Hi All, the trip to Charleston was great.  Lots of good information and connections...very powerful networking.  I was delighted that Antoinette was there, too, and have a chance to get to know this marvelous Dame and her delightful husband a bit better.  Hence, a copy of this email to her in the hope that she will respond to the group with her view of the conference.  We have different backgrounds, and similar broad interests, so we will have taken away different viewpoints.....good to share all, I think.

Here are some of my observations, arranged roughly in chronological order.  I am sure I will think of more as soon as I send this note.  In any event, more will follow.

1.  As we were driving from Meridian MS to Charleston SC, I mentioned to Bill that I expected to be something of a 'curiosity' at this conference...as 'Alma's daughter.'  Indeed that was the case.  Right away, at the opening reception, any time I moved around someone rushed off to get me a glass of wine while others took my photograph with various Dames.  I worked hard to stay sober and there were many glasses of wine that I left behind (oh, but they were so good).  I have no idea what will happen to the various photos.  I don't really like this sort of thing very much so thank goodness it settled down after about a day, when folks came to talk to me, instead (I guess maybe they were sensitive...).

2.  One of the first activities for Presidents (co) was to get to know your call-in LDEI leader.  In our case, Deborah, from New York City.  Ricky and I already had one conference call with the group and another is, as you know, scheduled in the near future (by the way, Deborah did not initially have Ricky's name, but she does now; I sent it to her with a request to send to Ricky and also followed up with Greg...for the nth time--I think it will stick with Deborah).  So, the group of all Presidents broke up into smaller groups,  There were about eight of us who met with Deborah...I really like her...she is smart and logical and kind...listens and addresses what was said/asked instead of promoting her own agenda off your question/comment.  All great attributes for someone in her position, I think.  I really didn't have too much to say about our group other than to indicate what we had done and to say that the group seemed enthusiastic and interested in working together in constructive ways.  Now, I would have thought that that would be the case with most Chapters...I mean, why not!  However, the most vocal women were the ones who were complaining about attitude problems in their chapter...cat fights and other unsavory activities.  I mean, I understand that for women to get in positions of leadership in most professions, it often works well to create one's own small business or other institutional structure.  Given that, then it is a natural consequence that the leaders become accustomed to doing things on their own schedule rather than on someone else's.  But, I should have thought that that observation is hardly original with me....that they should all know that and therefore be interested in being flexible and working with, rather than against, each other.  Apparently that is not the case everywhere.  So, that is an important and wonderful feature that we have in our favor and one that clearly merits praise in order to reinforce its continuation.

3.  I found the grazing meal functions to be superior to the sit down plated meal functions.  Most, but not all, that I talked to found the same.  I ate at meals with many from the Chicago chapter.  Nathalie Dupree came over and sought me out to eat lunch with me...interesting woman...I gave her my email and she may stay in touch.

4.  The addition of the 'hospitality' component of Les Dames is apparently fairly recent.  I say 'apparently' because there is the actual fact of when it was added and the perception of when it was added.  There are enemies to its inclusion.  I ate dinner briefly with two of them.  Then, left because they spent most of their time complaining about everything.  Fortunately, I did not encounter other negativity of this sort; I did ask a mentor about this and she noted that yes such does exist. 

5.  The Council of Delegates Meeting appeared to me to be exactly as I had been told it would be...a rubber stamp (attached is the report distributed).  Other boards I sit on have similar functions....they are generally sort of a disconnect...the Board Members who are very responsible spend a lot of time preparing their reports to present at an annual meeting and take painstaking care to insure that the meeting runs well.  The people in the audience listen politely, ask an occasional question, vote in favor of all motions, and some fall asleep.  So, as far as I was concerned, this one was business as usual.

6.  I was approached at least five times I think by different people to see when Ann Arbor would like to host the annual conference.  It's a lot of work.  Our Chapter is clearly held in high regard by the International organization and that is a very good thing.  Something to think about here in terms of holding an event sometime.  The people who asked were all high-powered types; at least three past-presidents of LDEI (from New York, Chicago, Atlanta).

7.   The event that was planned by Les Dames was, I found, generally well-done.  The speakers I heard were outstanding (other than the facilitator, but I don't like those things; for such she did a good job though...motivational speakers just don't make it for me).  Carla Hall was a stitch...and she made good points...there is clearly a strong and continuing connection between LDEI and mass media...all good for selling the product.  The speakers in concurrent sessions were terrific.  I went to two on cooking in the south, both excellent, and one on beverages (with free samples...just what we needed...more alcohol!).  That one was excellent, too (although I abstained from the free samples to focus on the talks).  The food/beverage events that Les Dames brought in by bringing in different vendors were marvelous...Wente wines and other vineyards; Wusthof supplied wonderful pork loin; Alaska seafood provided outstanding crab claws, and on and on; perhaps as many as 80 different stations, including at a plantation!  Lots of work to generate that level of participation from partners that done fine food or beverage; of course, they get it in front of some of the world's finest chefs, so there is considerable payback for them.  But, clearly it has to be marketed properly to get the desired interaction and these folks in Charleston did that very well.  The hotel was not as strong; some of their work was just typical hotel stuff; one dinner was bad.  But, as I said, what Les Dames did, they did very well (not perfectly, but then again perfection is not a human trait....excellence yes, perfection, no) and served the entire organization proud.

8.  What was important to me about being there was to interact with other leaders, listen to them, and have them get to know (and hopefully like) me and our chapter.  It was also important to me to look at the big picture and see how other chapters interacted internally as well as with others.  I found that the stronger women, who had held positions of leadership in LDEI, were generally interested in talking to a variety of folks...not just their friends...and in listening to what someone else had to say and then engage in meaningful conversation and give and take.  There were others, who seemed only interested in talking about themselves; they were not usually women in leadership positions.  I found all this encouraging in terms of looking at the flexibility and strength of the organization as a whole.

Well, that's a start.  I will send more around.  Perhaps not tonight, but soon again.

Very best to all


PS...those to whom I showed the 'app' seemed to enjoy it...