2nd Annual Women in Business Conference

There’s a valuable personal development tool within the self-help circles whereby you write down what your ideal day would look like. It’s an exercise I do quite often to help keep my mind focused on balancing business with fun. Every time I write about my best day I include laughter, learning, and self-love.

As I joined the tribe of inspirational women for the second Women in Business Conference hosted by Socially Shared Business Support Network I realised I was about to achieve that ‘best day’ goal.

The morning began with a coffee and catch up as everyone collected their conference brochure and eye-catching branded notebook. It was lovely to see friends from across the region and to greet new faces and learn about their business.

Returning to the role of MC for the second year was Joanna Tidman, Regional News Editor for the West Midlands. In Jo’s opening speech she asked us how things had changed for us over the past year. It was interesting to hear how her role has shifted from a place of negativity to one of new opportunities and expansion, and she certainly got us all thinking about how far we had come in our own business ventures. Jo’s humour and positivity set the pace for an empowering day.

Emma and Kate from Piece of Cake Marketing were on hand to monitor the social media aspect of the day and remind us to tweet our thoughts using #SSConf18 and #sociallyshared.

We then heard from the headline sponsors of the event, Nicolette Williams from Nanna Nursery Nurse and Nanny Agency, and Sarah Wood from Grenfell James Associates. They spoke about the incredible support available for emerging businesses and how networking groups and events such as the Women in Business Conference provides the perfect opportunity to build important relationships with like-minded individuals.

Our Conference Sponsors

The first speaker of the day was Trish Willetts, Director of Coventry City Centre Business Improvement District and Regional Co-ordinator for RHS Heart of England in Bloom Partnership. Trish talked about her passion for business and horticulture, and thoroughly inspired everyone in the room with her stories. “Business is important,” she said. “It fills the fridge.” She then went on to explain how it’s her philosophy to also give time and service to something outside of the business environment. “Giving back will help you flourish.”

Trish dedicates her time and energy to helping other businesses in the region while maintaining a solid foundation in volunteering and building support and networks for fellow volunteers. Within ten minutes she had everyone reaching for the tissues as she shared some of the heart-warming stories of the young people she’s worked with. These youngsters have turned their lives around through the volunteer work integrating horticulture.

Giving your time and support to others can help advance your own career and Trish shared the incredible opportunities she has been presented with thanks to her dedication to serving her community. “It’s brilliant to work in business, but it’s brilliant to give back.”

Our second speaker was Kate Weaver, Midlands Network Manager for The Girls’ Network. I previously heard Kate speak at a networking event held on International Women’s Day and found myself once again moved by her speech. The Girls’ Network is an award-winning charity that inspires and empowers girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with a mentor and a network of positive female role models.

Kate began by asking us what we remember being the worst thing about being a teenager. The laughter around the room confirmed that everyone felt the same way about school, fashion, and having their cigarettes confiscated! Turning this around to include the young girls of today and they are faced with a different set of challenges. Kate told us that at 16 years of age, 50% of girls from the poorest homes achieve no GCSE passes above a D grade. It’s The Girls’ Network’s mission to inspire and empower girls to turn this around.

We discussed who our role models were. Oprah, Julie Walters, and Karen Brady were all mentioned, but Kate emphasised the need for local, tangible role models such as the women sat in the audience. Small business owners can become valuable members of the team through mentoring, offering workshops, and work experience opportunities.

By working with a mentor, these girls achieve higher self-esteem, have better choices, and more freedom. Kate’s speech went hand in hand with Trish’s earlier reference to the joy of volunteering. If anyone would be interested in learning more or becoming a mentor, please contact Kate at kate@thegirlsnetork.org.uk

Our third speaker of the morning was International Voice and Public Speaking Coach, Priscilla Morris. She is one of the top spoken voice coaches in the UK and has been in business for 45 years. Her training in the professional theatre and through her drama school paved the way for founding Loud & Clear Voice Coaching for adults who seek help with communication in the workplace.

“Your voice is an important tool for marketing,” she said. “The moment you open your mouth you influence whoever you’re talking to.”

Priscilla raised the roof when we explored our range of pitch in a highly entertaining vocal exercise. It was interesting to hear how our words have such different meanings depending on the tone and pitch of our voice.

A lower pitch can make you sound serious, or like you’re bored or disinterested, whereas a higher pitch was more upbeat and positive making the listener take notice. There was plenty of laughter as Priscilla asked us to take part in a simple ‘hello’ exercise.

Try this at home –

Say hello as if you are surprised to see someone.

Say hello as if you’re bored of that person.

Say hello as if that person if the sexiest person you’ve seen.

The first hello goes up at the end.

The second hello is monotone and dull.

The third hello got the biggest laugh and a wide smile from Priscilla!!

Priscilla explained how we need to use a range of pitch, pace, tone, colour, inflections, and intensity when we speak. By mixing this up, our voice flows and keeps the listener interested. She also touched on the importance of clarity in speech and how accents can influence our opinion of the speaker. It was interesting to discover that the Liverpool and Black Country accents are the most disliked in the UK and also attract negative assumptions when people hear them. Priscilla told us it was possible to smooth an accent but we never really lose it – as a Yorkshire lass that was nice to hear!

“Remember that talk may be cheap, but your speech should be priceless.”

The final speaker of the morning was Liz Keaney, Founder of the KindnessCODE, coach, and author of Warrior Women. Liz is an incredible speaker and lulled us all into a deep sense of calm as she spoke about finding the authentic light inside us.

She shared her personal story of working herself to the bone before a series of illnesses forced her to re-evaluate her life and choices. She learnt to connect with her authentic self and developed the KindnessCODE so she could share this message with other women across the globe.

“Step into your magnificence.”

Liz explained the three levels of consciousness; self-awareness, observer, and participant. She asked us if our habits were serving us. It was an interesting question and one that certainly got my mind ticking.

Becoming a mindful observer is also important in finding our authentic self. We need to observe the company we keep, our environment, and our energy levels. We also need to observe what we read, watch, and listen to. Is this serving us? Is it being kind to us?

Becoming aware of the duality of our mind (analytical and emotional) helps us to find that balance. She compared us to a boat on the sea. We are the boat or vessel, and the sea is our emotional health. The best journey is when the boat and the sea work in harmony.

She talked about self-kindness and shared her top tips:

  • Listen to the words you speak (out loud and inner dialogue). How do you speak to yourself? How do you describe yourself? Do you talk about lack? Turn those negative thoughts around and use a word like challenge instead of struggle or hard. Your vibration will change when you choose kinder words and squash that inner critic.

  • Value your time. Be discerning with the company you keep and nurture those who lift your energy.

  • Nurture and nourish your body.

  • Grow self-belief (or borrow someone else’s until you grow your own).

“We control the dial on how bright we allow our light to shine.”Focusing on what we’ve got rather than what we haven’t got is also important.

You Matter! Your real business is YOU.

We broke for lunch after the speakers had finished and the positive energy from the room carried us through the hotel to the restaurant where we were treated to a fabulous hot and cold spread sponsored by Diane Wilson from Afynebalance. I thoroughly enjoyed my gluten-free meal!

Fed and watered we all broke off to take part in two of the four workshops for our afternoon sessions.

Our Workshop Hosts

Workshop 1 was Sales and Marketing with Julia Smith and Tracey Gilmour from Cre8 Sales Solutions. I attended this workshop and found the content to be highly valuable. The role-playing exercises helped us highlight how we can learn more about other people’s businesses as well as our own and how to help rather than sell. Finding our personality is an important point to note when it comes to spreading our message.

Workshop 2 was Websites that Work by Tracey Rickard Web Design.

Workshop 3 was Your Business Identity by Mandy Webb from Headroom Online.

Workshop 4 was Goal Setting for Business by Jacqui Jagger from Beyond Boundaries Coaching and Karen Ramsey-Smith from Bigger Picture Coaching. I took part in this workshop and found it to be hugely insightful. The ladies shared their tips on turning goal setting on its head and abandoning the SMART acronym in favour for a technique that enables us to achieve results. We also took part in a guided visualisation which I found incredibly helpful as it highlighted an area of my own business that I was neglecting.

Jo finished the conference by asking us to share our favourite part of the day. It was too difficult to choose just one thing from a day packed to the brim with learning opportunities, self-love, and laughter, but achieving my ‘best day’ goal comes pretty close.

If you want to learn more about the Socially Shared Business Support Network and the incredible events held throughout the year, then take a look at the website or join them on Facebook.

All that’s left to say is a huge thank you to everyone involved in making this event such a great success and what’s the date for next year’s conference?

Note, Photography by the talented http://www.anniejohnstonphoto.com/