2010 HBA Conference Elevates Minds, Hearts and Spirits of Attendees
February 2, 2011
For the nearly 1,000 attendees of the 2010 HBA Conference in Philadelphia, the opening plenary was one that none of them would forget.
As they took their seats, the women found themselves sitting next to clarinetists, violinists, trumpeters and more—in fact, an entire symphony orchestra of musicians, in tuxedos and gowns, were scattered throughout the auditorium.
At the front of the venue, standing ready at the podium, Maestro Roger Nierenberg lifted his baton and led the orchestra with a selection from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. The room filled, and the atmosphere blossomed, with enchanting music.
“Of course, hearing music this way—literally being immersed in it—was an entirely unique experience for everyone there,” said Susan Dunkelman, managing partner for The Charles Group, which has helped orchestrate the HBA conference since its inception in 1999. “It was truly magical, and it set the tone for the entire conference.”
But the use of the orchestra was more than mere pageantry. As the program continued, Maestro Nierenberg revealed that, like a conductor, leaders must “live in their imagination to see what can be accomplished.” He likened the orchestra to any organization, where everyone has a part, and there must be an active sense of belonging and participation for it to be successful.
Needless to say, attendees were moved.
Indeed, the opening ceremony brought to life, with musical perfection, the three-part theme for the conference: Innovate, Orchestrate and Perform. The theme set the stage for the conference’s multiple workshops and sessions, which gave attendees real-life solutions on everything from thinking outside the box to staying energized in today’s demanding work environments.
Hosted annually, the HBA Leadership Conference is a multi-day event held in a different U.S. city each year. Each gathering offers up to 20 concurrent sessions and an exhibit hall with more than 25 companies and organizations represented.
In every host city, The Charles Group puts its creative powers to work, brainstorming and coordinating events that tie both to the conference and the city. This year’s event was held in Philadelphia, which was affectionately renamed, “The city of sisterly love,” during the conference. In an early morning inspirational session, attendees enjoyed a “Rocky Rally,” where, like the classic Rocky film, they ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to pose next to the iconic statue of Rocky Balboa. It was a moment that made everyone feel like a champion.
When The Charles Group began running the HBA Conference more than a decade ago, attendance was relatively small, although impressive for a first-time event: 110 women came to experience the HBA that year. But, as word spread and demand grew over subsequent years, attendance swelled accordingly—topping 650 in 2009, and skyrocketing to nearly 1,000 attendees this year. More than half of the attendees at the 2010 conference were first-timers.
The Charles Group, which manages the event closely with the HBA, is first tasked with finding a different venue each year—one large enough to accommodate hundreds of guests, information sessions and workshops and exhibitors. Thanks to its seamless execution and cutting-edge leadership development content, the HBA Leadership Conference was named one of the top 100 leadership programs for women in the United States.
“This is the HBA’s flagship event,” said Dunkelman. “And we’re honored to have been a part of it from its beginnings… to watch it grow and rise to the level it has over the years. It’s a moving experience for us, too.”