HPXD - High Point x Design

The biggest takeaways from the WithIt Conference

I was honored to attend WithIt’s annual conference in beautiful Greenville, SC along with 150 women from the furniture industry and 10 expert guest speakers. The theme for this year’s conference was “Next Generation Leadership – Building Bridges & Ladders.”

(Serena and Amy Van Dorp, WithIt’s Executive Director)

The conference keynote, Jessica Stollings-Holder, a professional trainer, coach, and author of “ReGenerate”, spoke about strategies for understanding and engaging all generations in order to prepare for a thriving future together. Her spirited and powerful presentation also included breakout sessions which facilitated positive communication between multi-generational attendees.

A memorable quote from Jessica was:

“If I do nothing more than inspire and empower you, remember that thanking and honoring the contributions that each generation has contributed to all of us rising up. We are all better together!”

My favorite session from the 1.5-day educational event was on “Mastering the Art of Negotiation” with Lorri Kelley, Lorri Kelley Advisors, and Julie Messner, ANDMORE (formerly known as IMC), which provided some of the best insights and the biggest takeaways for me since negotiating is something I am inexperienced at.

What resonated the most in Kelley and Messner’s presentation was: “Be respectful – polite – and thankful” regardless of winning. In other words, when at the negotiating table, be thankful for those who are there and for the time each person is contributing. Show the respect and confidence of an experienced professional because you never know when you will need to negotiate with this individual or company again. 

Their presentation also laid out their 5 Key Steps to Mastering the Art of Negotiation: 

  1. Research & Be Prepared
    • Research each individual if you can and find out what you may have in common or what could connect you on a personal level – this is a HUGE advantage at a negotiating table.
    • The most successful negotiators remember: to Prepare, Prepare and then Prepare again before any meeting. 
    • Role-playing with co-workers or friends/ family will help you be prepared for questions that might derail your meeting. Plus having notes and those key facts show you are professional, invested, and very smart. 
  2. Know your objective and/or goal?
    • Understanding and defining your objective or goal is one of the most important steps in any negotiation.
  3. Know who you are talking to?
    • Ask who will be at the negotiating table. Remember women and men negotiate differently. Each group listens and hears differently, communicates differently, and may be swayed by different goals in a negotiation.
    • Successfully negotiating starts with knowing who is at the table since each group would benefit from a different approach and the facts you may want to present.
  4. Know the meaning of “winning”? 
    • Understanding “What constitutes a Win?” is also different based on the group.
    • Studies have shown that women tend to be more compromising and are usually in the win-win mentality, as well as making sure everyone is happy. Men, however, have more of a winner vs loser mentality.
  5. Know when to Stop Talking.
    • The best negotiators know when to talk and when to listen. Let your words sink in and wait for the person at the table to absorb the info before you talk over their thoughts. 
    • Try and use the 70 / 30 process – Listening 70 % of the time and talking 30%.
    • Even though silence can be uncomfortable, try asking a question, then listening to the answer, and then pausing and being quiet. This silence places you in a position of strength and can open the floor up to hearing others’ thoughts and insights.

During the group activity, I gleaned another powerful tip regarding how to negotiate a raise. They said, “Aim to find a job at a company where your contribution and your work are valued. When you work for a company that already values and sees you, that in itself is a win-win.”

Kelley and Messner closed with “When you master negotiating as a powerful sales and marketing tool, you gain confidence in walking into any competitive environment.” 

My participation in this event was sponsored by American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) which disbursed WithIt a $5,000 scholarship grant for 10 employees/entrepreneurs from woman-owned companies.