Top Ten Takeaways from Women & Words 2011 – Part TWO

Women & Words logoHere are my final five takeaways from the Women & Words Conference. If you haven’t already, check out Part ONE for the first five.

6. ASK for what you need.

This was a crucial takeaway point for me, gleaned during the very first presentation of the conference. Charmaine Hammond told a great story about how she asked Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame to write an endorsement for her book. He said “yes” even though he normally doesn’t do endorsements. Sometimes we assume something is out of our reach, but we don’t really know until we ask for it.

It’s funny, because in my copywriting role, I understand the power of “asking”. I write a lot of fundraising letters for nonprofit organizations. Sometimes I get feedback from the client that the “ask is too strong” or that there are “too many asks”. To which I reply: “What is the purpose of this letter?” If they respond: “To raise money,” I remind them: “Then you have to ASK for it — and you usually have to do it more than once!”

Yet, when it comes to personal or business matters, I sometimes forget this crucial point. You have to ask for what you need. You may not get what you ask for, but you certainly won’t get it if you never ask in the first place.

7. Engage your audience and build relationships (using social media as a tool)

I took this point away from Narges Nirumvala’s passionately delivered workshop. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter aren’t that useful if you simply post up a profile and forget about it. Social media gives you an opportunity to build relationships and really connect with other like-minded people – all over the world! For writers and authors, social media sites provide a fantastic vehicle to build a solid platform of people who enjoy reading what you write.

I’ve “tweeted” more in this past week since the conference than since I first opened my Twitter account in late 2009. I feel I’m truly an active participant in a community of like-minded folks. Incidentally, traffic to my website so far in May is more than double than it was in April. Thanks Narges!

8. Just Write It. (Just Post it.) Just Do it!

This point jumped out at me during the informative and fast-paced session presented by Lorraine Murphy, aka raincoaster. I laughed when she told the story of a client who had something like 600 blog posts in their “drafts” section but hadn’t posted a single one! It sounded like me with my hundreds of ideas for stories and novels, but nothing completed. And my own blog — with only a few posts.

Lorraine’s advice is to just start writing – and posting! If it’s any consolation, you likely don’t have to worry, at least at the beginning, that many people will actually read what you’re writing. And the only way to get better is to do it. Practice makes perfect!

9. Know Your ‘Hook’

Your hook is what makes you different. What makes you stand out in the crowd? Although Gail Martin was specifically referring to book marketing when she raised this point, it’s crucial for anyone – in business or in your personal life.

For me, the takeaway point is this: we are all unique. We each have something special to offer. All we need to do is discover it and then present it effectively to the world. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but I believe we can all do it. Let’s create a world where we celebrate our differences and encourage each person to contribute their unique gift to the world.

10. Women create community through the power of story.

This point was raised by one of the few brave men who attended Women & Words this year. He noted how supportive and encouraging the atmosphere was at this conference, compared with many others he’d attended recently. I certainly felt it. There was so much love and positive energy flowing during this conference – it was truly awesome!

Perhaps this was partly due to the way the conference began. The elder storyteller of the Gitxsan Nation performed a ceremonial opening on the first morning of the conference. This experience was very powerful  Her wise energy infused me with a sense of community and an awareness of ‘story’ in every encounter throughout the conference — and beyond.

As I reflect on the ten main takeaway points summarized here and in Part ONE, I’m thrilled I was able to take so much away from a two-day conference! Women & Words infused me with the energy and enthusiasm I need to push forward in my own personal writing… and helped me clearly articulate my goal to publish a novel.  Thanks once again to all the hard-working conference organizers and volunteers.  I look forward with eager anticipation to attending next year.

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