A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a conference with 400 other women put on by The Essential Platform. And I have sooo much to tell you about it! I want to share with you some of the most impactful takeaways I got from the conference (because I think you'll find them useful too!). And of course, this post wouldn't be complete without telling you what it was like to meet Jillian Harris!
Who, what, where, when, why?
Okay, before we dive in, let's cover the 5 Ws.
The conference is put on by The Essential Platform: "The Essential is a modern mash-up. It’s part platform, part community, part conference. Here you’ll find inspiration to bring your ideas to life and motivation to nudge you to your next big thing. You’ll find a community designed to empower + uplift modern women dreamers, makers + doers."
I attended with my cousin Jenna (if you're looking for a family photographer in Regina, she's the one! I drove to Regina to meet up with her, then the two of us headed off to Winnipeg!
Here's the lowdown on the conference, as shared on their website:
Okay, that on its own was enough for me and Jenna to want to attend. But once we heard about the amazing speakers, it was a no brainer...Jillian Harris, Manjit Minhas, Rachel Mielke, to name a few!
It was held in Winnipeg at an INCREDIBLE venue: The Canadian Museum For Human Rights! It was really the perfect place for the whole affair.
January 15, 2020. For me, it felt like the perfect time of year because it gave me something to look forward to to help beat the post-holiday slump I usually feel!
From talking to a bunch of different women at the conference, I realized most of us had a different "why" for being there. All along, I said my "why" was because I wanted to leave feeling motivated and inspired. I wanted to come away with a renewed sense of excitement about work and creating a life I love. And I did. Success!
But more on that later...
What I learned
So, you know how I mentioned everyone had a somewhat different "why" for being there? I think our "why" also had a big effect on what we took away from the conference. We looked for the speakers or keynotes where it felt like they were really speaking to US, like we could relate to their message, or learn something totally new from them.
Honestly, I learned something from EVERYONE who spoke at the conference. But there were a few things that really stood out to me that I'll take with me as I move forward. I felt compelled to share some of these things with YOU today.
Oh. By the way. It also made me realize something about myself. I really want to speak on a panel someday at an event like this! Just putting that out there...are you listening, Universe?
The important of clearly defining your core values: Meaghen Johnston, a "strength based and person-centered counsellor" spoke about getting really clear on your core values. This stood out to me big time. If you were to ask me before, I would quickly list off some values that are important to me...honesty, integrity, communication...you know the deal! But when it comes to the really CORE values that guide my decision making and how I conduct my life, I realized they weren't as clear as I wanted to be. I learned that having these values clearly outlined is really useful in decision making. I'm excited to see how I'll use these values to guide me from here on out.
Why am I saying yes when it feels like a no? Laura Wittig of The Prairie Collective shared a lot of useful information, including some journal prompts that I've found really helpful. Some of them were focused on asking ourselves, "when am I saying yes and it feels like a no?" and vice versa. She also encouraged us to ask ourselves what a "yes" feels like. I don't know about you, but there are some days where I find myself agreeing to things I really don't want to do. Then, I sit with either a pit of regret or resentment in my stomach in anticipation of whatever I agreed to. Clearly, not a real "yes." This has encouraged me to check in with myself about what I'm saying yes to and WHY I'm saying yes when my heart and my body are yelling, "NO!"
You get what you negotiate: Manjit Minhas, "mother, beer baroness, entrepreneur, and dragon" spoke at a podium RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME for almost an hour. Lucky me! She shared a ton of useful and inspiring information. Oh! And we're both from Calgary and U of C grads! One of the points she made was about the important of learning to negotiate. She said, "In life, you don't get what you deserve — you get what you negotiate." This really hit me. When is the last time I really even THOUGHT about negotiation? Most of the time, I just say yes! Now, looking back, there have been so many times where I could and should have negotiated better terms, etc., but didn't. It also forced me to ask myself why I don't negotiate when I can/should. Is it out of fear of looking bossy/bitchy/demanding? Am I scared of hearing "no?" Lots to think about. She said this is a skill we need to practice and cultivate. On it!
She also spoke about having the courage to succeed and being "cautious and conservative, but courageous." Love that.
Financing for women in business: Sloane Muldoon and Kate Yurincich of Scotiabank (the title sponsor) spoke about the Scotiabank Women Initiative — "supporting Canada’s women-owned, women-led businesses." This was really interesting to me because they spoke about how women are less likely than men to seek financing for their business, but more likely to receive it when they do ask! They're working at "providing equal access to our full suite of financing solutions to women-owned, women-led businesses in Canada." Now that's a cause I can get behind!
These were just some of the major takeaways I had at the conference. But if we talk about it in person, I'm sure you'll find I can go on for hours about what I learned! Like I said, I came away feeling motivated and inspired. That isn't always easy to do.
A big part of my motivation and inspiration came from listening to Jillian Harris speak, asking her a question from the audience, and even meeting her and getting a picture!
Meeting Jillian Harris
From talking to other women at the conference, a lot of them would say their reason for attending came down to Jillian Harris (a fellow Alberta girl!). And I can't say I blame them! I've followed her forever, and there's so much of what she does that's inspired me in XO&So and what I want this brand to become. She embodies so many of the things I want me/my brand to be: authentic, honest, open, and HUMAN!
She's been blogging for about 12 years, and she shared a LOT about the ups and downs of running her business all this time. I really appreciated how she touched on the importance of having really clear, defined systems for EVERYTHING in your business — this is something I need to work on! She spoke about how it looks like all fun and games, but also about how serious it can be behind the scenes and how they do everything by the book.
I LOVED that she spoke about saying "yes" to work that aligned with her belief and her brands, not just saying yes to the biggest pay-day! While I may not be at the crossroads of deciding if I should say yes to a $50,000 deal that doesn't quite jive with my beliefs, this is certainly something I want to take with me as my business grows.
I also was one of a few lucky people to ask a question from the audience. I asked for her advice about standing out in a crowded field. As a food blogger, it sometimes feels like there are so many of the same recipes to choose from, so why would anyone choose XO&So...why would they choose me? She responded with pretty much exactly what I needed to hear.
First, she encouraged me by saying she doesn't think the field is too crowded to stand out. She even said we need more vegetarian comfort food recipes! She also spoke about the important of really being yourself and bringing that uniqueness to your brand. I needed to hear that! I've shied away from showing too much of myself on Instagram or even on my website. (Why do I do this? Especially because I'm certainly not shy in person!)
Everything she shared and spoke about made me feel like the world needs to know what I have to say...and if they don't wanna hear it, someone else will!
Also, she was just as cute and funny and sweet as she seems on social media. She was really warm and engaging and felt like an old friend right away.
I feel like it must take a lot of energy to do these meet and greets. Every single person would come up to you probably with a story to tell or something to pitch. Jillian Harris, or you know, Jilly as I now call her (ha!), was super, super gracious with every person. I was really impressed. It seems like fun, but it must also be A LOT feeling like you have to be "on" and meeting so many people so quickly. Kudos to her!
Now, prepare to get cheesy (you know I love cheese). I feel so fortunate to have not only met her... but so many other incredible women with big dreams, big goals, and big hearts!
When opportunities like this are presented to you, I encourage you to reach out and grab them! Yes, you could find potential business opportunities and make important connects. But here's what's even more important — you can come away with a renewed sense of purpose, inspiration, and motivation.
Couldn't we all use a little more of that?
What else do you want to know about The Essential Platform Conference??? Comment down below and I'd be happy to chat more about it!
XO - C