Saturday, May 14, 2005

UPDATED: My first Professional Business Women's Conference

UPDATED: Below I mentioned one of the presenting duos talking about blogging for Fast Company, and I said I couldn't find their blog posts. I've got the link now.

I mostly went to the PBWC because I'm co-organizing a women's conference, BlogHer, and I've never actually attended one. I thought I'd get some sense of what works and what doesn't.

I'd say PWBC has a fundamentally different crowd. There were apparently somewhere between 4-5 thousand attendees, with huge contingents from companies like State Farm, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Guidant and more. The tech world didn't seem to be particularly well-represented...which knowing how much (heh!) tech companies seem to care about employee development and diversity doesn't surprise me much.

I found it pretty amusing that of all the booths in the exhibit hall the ones that got the most traffic were the ones selling purses, pajamas, jewelry etc. Oh, and books. Then again, and once again, there was no tech representation. NO one selling gadgets. No one selling software solutions that women could really use...from finances to organizational.

All those observations aside, I did actually take some notes I wanted to share:

Keynoter Safra Catz from Oracle was relatively good. None of the speakers were constrained, it seemed, from plugging their work or their company, so everything was about how much ass Oracle kicks know, if they do say so themselves. And she started out with a little too much emphasis on 2nd person imperative talk. You know, "you have to" do this, and "you need to" do that.

But she did provide insight into resistance to change and how to overcome it. I liked one line particularly:

"People will change technology just enough to do things the way they used to"

I then attended a sessions about the "Transparency Edge" given by the mother/daughter team of Barbara and Elizabeth Pagano. This was a definite "why", not "how" session. Making the case for transparency ...and one might say it made the case for executive blogging. Apparently this mother/daughter team actually blog themselves for Fast Company, but I only found that out when I ran into them later in the day and brought up blogging. (And I didn't find any posts from them on the home page, so they don't seem very active about it.) I wonder if they thought blogging was too "cutting edge" for this particular crowd? Seems to me if you're going to talk about "edge", you should be willing to go out on one! The interesting part of their presentation is how they walk the talk personally by using stories from their various adventuring as illustration for various points. Perhaps before I became blog-steeped I might have thought it seemed oddly self-aggrandizing, but in this blog era it served to make their contentions about transparency have more credibility.

UPDATE: Fast Company blogger Heath Row sent me a link to the archives for the week the Paganos guest-blogged on the Fast Company blog.

Malcolm Gladwell was one of the lunchtime keynoters, and his usual charming, amusing, interesting self.

I was most disappointed later in the day when the one session that seemed technologically-oriented happened...and had a really low attendance. It seems that anyone who was already technically adept figured it would be beneath their education level (which it probably would have been. but it also seems that the rest of the women who weren't exactly techno-geeks simply weren't that interested. Presenter Andrea Peiro (a man actually) may have spent a little too much time on online banking and bill payment, but otherwise he did a credible job of running down some major online initiatives that small businesses should explore, from basic web site advice to search engine marketing to where to find grassroots opportunities to promote yourself. Not a big crowd to take in basic, simple advice.

I'm not sure I need to attend this again, although I did buy a very cool watch in the exhibit hall :)

The Paganos guest hosted FC Now for a week in March 2004. You can check out their posts at
Ah! Thanks for clearing that up Heath. I thought they said "we blog", when it was likely "we blogged". Verb tenses make such a difference :)
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