A great conference is made of thousands of details. “Before an event, I spend two or three days checking, double checking, quadruple checking everything,” says Dale Blair, who is entering the final phase of planning the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first ever Women’s Leadership Conference.
Blair, who was named manager of corporate underwriting at public broadcasting network WHYY one year ago, previously owned and ran a Bucks County-based event planning company specializing in women’s conferences. Shortly after joining the Princeton Chamber last year, she proposed a women’s conference to the chamber’s newly-formed Women in Business Alliance, a group headed by PNC vice president Lucia Stegaru.
The group had already run four evening educational networking events and was enthusiastic about Blair’s suggestion. A full year of planning ensued, and with the conference just a week away, registration is already way above what the group expected. “We’re going to need more rooms, more tables,” says Blair. “We thought we would have about 200 attendees, but registration is already at 250. It could go to 300.”
The conference, with a theme of “Inspire. Impress. Ignite,” takes place on Thursday, October 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Princeton Marriott Hotel & Conference Center at 100 College Road East. Cost: $60 for members, $75 for others. Call 609-924-1776.
Blair, whose event planning company, Lifetime Expos and Events, was based in Newtown, is a veteran of many women’s conferences, both as an organizer and an attendee. She says that the events are popular because “women support women.”
Women work side by side with men in every field, increasingly at the highest levels, yet she finds that women still seek out opportunities to network with other women. “They look to other women in business for advice and support. It’s what they gravitate to.”
Blair landed her current job though networking, though she wasn’t even looking for a job at the time. She was at a women’s conference, where she got talking with a WHYY executive. One thing led to another, and she was soon offered what she considers her dream job, an opportunity so appealing that she left her eight-year-old business to accept it.
In addition to making sure that the Women’s Leadership Conference will offer plenty of networking opportunities, Blair worked to plan its pace so that it will keep everyone engaged. “Attention spans are so much shorter today,” she says. She and her committee have organized conference segments so that each will provide lots of information, but will not last so long that attendees lose interest. From experience she has found that one hour is just about right.
The conference begins with a breakfast keynote address from Carla Harris, managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, who is also the author of “Expect to Win: Proven Strategies for Success.”
The next segment, a lunch keynote presentation, offers an opportunity for attendees to learn about what it takes to get positive media attention. “This subject is especially important for entrepreneurs and small business owners,” says Blair. The panelists represent every segment of media: Kelly Waldron, NJ 101.5 news anchor and reporter; Natalie Kosteini, reporter at the Philadelphia Business Journal; Krystal Knapp, founder of the online Planet Princeton; Liz Matt, TV anchor, journalist, and public relations specialist; and Lynn Doyle, host and executive producer for Comcast’s “It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle.”
Rounding out the day will be four afternoon workshops. Robyn and Trevor Crane, founders of the Shake Your Money System, present “Image, Impact, and Becoming Irresistible.” Sarah Cirelli, senior marketing coordinator at WithumSmith+Brown, will give tips on leveraging the growing number of social media opportunities in “Marketing Your Business by Using Social Media.”
Next, says Blair, are two workshops that are more about personal growth and success than about running a business or succeeding in a corporation. The first is “Who Do You Think You Are? How to Be a Woman of Unshakable Confidence,” by Paula Gregorowicz. Finally, there is “ABCs of Building and Protecting Wealth for Women,” by Alice Gabriele, an investment advisor, and Wendy Herbert, an estate, trust, and tax attorney.
Blair says that the chamber’s Women in Business Alliance, a group made up of entrepreneurs as well as professionals and executives in a wide range of industries and non-profits, is “still in its infancy.” But the group has already accomplished a lot, and is hoping to add a host of new activities, possibly including a golf outing. It may also expand the Women’s Leadership Conference to a full day event down the road.
Blair, who like so many women, has had many careers — including fashion marketing and advertising sales as well as event planning — was brought up in Bucks County. Her father, Irving Buddine, worked as a government systems analyst, and her mother, Evelyn Buddine, was a legal assistant to a patent attorney. Both are now retired and still living in Bucks County.
A graduate of Eastern College in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, she is married to Larry Blair, a contractor who is busy gutting and rebuilding their home in Yardley. Her son, Michael, an IT professional, was recently married and “just closed on a house yesterday.”
And was Blair the master planner behind her son’s wedding? “Oh no! I refused!” she says. “I don’t do weddings. They’re too emotional. I like corporate events.”