Killer Speaker Events: Musings on WIA 2018

The first annual Women in Analytics conference took place last week in Columbus. We think it’s the first conference of its kind. It had a pilot year a few years ago when its current co-organizer was still in college.This was the first full-blown organized, public access, kick-ass attendee, SOLD OUT event. While it was not the first all-female speaker event I’ve attended, it was the only one with such an intense business science and technology focus. I walked away with a notebook full of learnings, but also three observations.

#1 The Positive Panel

As I sat down next to a colleague at a breakout session, she leaned over and said to me “That panel at lunch was spectacular! One reason is because there weren’t any men interrupting each other.”

Yep. I nodded.

I should disclose that I’m not a fan of panel discussions. But this one was different. Kudos to organizer Katie Sasso for being so well prepared as the stand-in moderator. (Katie – no need to hire that role out next year – just slot yourself in!) Katie asked great questions and kept the focus squarely on the panelists. Then there were the three incredibly smart panelists who came from wildly different backgrounds. Everyone was respectful not to fall into that “a panelist took a breath so let me jump in and say something else on my mind” trap. Everyone left that session a little smarter.

#2 Put the Audience First

If there was a collective speaker goal – it was to transmit knowledge and inspire other women to embrace the wildly growing field of analytics. Not one of them wanted to leave the smartest person in the room, instead, they truly wanted to transfer knowledge and inspire the audience (which was 90% women, 10% men). That focus on the audience kept attendee eyes bright and engaged the entire day.

#3 Stay on Time

Lastly, the conference brought back my theme for the year: time. Not one of the speakers started late and none of them went over their time. And, even more remarkably, of the eight speakers I helped to coach, not one of them asked for more time!

Speakers, take note.