Mary Foley | Engineering & Energizing Women's Careers, Communities & Events
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How to Turn a Boring Panel into an Exciting One

As you know, gathering women together doesn't automatically result in comments like “Wow, this is amazing! I feel so energized and can't wait for the next one." Hardly. 

One popular way meeting planners try to energize their event is to use panels.  
Panels can be very effective, but they are also chock full of challenges such as dominating panelists ("Too often in panels there's one person who has diarrhea of the mouth", one meeting planner told me), a lack luster moderator, and little or no audience interaction.  
Perhaps the biggest problem with panels is that they lack the energy that audiences want, which is why I don't recommend panels to any meeting planner – at least not in the standard form.




Panels 1.0 were designed as a way for a handful of experts or others to share their knowledge or point of view.  Often they are seated mini-presentations or a stiff interview format. 
That still works if the main goal and expectation of a panel is to transfer information.  With the amount of information immediately available online, this type of panel is dwindling. 
Time for Panels 2.0.  These panels are rooted in conversation. Today's audiences don't want to just watch and listen to selected individuals, no matter how interesting they may be (and, yes, they'd better be interesting!).  They want to be a part of it.  
Based on my experience as a radio show talk show host and facilitator, my take on panels is that they need to transform into “facilitated conversations” that have these five characteristics: 

   It's a conversation about a hot or timely topic that's exciting to participants 
  It features 3 – 4 individuals with interesting stories or points of view related to the topic that they are more than willing to share. 
  The moderator (“Let's keep everyone calm.”) is replaced by an engaging facilitator (“Let's make this conversation interesting.”) 
  The facilitator sets the energy tone with a lively, fun conversation with featured guests. 
  The facilitator designs opportunities for the participants to talk about the topic with each other and the featured guests.

The Panels 2.0 result:  Just like a positive, personal conversation, a well-run large group facilitated conversation results in “ah-ha”s, insights, and feeling energized. And your Panels 1.0 problems fade away... 


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 Want more ideas about how to make your professional women's event rock?

Grab a copy of my FREE report POWER UP! 3 Critical Trends and 10 Essential Strategies to Energize your Professional Women's Event.

Or let's brainstorm for 15 minutes - call me, or send me a quick email


How a Little Testosterone Goes a Long Way for Professional Women

As a professional woman, do you find yourself taking remarks by co-workers or clients too personally?  Overwhelmed by work loadDoubting your abilities to be successful in a new project or position?

If so, you're far from alone.  Difficult work relationships, too much to do, and lack of confidence can drag down every professional woman at some point in her career.

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What to do?  Get some practical inspiration from the most irritating behaviors exhibited by men in your work life.  Seriously. 

Here are four ways a little testosterone can go a long way to make your day more productive and fulfilling:

1.    Let Negative Words Bounce Off

Men have a wonderful ability to not allow negative sticky notes to well…stick to them.  "John, that report is missing a key conclusion."  "What do you mean you can't get it done by Friday, Frank?  Don't you know how important this account is?" 

These kind of words seem to roll off their back.  I say “seem” because I'm sure they have some impact but men don't show it. They don’t absorb these words into their very being. Instead they decide if the words have merit.  If they do, it's a problem to solve, not a huge character flaw that requires counseling.

2.    Say No Without Guilt

Men don’t seem nearly as concerned about making others happy as they are about taking care of their needs.  Sound selfish?  It doesn't have to be. 

Consider that if they were so concerned about everyone else's needs they couldn't provide — financially, emotionally or otherwise — for those they care most about.  They'd disperse their efforts to the point that they'd be ineffective. 

The only way to keep focused is to freely say no to anyone or anything that's not enabling you to achieve what's most important.

3.    Act As If You Know What You’re Doing, Even If You're Not Quite Sure

I have to admit, I was alarmed and disturbed when I first noticed this behavior.  "They are lying through their teeth!" I thought.  Then I took a second look. 

These men were delivering on what they said they would.  And they acted so confident that I assumed they knew this stuff like the back of their hand.  A male friend revealed to me that he didn't always know how he was going to accomplish a project; he just believed he'd figure it out. 

I finally realized it was a matter of believing in yourself and being resourceful.  Lying had nothing to do with it.

4.    Feel Free To Talk About Yourself And Believe How Wonderful You Are

I immediately think of a couple on their first date.  He wants to impress so he tells her all the wonderful things about himself so she'll admire him. 

Sometimes he's successful, sometimes not, but one thing I do admire is that he's willing to proudly show his colorful feathers.  That's risky.  He might get rejected.  But he knows he'll never get recognized if he doesn't try.

5.    Don’t Read Much Past What’s There

Most women think men are a bit dull and simplistic not to notice all the hidden messages in Sue's tone or David's words.  And compared to the typical female radar, they are!  But, this also allows men to not get caught up in all the energy draining sludge of what-ifs and hurt feelings. 

As women we can't completely go against our natural wiring, but we can stop it from working against us.  Differentiate between the facts of a situation and what else you intuitively picked up on that may also be true. 

Don't jump to conclusions about these ambiguous items; just keep them on the list of possibilities.  Above all else, mentally move on.

What to Watch for When Hiring Speakers

Speakers: The good ones you love, the not so good ones drive you crazy! 


All you are trying to do is get speakers for your event who will present on topics that attract, share useful content, are energetic and motivating, and appeal to your audience demographic.


Sounds more than reasonable.  The problem is that even a speaker who looks good online or on paper might end up being boring, present on a different topic than agreed, or be a prima donna!  Ugh.




As someone who has been on both sides of the speaker equation, I know what you're up against. 


When I hired speakers while heading up Corporate Training for AOL, I was amazed at the range of ways speakers interacted with me and how they performed.  These observations and lessons were not lost on me when I became a speaker myself.  In fact, one of my personal measures of success is how easy I make the experience for the meeting planner.


Planning an event is hard enough without speaker challenges.  Here are 3 things to watch for when considering speakers:


#1 – Does the speaker have video clips?  Other than seeing the speaker perform prior to your event, watching a video clip of a past presentation is next best thing.  If they don't have any video for you to review, that may mean they aren't that good or they aren't a serious speaking professional.  Even if they are, don't you want to be sure they are good before hiring them?  I would.


#2 – Does the speaker respond quickly?  This isn't just about being client focused, this is also an indication of their organization and efficiency.  A quick, friendly response to your inquiry is a good start to a smooth, ongoing interaction with you and your committee. Watch for that to continue.  If this starts to change before you have booked the speaker, you might want to reconsider.


#3 – Does the speaker ask lots of questions to understand your event?  A good speaker will make sure they are a match for your event and can fulfill your expectations. In addition to the easy questions like who, what, where, and when, good speakers will ask why you're holding the event and what's your definition of a successful speaker. 


They will want to know what topics would be perfect to achieve your goals and why they believe you're a fit. Plus, they will delve deeper into understanding participants’ demographics and what organizational dynamics may be affecting them.  Only after asking these kinds of questions will a good speaker talk about budget and fees.


One more tip:

If you are pleased with the speaker so far, seek out feedback from others. Use the internet to identify where they have spoken and reach out to the organization who hired them.  Or, use your personal or social network to ask for intel.  A little research can go a long way!



Power Up optin

 Want more ideas about how to make your professional women's event rock?

Grab a copy of my FREE report POWER UP! 3 Critical Trends and 10 Essential Strategies to Energize your Professional Women's Event.

Or let's brainstorm for 15 minutes - call me, or send me a quick email

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