Unplug, Recharge, Renew

May 4, 2018 Julia Smith

Women’s Leadership Forum Blog 

Unplug, Recharge, Renew

As someone who keeps a pretty rigorous travel and work schedule a large part of the year, I look forward to IAEE’s Women’s Leadership Forum as an annual opportunity to recharge, get some fresh perspectives, and network with some of the amazing women working in the exhibitions and events industry.

The programming always offers a good cross-section of motivational and introspective speakers, along with at least one panel of industry experts, and time to meet new people and reconnect with old friends.

Digital Happiness Pledge

One of my favorite speakers this year was Anna Akbari, PhD. She spoke on managing our connection with technology, rather than letting technology manage us.  We were challenged to think about how technology impacts our personal and professional relationships, and to set healthy boundaries, such as meals without phones, and spending technology-free time with our loved ones.  I confess to being way too tethered to my many devices, and pledged, along with my fellow attendees, to find a better balance of life and technology.

Speaker Gina Rudan shared her inspirational story in a highly energetic discussion about integrating your heart, mind and goals. By the end of her presentation she had the audience relaxing through meditation. That brief moment left me wanting to try to make meditation a regular part of my relaxation routine. In this industry we are so often speeding from activity to activity, and rarely take the time to clear our minds and make space for brainstorming and creativity.

Other speakers and panelists gave tips on asking for what you want, projecting your unique value, and leadership skills.

I was thrilled to see Jennifer Hoff, founder of Taffy Events, honored as this year’s Woman of Achievement.  Jenn was at least partially motivated to launch her own company after attending an earlier WLF, and listening to other entrepreneurial women. The progress she and her fledgling company have made in a short period of time is admirable.

On the way home after the end of the meeting, I had a layover in Dallas, and spent an hour near closing time in an unusually empty Admiral’s Club.  For a while, I was the only person in an entire section of the club, a rare event. I looked up when another woman entered the space, only to recognize Mickey Schaefer, CEO of the Experience Institute®, and founder of the CTA Network™.  It’s a small world, after all! 

I and 12 of my GES colleagues were fortunate to spend the entire day and a half with strong, smart, motivated women, dedicated to this industry, making a difference in their professional and personal lives, and open to learning new skills and sharing their experiences.  Fortunately, IAEE has expanded the WLF into a year-round initiative, so I don’t have to wait a whole year to get my next boost!

About the Author

Julia Smith

Julia Smith, CEM, CTA is Senior Vice President of Exhibition Sales at GES, where she has been collaborating with exhibition clients for more than 32 years. She is a past President of ESCA and a past Chairperson of IAEE, and is currently serving on the Events Industry Council's COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force.

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