It was iron sharpening iron as the 2023 Women’s Leadership Conference kicked off on Monday. Speakers challenged attendees to beat burnout and conquer the fear of failure.

About 153 first-timers and veterans mingled during roundtable discussions, sharing their missteps and successes. Over group dinners, cocktails and morning yoga, lifelong friends reconnected, and new connections were made. It was a day full of enlightening sessions that encouraged new ideas and better habits.

A Day Of Learning

There were only a few men in attendance. PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, was one of them. Introducing the keynote speaker, he says, “It is a little awkward being one of the only men. Even though you are welcoming me, I still feel out of place. As a white, straight male, there are not a lot of times that I feel this way. It’s an important emotion for me to feel because I know a lot of you have felt that way at some point in your career.”

Monday’s keynote session was presented by author and speaker Erin Stafford. Challenging attendees to shift their mindset, Stafford offered practical tips for working at peak performance while avoiding burnout. “All of those things that helped us get ahead early in our career lead to burnout,” says Stafford.

To break free from burnout, Stafford says there are three steps. First, “decode your flow,” which means recognizing areas of improvement, asking for help and celebrating the small wins. Second, “pivot like a pro,” and lastly, “slow down to speed up.” Stafford asked the audience, “What’s the point of succeeding if you can’t enjoy it?”

Promo Snacks, brief TED Talk-styled presentations in between longer lectures, discussed the reality of work-life balance and the life-saving potential of CPR training and AEDs. One Promo Snack was hosted by the 2023 Woman of Achievement recipients, Patricia Dugan, MAS, and Brittany David, MAS.

“At the time, I wasn’t thinking about how I was “one of the first women” in these spaces. You just did it,” says Dugan, a nearly 50-year industry veteran.

Morning education ended with Laura Turner, alphabroder’s Vice President of Customer Experience, who insisted that excellent customer experience begins first with a fantastic employee experience. “It’s like putting your oxygen mask on first on plane,” says Turner.

A panel on corporate social responsibility (CSR) with Cheron Coleman, Vice President of Private Brand Product Development & Global Supply Chain at alphabroder and Megan Spire, Vice President of Sales at Bella+Canvas discussed their company’s path in CSR. PPAI’s Anne Stone, CAE, MAS, Director of Member Engagement, moderated the panel. “CSR is more prevalent in conversations. People are asking more questions, but there is still a lack of awareness,” says Coleman.

Ending education for the day, Jaime Nolan, CEO & President of National Speakers Association, explored fear of failure. Sharing her personal story, Nolan emboldens attendees to use fear as a steppingstone to success. After this session, breakout groups discussed how their own fears and how they conquer them.

Day One Is A Wrap

Ending the day, attendees split into groups to share a meal with new faces. The night ended with drinks and laughter in the lobby. The conference will continue throughout tomorrow, and Wednesday, June 28.

Kate Alavez, WLC Workgroup Chair and COO of Promo Shop, told attendees, “Over the next couple of days, we hope you will be inspired and motivated to continue driving this industry forward, to learn from and engage one another and to take time to share and give back to those in need.”