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Recap: 2017 IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum Draws Largest Crowd to Date


Oxon Hill, Md.— The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) attracted more than 220 attendees – the largest crowd in its five-year history. The sold-out WLF was held May 1-2 at the MGM National Harbor, which opened December 8, 2016.

Ryan Strowger, Senior VP of Exhibitions, Conferences, and Sales for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and 2017 IAEE Chairperson, welcomed attendees. “I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that 60% of our industry constituents are female, yet less than 20% are in the C-Suite, based on CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) data,” he said.

“Later this year, IAEE will launch the International Women’s Leadership Forum in Bangkok, Thailand,” said David DuBois, IAEE President & CEO. “We are also exploring options in Mexico and Canada.”

WLF was the first piece of group business booked at the $1.4 billion property, which features 50,000 sf of meeting space and 308 rooms. Located seven miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the LEED® Gold Certified resort offers panoramic views of the eastern shore of the Potomac River. The Conservatory in the hotel’s atrium celebrates the iconic cherry blossom trees, synonymous with the Capital Region. The spring display features 100,000 flowers through mid-May.

The event kicked off with an optional session on personal safety presented by Mark Herrera, Director of Education for the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM). He advised attendees to be alert, identify anomalies and have an action plan for dealing with potential situations. “Scan your environment every day, everywhere,” said Herrera. “Get off your phone and make eye contact with as many people as you can.”

During a joint session with IAEE Washington DC Chapter, IAEE’s Cathy Breden moderated a panel with Gary Shapiro, President & CEO, Consumer Technology Association; Julie Coker Graham, President & CEO, Philadelphia CVB; and Andy Smith, Senior VP of Experient Sales Network and Strategic Sourcing. The discussion focused on women’s issues in the workplace.

“What advice do you have for women who want to move up?” Breden asked.

“Know what you want and why,” said Graham. “Understand the path you need to take and make strategic moves.”

Smith advised attendees to determine what is your one thing, a reference to a theme in the movie City Slickers. “It’s difficult to do,” said Smith.

“Relationships, up and down, are important, whether you are man or woman,” said Shapiro. “Reach out and ask for advice about skills you need to move up. Mentor down, no matter what your level.”

Each attendee received copies of Broad InfluenceThe Good Stuff and The Unshakable Woman, along with several goodie bags, from sponsors. The two-day event offered networking opportunities at an opening reception, breakfast, luncheon and break. During the luncheon, Megan Tanel, Senior VP, Exhibitions and Events for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), received the 2017 IAEE Woman of Achievement Award.

5 Takeaways

On Day 2, professional speakers from outside the industry focused on topics around reinvention, restore, reach, remain and resonate. TSE has identified five key takeaways, one from each session.

  1. Time to BOOGIE. “BOOGIE is an acronym for be outstanding or get involved elsewhere,” said Christine Cashen, author of The Good Stuff. “For most of us, being tired and cranky is part of being human, with too many commitments and too little time. The trick, of course, is to have more highs than lows. To make sure you have more happy days, you have to BOOGIE as much as you can.”
  2. Mindset matters. “Research suggests that humans have 60,000-80,000 thoughts each day, and 80% of our thoughts are negative,” said Debi Silber, President & CEO of Lifestyle Fitness Inc. “Since your thoughts create your actions, your actions create your behaviors, your behaviors create your habits and your habits create your life, it’s time to get rid of that stinking thinking.”
  3. Critical mass is key. “If somewhere between 20% to 30% of women are included in the mix—the proportion depends on the institution or group—outcomes are better, sometimes dramatically,” said Jay Newton-Small, Washington Correspondent for TIME. “That’s the tipping point.”
  4. Get your financial house in order. Not only do women make less than men (80 cents for every dollar), women work between six to nine fewer years than men, said Jocelyn Wright, Founder & Managing Partner of the Ascension Group. “Women outlive mean by three to five years, and 72% of women aged 80 and over rely on social security for the majority of their income,” she said.
  5. Presentation pointers. “Connect with your audience,” said Terri Ammerman, President & CEO of The Ammerman Experience. “Find out what passion you share with your audience and let them know what that is.” To establish your credibility, it’s important to be trustworthy and emphatic, she said. “Empathy is assessed in the first 30 seconds.”

Reach David DuBois at (972) 687-9204 or


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