The 11th International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Women’s Leadership Forum was a wake-up call for event professionals looking to take their careers to the next level while balancing their personal lives. “It was a safe space to come together, be themselves and talk freely without being judged,” said Marsha Flanagan, new president of the organization founded almost 100 years ago.

To level the playing field during the day-long event, name badges did not include titles for the 250 women who gathered in the nation’s capital at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in concert with Business Events Industry Week. Suppliers hosted meeting professionals at intimate tables of five, and everyone had a chance to interact and get to know one another. “It was a holistic approach to being the best you can be at work, at home in your community, as a parent, sister, wife or caretaker.”

An Inclusive Center Stage

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Marsha Flanagan

The planning committee for Women’s Leadership Forum was intentional about the mix of speakers and topics based on feedback from previous events and pre-work surveys that pointed to conflicted feelings about self-care as a roadblock for many. “It’s hard to take care of others unless you take care of yourself first,” Flanagan said. “I hope everyone left energized, motivated, with a sense of calmness, knowing they are not alone.”

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ReVisionary Thinking

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Courtney Clark

What could you achieve with improved cognitive flexibility? Four-time cancer survivor Courtney Clark shared tips for reaching even the most ambitious milestones when life doesn’t go as hoped. “Most people are good at setting goals and making plans, but when things change, they are not always good at revising those plans,” she said. “Change isn’t what trips us up. Resistance to change is the problem.” That is where resilience—what she calls “ReVisionary Thinking”—kicks in.

The solution? “Think up” to create space for more brainstorming and creative choices while improving mental flexibility. The more ideas you and your team come up with, the more likely you break through the predictable ones and get to the best, she suggested, during a game based on the television program “Who’s Line is it Anyway.”

Elevate, Transform and Thrive

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Dr. Jennifer Keitt

For leaders who find themselves sleeping through aspects of their lives, Dr. Jennifer Keitt’s Executive Life Quest exercise was a wake-up call to lead from the heart, grasp one’s purpose and transform. “To transform my life, I must guide my mind,” she said. “Your mind is the broadcast center of your life. Take control of your programming.”

The former radio broadcaster, professional communicator and transformation coach works to build NextGen Leaders through the Keitt Insitute’s message of discovering and embracing your uniqueness. She worked with Women’s Leadership Forum attendees to create a personal value statement based on their goals and essential skills.

The Success-Energy Equation

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Michelle Cederberg

Feeling burnt out? The infinite variables in a meeting prof life can do that to a person. Health and productivity expert Michelle Cederberg had some tips for harnessing your energy and streamlining success. She studied top professionals and came up with routines she says are fail-proof, including clarifying your goals, breaking free of distractions and examining where your energy is being “poured, invested or drained.”

Cederberg, who has a master’s in kinesiology and a bachelor’s in psychology with a specialization in health and exercise psychology, believes in applying science to the design of our lives. That means focusing on conservation of energy. “Make sure that you’re not putting things on your schedule that aren’t high priority. Figure out what you can say ‘no’ to. Figure out what you can delegate. Figure out what you can let go. Sometimes we get caught up in the autopilot of getting shit done, and we forget that we have the power to change our schedule, negotiate it, ask for help,” she advised.

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The Magic of Belonging

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Denise Soler-Cox

All of us want to feel part of a group bigger than ourselves. Film producer Denise Soler Cox, co-director of the award-winning film “Being Eñye” about the experiences of first-generation Americans whose parents came from Hispanic countries, shared her experiences that led to her “Recipe for Belonging.”

“Belonging matters because it helps us form a unique human bond that signals we are part of a community—a place where we fit in, where we feel welcome and with people we want to be around,” she said.