Have you ever signed up for a conference months in advance of the date and when the time rolls around, you’ve lost interest or your work load is off the charts? Ten reasons why you don’t have to go, even though you’ve committed to it and paid for it, come to mind. This happened to me a few weeks ago when it was time to attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women.

Despite the very reasonable excuses for not going that were playing on a loop tape in my head, I made my way to the Boston Convention and Expo Center, just blocks from my office, and joined 11,000 women who had also booked the day months before. I was really glad I did.

When you attend these things, there are always tidbits you pick up that make it worthwhile. Here are my big takeaways from the conference, which is tagged as the “largest women’s conference in the country.”

Make Success HappenSpanx founder Sara Blakely used some creative techniques to make her underwear product take off. When a pitch to a Neiman Marcus buyer was going south, she took the woman into the ladies’ room and tried on the Spanx under her signature white pants so that the buyer could witness for herself the instant conversion from the lumpy before to the smooth and contoured after. When the buyer agreed to sell Spanx in seven stores, Blakely reached out to everyone she knew in the selected cities and reimbursed both them and their friends for buying her product. Blakely drove her own sales, didn’t make a dime, but got Neiman Marcus to place many more orders in additional stores. Her company was on its way. My takeaway: Don’t leave success to chance. Make it happen. I love that. In fact, I live that.

Pitch PerfectKevin O’Leary hears countless pitches from small business entrepreneurs asking him for money on the hit show Shark Tank. The man they call “Mr. Wonderful” gave the formula for a successful pitch:

  • Be able to articulate the opportunity in 90 seconds
  • Explain why you are the right person to execute the plan
  • Know your numbers; numbers are the language of business

O’Leary confirmed what I’ve long suspected watching the show – the exposure the small business owners get by being on national TV is the number one benefit of being on Shark Tank, not the money the sharks invest or the business contacts they provide. The entrepreneurs never ask for enough money to make up for the tens of thousands of dollars they must spend in time, presentation materials and travel. O’Leary also said smart winners keep themselves in the media after the show to continue to reap the benefits. Earned media. It works.

Innovation Starts With Me – “Sometimes when you think you are in a groove, you are really in a rut.” These words of wisdom were shared by Lisa Bodell, author of Why Simple Wins and CEO of futurethink, which is an innovation research and training firm. Companies hire the organization to help them get out of their own way. Who doesn’t need that every once in a while? It’s easy to get stuck in your own thought patterns and habits. Bodell’s message is “innovation starts with you.” She advocates for digging deep and finding the passion and innovative spirit that lies in each of us. Personal accountability – it’s a great message to take into the New Year.

Within 24 hours of attending the conference, I used these tips to help two different clients on their projects. The conference also allowed me to meet likeminded women with whom conversation was easy and enlightening. I love that too.

My final takeaways from the day for myself, my employees and my clients are the following: Get out of your own way, dig deep, ignore your excuses, make it happen, hold yourself accountable and use earned media. It works.

What are the best tips you’ve gotten at a conference? Let us know in the comments below.