By Eimear Dodd Journalism MA student, editor, contributor for 

Over 250 women attended the first Women’s Empowerment Summit at the Talbot Hotel in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin on 26 March 2017. A grey pebble had been placed at each seat with “you are amazing” written in black marker. Participants were later invited to take the pebble home as a reminder to take action in their business and personal lives. The summit was also an opportunity to network in a relaxed and informal environment. Some of those present had traveled from Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom for the opportunity to meet new contacts.

Introduced by MC Sile Seoige, each of the six speakers shared their personal stories with a receptive audience who had come to learn tools and techniques. Each speaker drew from their own experiences to outline techniques that had helped them. They spoke honestly about their mistakes, doubts and fears. And the audience responded positively to this approach. Many scribbled notes onto pads of paper to review later.

Nikki Bradley, founder of ‘Fighting Fit for Ewing’s’, was the morning’s first speaker. Diagnosed at 16 with a rare form of bone cancer, Nikki received her second hip replacement at 26. She told the audience that she had a choice to “woman up and deal with it or stay in my hospital bed and be miserable.”

She decided to find ways to overcome the difficulties she faced. One of these was exercise. By participating in physical challenges, Nikki now campaigns for the importance of exercise for rehabilitation. At the end of her presentation, Nikki suggested to the audience that they write a letter to their future selves. Inside, congratulate yourself on the aspirations that you’ve achieved. Then, set a reminder to open the sealed letter in one year’s time after you have made some dreams become reality.

Katie Molony, CEO of Maximum Media gave an insight into the importance of mobile and social media to the growth of the company’s brands which include, and While audiences might be taking different routes to find your content, she talked about how the audience still demands that the content is high quality.

Katie described the company’s strategy as balancing written content alongside other mediums such as podcasts and video. Their recently opened Maximum Studios are an investment in developing tailored content for every channel. Katie encouraged the audience to grab opportunities in their personal and professional lives. Her tips included putting together a business case for your career and finding people who can support you along the way.

Businesswoman and author Breeda Hurley talked about how entrepreneurial drive had helped her to carry on despite challenges. It was a story that showed how personal integrity and perseverance can make a difference in business and in life.

Social media expert Denise Whitmore gave an interactive talk about its presence in our lives. By asking three people to read the type of negative comment that often gets posted online, she demonstrated how users act without considering the effects. It was a fascinating reminder that online social shaming has real consequences that can devastate lives. However, her talk wasn’t just about the negatives. Denise also described the opportunities that social media provides for businesses to engage with their customers.

First, storytelling can generate an emotional attachment in ways that facts cannot. Creating a bond with the customer can help to generate future sales.

The second opportunity was video content. Denise suggested that everyone starts practising how to shoot content with their smart phones.

After lunch, psychotherapist and author Donna Kennedy shared how gratitude had helped her to overcome challenging times in her life. The techniques she described were focused on developing more positive thought patterns. For example, she encouraged everyone to imagine they have a delete button for negative thoughts.

Entrepreneur, mountaineer and author Pat Falvey entertained us with his stories of climbing Mount Everest. However, there was a serious point to his anecdotes. Dreams can only become reality with sacrifice and failure.

The overriding trend of the day was the power of owning your whole story and sharing it with others. This might help them to find ways to overcome their own challenges. No one can do it all alone.

The next Women’s Empowerment Summit is due to take place in October 2017.

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