NAWIC Annual Conference 2019 Atlanta, Ga

The 2019 NAWIC Annual Conference was hosted in Atlanta, Georgia at the Marriott Marquis Atlanta Hotel.  The hotel had a breath-taking atrium space that provided a view up to the 52nd floor.  The meeting spaces were all conveniently located along the Atrium Level of the hotel.  This made navigating from session to session relatively simple, while still providing ample room for networking and informal discussion between sessions. The hotel was very well suited for this event. 

The day prior to the Annual Conference’s official opening contained a trade-show, Chapter Leadership training, First-Timer’s orientation & a networking reception.  There was also a NAWIC store and Registration table open during the conference.  The Chapter Leadership training was a very informative lesson and review of how to operate and navigate the National Guidelines.  There were several presentations on different aspects of chapter operations.  As well as roundtable discussion with National Board members, so you could more easily ask specific questions and have discussions in small groups.

The Annual Meeting was opened by President Dove Sifers-Putman, with the National Anthem sang by Past-National Presidents Sandy Field and Connie Leipard.  The meeting included a thoughtful memorial to Past-National President Sandra B. Glassie, Executive Spotlight awards, NAWIC Recruiter awards and National Committee recognition.  The Executive Spotlight awards provide National Board Executives with an opportunity to recognize members of their choosing for their outstanding efforts.  The meeting was wrapped up by an invitation to Annual Conference 2020 in Houston, TX August 12-15, 2020.

Following the Annual Meeting, there were educational sessions.  I attended “Engaging New Volunteers” presented by Stevie Blakley.  She gave a great insight into how communication matters.  Everyone’s style of communication is different and matching a personal style when communicating can help to engage them.  She provided a breakdown and explanation of 4 main communication styles and how they generally provide/receive information.  The “Compass” method was used to explain the different communication types.  Additionally, she provided some very practical methods to help welcome new volunteers with on-boarding techniques, continuous engagement activities, and volunteer orientation ideas.  I am looking forward to sharing this information with the Chapter and incorporate some of her ideas and suggestions for a better engagement with our members and volunteers.

The keynote presenter during lunch was Major M.J. Hegar.  Major Hegar was a helicopter pilot that was wounded in combat and was bestowed the Purple Heart and a Distinguished Flying Cross to recognize her brave efforts that saved the lives of many that were riding in the helicopter when is was attacked by enemy forces.  Her harrowing story did not only include her Medivac Mission, she experienced sexual assault and discrimination while enlisted in the Military.  She took her mission for women to receive equal rights in the Military all the way to a historic lawsuit against the Secretary of Defense.  This allowed women to officially operate in ground combat.  Her experiences and actions as a soldier, woman and human were very inspirational.  She changed the future for women soldiers and women’s rights in this nation.  Major Hegar wrote a book named Shoot Like a Girl, that is being adapted to a movie.  I look forward to reading the book, watching the movie and cheering Major Hegar on is all of her future aspirations.  I encourage everyone, men and women to read more about Major Hegar and her experiences.

The next educational session I attended was “Tactical Confrontation for a Safer Workplace”, by Gary Sheely.  Gary discussed how to diffuse tense situations with strategic responses.  When tempers are escalated, it is easy to match your attitude to those around you.  This can elevate situations beyond a reasonable level of response.  Instead of matching the attitudes around you, keeping yourself calm and being deliberate in your responses can help to bring a situation to a peaceful resolution.  When people’s tempers are elevated there are studies that show the main brain activity is in the “primal response” center.  If you acknowledge people’s feelings and allow them to feel heard you can also allow them to shift their brain activity to the “reasoning” center of the brain.  Gary is the author of several books and works with The Safety Institute to help reduce workplace violence.

There was a Women’s Initiative Panel conducted, that included 6 successful women from across the country speaking on behalf of their experiences and their employers’ Diversity and Inclusion actions and programs.  The panel discussed many specific examples of programing and educational sessions that their employers offer to create a culture of diversity and inclusion.  They had thoughtful insight to how a company culture can cultivate their employees feelings of belonging and inclusion.  A poor company culture can create the exact opposite feelings also.  One main point that I garnered from their discussion, is that reaching out to small demographic groups inside an organization can facilitate a truly inclusive environment.  This can shed light onto issues and topics that the company or the majority may not be aware of, thus possibly opening the door to a solution.

Another educational session attended was “How to get your Boss to Listen to You” presented by Lisa Fey.  The session was a communication lesson for employees that can also be applied to daily life.  The first point of this lesson is to find areas of common interest.  It could be the success of the department or company, or another hobby or interest.  When we have common ground, it is easier for supervisors and managers to humanize their employees.  We also need to resurrect the art of “different opinions.”  Opposing viewpoints does not have to be a point of contention.  If you disagree with your boss, you should do so respectfully.  As an employee you have the responsibility to turn your boss into your biggest advocate.  Your boss can have a positive influence on your career and movement through a company.  If you have differences with your boss that affects your status as a “good employee” by creating a difficult work environment or contentious disagreements, then a change of employer may be your best option.

My final education session was “Risk Management & NAWIC: How to protect your Chapter and Your Pocket Book” presented by Allison Hill and Sharon Scharf.  The key to risk management and asset preservation is how you choose to manage the risk.  There are 4 types of risk management, Avoid, Retain, Control and Transfer.  Risk should never be ignored, you may chose to retain the risk by not taking any action but never ignore the risk.  In NAWIC and Chapter risk management they recommend Directors and Operators Insurance policy to protect personal and chapter assets from lawsuits.  Many chapter activities require an insurance policy to be in place through the National office incase of damages or personal injury.  Another option for some activities may be a liability waiver that can be signed by attends to absolve the chapter from any liability in case of personal injury.  It it good practice for chapters to review their insurance policies annually.

I feel that the Annual Conference provided a valuable education in both NAWIC and career focused topics.  Attending the Annual Conference has provided me with skills and ideas to make me a better member for my chapter and a better employee.  I look forward to utilizing the communication skills that I obtained.  I have several ideas that I will bring back to my chapter to help us be stronger and create a more beneficial chapter for our members.  The interpersonal connection with chapter members and National Board members from across the country was also valuable.  This has generated an understanding of how far reaching NAWIC is and how supportive our membership is to our members.  I am looking forward to the next NAWIC year.