization
  • Preparation

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. Presence: Stake a claim, take a leap, and engage with others. (Example: Shell tracks its reputation impact on a daily basis.)
  3. Engagement: Dialogue deepens relationships, so it’s best for companies to develop rules for engagement. (Example: Intel’s social media guidelines.)
  4. Formalize: Organize for scale.
  5. 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.)
  6. Transformation: Business is social, and women are particularly social beings.

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(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:

  1. Align executives with clear business goals. Translate your social media to their world; don’t force them to understand your social media.
  2. 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.)
  3. Create a culture of sharing and build relationships that way.
  4. Master the art of failure. Google’s mantra is “fail fast, fail smart.”
  5. 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.”

 

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Leadership Conference Brings Women Together

This article originally appeared as a May 2, 2012 post on Michele Norris’ website: http://michele-norris.com/news/michele-norris-opens-afternoon-for-simmons-leadership-conference-boston/

On the heels of International Women’s Month was a women’s leadership conference at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center.

Sponsored by Simmons College, the 33rd annual Leadership Conference last month featured an array of inspiring women from different walks of life. The longest-running women’s leadership forum in the country, the event reached its maximum capacity and attracted about 2500 attendees.

The theme this year was “Innovation and Impact,” and a list of notable women discussed various ramifications of those overarching concepts. The speakers represented a variety of backgrounds, from entrepreneurs and athletes to money managers and media personalities. A unifying factor was the encouragement of women to excel in any field.

According to Joyce Kolligian, the conference’s executive director, “This year’s roster included some of the nation’s most visionary change-makers who recognized and seized opportunities that have altered the course of their industry or profession.”

The 2012 keynote speakers of the all-day conference included Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) and former president and CEO of eBay; tennis pioneer Billie Jean King; Robin Chase, former CEO of Zipcar and founder of GoLoco; and Michele Norris, co-host of National Public Radio’s (NPR) program “All Things Considered.”

Previous guests of the conference hail from a range of fields and have included Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison, ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In the Corporate Marketplace area were booths set up by the conference’s business and media sponsors, including Cisco, TD Bank, Philips, EMC² and HP. Held in the ballrooms and conference rooms were different talks, which Whitman kicked off with opening remarks at 8am.

The following 10 hours included discussions, book signings, lunch and lectures. Over the course of the day, a dozen influential women shared their insights and tips on leadership, business, success and balance in life

Norris, the first African American female host for NPR, opened the afternoon talk with thoughts on feminism, race relations and recent advancements toward equality. Noting the sheer size of the cavernous room, she commented on the seemingly endless space filled by strong women. “It just keeps going and going!”

The 50-year-old radio personality underscored the importance of not taking such advancements for granted. “Even within some of our lifetimes, it would have been hard to imagine a room like this,” she said.

Before delving into the topics addressed by her 2010 “accidental” family memoir, “The Grace of Silence,” Norris balanced the serious talk with a light-hearted anecdote. The mother of two explained how her kids plead over dinner, “Mommy, can we have the radio voice?” Norris joked that she provides the coveted “radio voice” only after they have cleaned their rooms.

The bulk of her talk related to the discussion of racism, particularly within her own family, as it appears in her book. “I wanted to write a book about how other people talk about race,” she said. When Norris listened to the conversation closer to home, she realized how little of it she had heard before. “I was writing the wrong book,” she concluded.

The result was a collection of first-hand accounts from her parents and extended family about racism. Her family faced discrimination in a predominantly white Minnesotan neighborhood; her grandmother traveled the country as an “itinerant Aunt Jemima”; her father was shot while on his way to take a class about the Constitution.

Other speakers at the event included Vernice Armour, third-generation Marine and the first African American female combat pilot in U.S. military history; Carmen Wong Ulrich, a finance expert, author, public speaker and former host of CNBC’s program “On the Money”; and Rhonda Kallman, who helped launch The Boston Beer Company (makers of Samuel Adams Boston Lager) and New Century Brewing Co.

Moderators of the conference included Jill Avery, assistant professor of marketing at the Simmons School of Management, and Dr. Teresa Nelson, the Elizabeth J. McCandless Professor of Entrepreneurship Chair and director of the School of Management’s Entrepreneurship Program.

Proceeds from the Leadership Conference go toward Simmons graduate scholarships.

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