Why the best events should have a lasting legacy

The positive impact of an event can reach far beyond its attendees, says co-founder of female leadership conference WNORTH.

Heather Odendaal is the co-founder and CEO of WNORTH, a global community of women aiming for or already part of senior leadership. It’s annual conference is held in Whistler, Canada. 

At a time where everything is changing at a rapid pace, so many conversations that I have been having lately have been around the next chapter. “What will my legacy be? How will we create change in a way that impacts generations to come?”

It was these conversations that served as the inspiration for selecting “Cultivating Legacy” as the theme for this year’s WNORTH Conference. Six years ago, my husband and I forged our own legacy and created the first WNORTH Conference to serve female business leaders whose sights are set on the C-Suite. 

Many of these women are ascending to positions of leadership, they are in influential positions and think a lot about how others are affected by the products they build, the services they offer and the changes they make. 

This exploration of a larger sense of purpose was a key factor in choosing ‘Cultivating Legacy’ as a central theme to explore during this year’s conference.

As conference and event organisers, it is our responsibility to develop experiences and programmes that not only encourage our attendees to think about their legacies, but we must also lead by example and incorporate this theme into all facets of our businesses.

The multiplier effect 

In 2020, it’s critically important to think about the lasting impact that your event is going to have on your organisation, community and beyond. 

A few years ago, we recognized that attending a business conference was a privileged opportunity. So how could we confidently serve our audacious mission of elevating women in leadership globally if we impacted only a few? 

That was what fuelled our partnership with One Girl Can – a non-profit that we support through the conference which is dedicated to ensuring equal and quality education is given to girls in Sub-saharan Africa.

I would highly encourage organisers to explore a partnership with a non-profit, if they have not done so already. These partnerships give our work even more meaning. 

Sustainability 

Thinking in terms of sustainability presents a great opportunity to inject legacy into your own events, and conferences. By deciding to use locally-sourced food options, zero-waste gift bags, and looking for opportunities to re-purpose signage and marketing materials, you can focus on making small changes that have lasting and thought-provoking impact. 

Inspiring advocates for change 

If there is a conference that I really admire with regards to this, it is Women Deliver - affectionately known as the Olympics for Women’s Rights. When I attended this event last year in Vancouver, I was blown away as to how the event was fueling global and country level action, sending a powerful signal that investing in gender equality is foundational to progress for all. 

Leaders who are doing groundbreaking work need to collaborate with others to generate new ideas and leave feeling inspired to continue facing the everyday challenges in advocacy. 

The importance of legacy cannot be understated. It provides a framework that guides our daily decision-making processes, and gives us a sense of purpose, while validating our efforts, both as an individual and as a team.

Most importantly though, legacy has both societal and economic generational impact, and viewed as such, it is clear that we should apply critical thought to the legacy each of us are leaving. 

This article was written by Heather Odendaal at WNORTH. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of C&IT Magazine.

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