Fast Track Job Security With a Professional Brand
“It’s hard to be the keynote speaker at breakfast if you’ve got to get somebody to school at 8:00 o’clock. Women are still more likely to be responsible for kids at home and that often stops them from speaking. They’re like, ‘I could go off and be a speaker at this event and seen as a visionary expert or I could be home for dinner.’ These are still some of the reasons that women turn down what are seen as extras.” Explained Bobbie Carlton, events pioneer and CEO of Innovation Women.
It’s a circular problem. Thought leadership hasn’t been diverse because leadership isn’t. And between intense schedules at work and home, adding anything, even career-boosting visibility may feel impossible.
But what if thought leadership is the rocket fuel your career needs for growth? A vehicle that creates more choice and gets you off of the hamster wheel? Having more people recognize your work can provide greater job security and income.
Will Covid Bring Back the Man-el?
Bobbie is passionate about diversifying thought leadership. She said, “I’m seeing some event managers who don’t know how to make events inclusive. They pick amongst people they know and all of a sudden, you’ve got the manel. The panel of all old white guys.” Sigh. She added, “I see an uptick in that. And we were supposed to go in the other direction! So, it does have the potential to be a brave new world of diverse and inclusive events. At the same time, it also has the potential to get so much worse.” When nothing is ‘business as usual’ anymore, especially not events, is the perfect time to lift new voices.
There’s a New Level of Access to Thought Leadership
The opportunity gap has widened during Covid with unforgiving schedules at work and home. But a strong personal brand can provide career insulation. Organizations are reticent to let go of their stars, even in times of recession.
Many caregivers avoided events to reduce travel. But global learning and networking have gone virtual. “Organizers used to look at our database and say, ‘oh, I need a speaker in Cleveland.’ Now they’re saying, ‘I need a speaker who can talk about leadership.’ It’s viewed in a more topic-oriented way,” Bobbie explained. Which expands the potential reach for your expertise.
It’s a Brave New (Virtual) World
Bobbie said, “Big companies like the Microsoft’s, Google’s and Salesforce’s say they’re not going to send their people to events until a year from now. So, no, I don’t see events coming back the same way.” She had a heads up about the pandemic, which helped her transition quickly. “We were doing public relations for quarantined passengers on the Diamond Princess and I kind of saw the writing on the wall. Event managers had three choices, they could cancel, postpone indefinitely or go virtual. We’ve been doing virtual events for years, so all of a sudden, our skill set was really in demand,” she said. But a great conference online requires more than great technology.
Reimagine How to Zoom
Bobbie said, “the question I keep getting is, ‘how do I make Zoom® exciting?’ and it’s the wrong question! Zoom is like water. You put Zoom in a different container, you freeze it, or you put some lemon in there, you know? I have a friend who did a virtual food truck festival on Zoom!” Incredible. Bobbie added, “And it’s not just Zoom, there are some really amazing platforms and cool strategies out there. I believe almost anything you can do in a live event you can do in a virtual event. You can have a virtual trade show booth, networking, keynotes and panels. It’s like the only thing you’re missing is the expense of parking your car.” True! How will virtual become more sophisticated?
And Enter Event Theater
Bobbie described her son’s Covid-era graduation. “The high school locally did an amazing job of a virtual event. They had terrific speeches, slideshows and then they had a drive-up graduation. It wasn’t the same as sitting in an arena with everybody you grew up with. But it definitely felt like an event. And that’s what we have to think through, how can we do these as events?” Exactly! In spite of all the video call fatigue there’s an opportunity.
Bobbie sees a bright future, despite how difficult the transition has been. “I think we’ll see a lot of event theater. Small groups of people and good production values. One of our advisors is a stand-up comedian. They’ve started using the Zoom webinar function with ‘designated laughers’ and use Venmo to get paid directly by the audience.” Love that! She remains strategic, thoughtful and optimistic. How?
Make Space to Navigate Change
Bobbie has had to pivot not one, but four businesses for the pandemic. When asked how she’s making space for the shifts, she described pausing to declutter and prepare to work-from-home long term. “We closed our regular office, which just breaks my heart but it’s been empty since early March.”
She also explained having remarkable partnership at home, “My husband’s been the stay at home parent literally since the boys were born. As the boys got older, he took on more work with my company and now he works almost full time. But he’s still the primary one responsible for kids and home. Two working parents are super tough in terms of careers and somebody’s career will suffer. I’m lucky my husband took on the lion’s share. Not everybody has that luxury and I will admit, we thought long and hard about that. Because we could have done significantly better financially with two of us working.” Every couple has to make tradeoffs that work for their family. Perhaps more so during Covid. Does self-care fit during this intense time?
And Yes, Self-Care Still Matters
Many parents have abandoned care for their mental and physical wellbeing since Covid. Although it looks different for Bobbie now, she remains intentional about breaks, She said, “A little bit of Netflix bingeing and I try and take one day a week off of screens to do something else. I’m reading, doing housework or I’m outside gardening but it’s limited because I’m all in on the companies. And I especially love working with the women entrepreneurs! Having work that has meaning and being able to have creative expression, is very powerful in and of itself.” Yes! She added, “We also occasionally have a game or trivia night with the boys.” Brilliant!
We’re often-prescribed overwork as the path to professional success. In Covid, many are without childcare and working around the clock, without more hours to give. So, growth in the pandemic means new approaches to everything. That includes new voices and perspectives on the unique challenges of this time.
Many thanks to the talented Bobbie Carlton!
Bobbie Carlton is the of Carlton PR & Marketing, Innovation Nights and Innovation Women or, as she calls them, the day job, the night job and the dream job. She has been called Boston’s Innovation Den Mother and she’s an award-winning marketing, PR and social media professional who speaks regularly on marketing, public speaking, startups and women’s issues.
Carlton gives more than 100 presentations a year. Examples include hosting her own monthly event, Mass Innovation Nights; speaking at the United Nations on Blockchain; and commanding the main stage for some of the world’s best-known conferences for technical and professional women. Carlton has been featured on CBS News, in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other major media. She’s helped more than 1000 women secure speaking opportunities and helped launch more than 1500 Boston products.
In 2010 she was named one of the “Ten Bostonians who have done the most for the startup community”, and in 2011 she was a recipient of a Mass High Tech All-star award. In 2015 she was named a Boston Business Journal Woman to Watch. PR News called her a Gamechanger in 2017.
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