Invigoration from the 2020 SITE Young Leaders Virtual Conference

In this article, Dani talks to us about her personal struggles as a result of this pandemic and the invigoration she gained from being part of the SITE Young Leaders Conference, especially the sense of community. Highlighting the power of connection through adversity, she gives us 8 key learnings and tips from the conference.

My Personal Journey

Imagine for a moment we’ve just hit rewind. In front of your very eyes, the last 6 months reverse in a blur. It’s March 2020 and the world is just now finding there is so much more to the Corona Virus iceberg under the surface. All over the world, specialists and industry leaders from all segments of the professional world are voicing their suggestions and opinions alongside their fears and doubts. We are not fully aware of it yet, but there is a very long journey ahead of us that will be dark at times and at others filled with light.

Personally, I met some darkness on my journey. As someone who already lived with anxiety, I was met with some new triggers that I never thought I’d encounter in my lifetime. I was unemployed, uninspired and I was worried about something new – my present. I’d spent my fair share worrying about my future and occasionally the past, but now I had to worry about what I was going to do ‘right now’. So I pulled myself up, filed for unemployment, freshened up my resumé and started reaching out. Unexpectedly, the silence at the other end of my search was deafening. 

To stay positive and informed I joined seminars and web calls, zooms and online courses. Anything that would keep me inspired and thinking positively, I joined. And it helped, for some time, but something was missing. I had the virtual camaraderie of friends and family to keep me company, but the sense of community and teamwork felt void. But on one grey March day, my journey was flooded with light. I was asked to join the SITE Young Leaders Committee as Co-Chair for this year’s conference and I couldn’t have been more excited for the opportunity. Here, amidst all this uncertainty, was something I could lend my creative hand to and feel proud of and inspired by once again!

The Power of Community

Acting as Chairperson on the SITE Young Leaders Committee has been the first professional organizational position I have ever held. It was incredible. To give a shout out to the rest of this mighty group:

  • Our fearless leader and Captain, Tahira Endean (Author and Head of Events for SITE)
  • Co-Chair and guiding light, the undeniably warm and charismatic, Sandra Fahy (Meet in Ireland, Failte Ireland)
  • Leading sponsorship – the brave and resourceful Windsor Crawford (Cultivate PCG) and Ashley Krueger (Augeo Marketing)
  • Leading Marketing & Social – clever and creative Caitlin Harris (BCD Meetings & Events) and Evan Christman (SMASHOUSE Events)
  • Masterminds of Education and Conference Content, Jessica Linaburg (one10 Marketing) and Marco Cadenas (Brainstorm Decor Studio)

It certainly cannot go without mentioning that our conference would absolutely not have run so smoothly if not for the talent and skills of Gokcen Guler and his team with Meptur. If you’ve ever watched the Avengers, surely our team had superpowers much like theirs.

The Power of Communication

For the next few months, we spent countless hours brainstorming what content we wanted to present and how we wanted to present it. We decided to break the conference up into three days around three hours each, a reasonable amount of time for individuals to remain online without losing engagement. Then, with the help of Professor Andrew Lacanienta’s talented students and the use of his method, The Hero’s Journey, we crafted our conference themes. This idea that we were acting a part of something bigger led to our themes of Adaptation, Resilience and Transformation. We had already come so far through the Coronavirus Pandemic that these themes were not only a representation of the path we had traveled together, but would shape the outcome of the 2020 SITE Young Leaders Virtual Conference as a whole.

The Conference

In late September as day one kicked off, spirits were high and our team was teeming with excitement. Here, after all these months, we had finally arrived at the moment we had all worked so hard to plan. The talented DJ Lee (Hey Mr. DJ Productions) opened the conference with a Spotify playlist curated by attendees beforehand and got things flowing. We opened our conference with a poll to get a sense of where attendees were joining from and what their current employment status looked like. It was astounding to see the number of attendees that, because the event was virtual, were able to attend. From Turkey to Colombia, Mexico to Canada, we had so many incredible destinations represented that the energy in our virtual space was electric. 

The below section illustrates some of the top learnings and tips over the course of the 3 days!

Lessons – Day 1 – Adaptation

Photo by Balaji Malliswamy on Unsplash

1. Session with Jessica Perex, Andavo Meetings & Incentives

Key Learning:

In order to adapt to change, we must stay relevant. It is vital to continue learning and networking to remain visible and informed, regardless of changes in our day to day environment.

Top Tip:

Embrace your community, reach out to people. Even one person per day! You never know where it might lead or who you might help.

2. Panel with Melissa Van Dyke, Nicola McGrane, and Stephanie Harris

Key Learning:

Young people in the professional world are more innovative and more instrumental in making the changes we want to see in the future than we may know. Listening to the younger voices in the office might upset old habits and create positive change.

Top Tip:

If you are new to this industry, keep the faith. Your opinions and insights are invaluable to keeping our industry fresh and relevant! If you are an industry veteran, look to your young employees and engage with their ideas. It is through listening to each other we can move forward!

3. The Vancouver Manifesto Overview

Key Learning:

People are more interested in feeling included in the workplace than they are in financial rewards and recognition. Proof of the power of feeling part of a community!

Top Tip:

Staff retention is so important to build quality teams. So, include each other, communicate and support your colleagues. Give credit where it’s due and be grateful for the team around you.

Lessons – Day 2 – Resilience

Photo by Johnny Chen on Unsplash

1. Pet’s On Parade

Key Learning:

Alongside DJ Lee’s uplifting setlist, attendees were given the spotlight to show off their adorable furry friends. No matter where you are in the world, having a furry friend or family to hug and laugh with despite the challenges is truly a gift.

Top Tip:

Love your pet, and tell others about them. It’s a great bonding experience!

2. Crises Management Panel with Jennifer Glynn, Marc Glatigny, and Meenaz Diamond

Key Learning:

With each crisis comes innovation. We must learn to adapt as an industry and continue to learn about our roles and our companies and our impact in order to shape how we move forward in the world.

Top Tip:

Take control of what you can control and be kind to other people and yourself. Customer relationships and connections are a priority and to move forward we must be collaborative and listen to the ideas of others to continue innovation and growth.

Lessons – Day 3 – Transformation

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

1. Andrew Lacanienta, The Hero’s Journey

Key Learning:

The Hero’s Journey is a beautiful and inspiring way of looking at what makes a story worth our time.

Top Tip:

Implementing The Hero’s Journey into a conference or engagement session for attendees is a thoughtful and deeply personal approach to generating an experience for attendees they are likely never to forget.

2. Pass the Mic with Patricia Sahin, Tahira Endean, and Andy Romeo

Key Learning:

Sahin led sessions on Sales & Marketing, Endean on Event Design Trends and Romeo on Organizational Change. Presentations were presented in an open forum manner and individuals were able to directly engage with session leaders to pick their brains and find new ways of thinking and of moving forward.

Top Tip:

Stay connected and stay informed, but also stay true to yourselves and find ways to stay motivated even in times of crises.

3.Grand Finale – Sip & Learn with the Latin Plus DMC Group

Key Learning:

Cocktail making and dance tunes are uplifting and fun!

Top Tip:

Don’t take life too seriously. It’s important to enjoy the light-hearted moments and embrace the fun as well!

Personal Transformation

I said it before and I’ll say it again. My start to this journey did not begin with light. It began with anxiety and fear, doubt and insecurity. I felt like I had failed even though nothing that had happened was remotely my fault. But most importantly, through time, deep personal digging, and with the support of the SITE Young Leaders Committee and the SITE Global Community, I stayed motivated and I stayed connected.

If there is one key takeaway I can share with you from this experience and from the SITE Global Community as a whole, whether personally or professionally, it is this. Never, under any circumstances, underestimate the power of connection. Don’t be afraid to turn to your personal and professional relationships for support, for when it comes to the SITE community, I know you will find it there.

Special thanks to the 2020 SITE Young Leaders Committee, our sponsors, our speakers and to everyone that helped put it together, we couldn’t have done it without you. Until next year, stay safe and keep calm!

Written by Dani Feigenberg, Co-Chair, SITE Young Leaders Conference 2020

Dani Feigenberg on Community & The Power of Communication

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