WIBC2018 Interview with Sandra Tisiot
By Doris Belland
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Tisiot, Founder of WIBC. I wanted to know a little bit about the history of the conference and why she feels it’s so important for women to attend this year. I hope to see you there!
How did you end up starting a conference?
I’m a mortgage agent, as you know, and in the mortgage industry there are many events for us to attend, but they used to all be in Toronto; there was nothing in Ottawa. Two other ladies and I got tired of travelling all the time, so we decided to start our own conference for people in finance-related industries. We started small, with only 60 people, and we called it the Eastern Ontario Women in Finance association, of which the conference was the signature event.
Why did you just target women? There are a lot of men in the mortgage industry.
It seemed to be a developing trend ten years ago and I just picked up on it. It turned out to be a great choice.
A few years later, I wanted to invite Gail Vaz-Oxlade to speak and grow the event. The other organizers weren’t on board with that decision, so we parted ways and I took over. I went out on a limb, backing everything with my own money, and I renamed the event WIBC. We went from 90 people to 300 people in 2013! That’s when I knew I was on to something.
Why did you call it the Women in Business Conference, since you clearly target salaried women as well?
I had to pick a name! That’s how it happens sometimes. We’re women, we’re in business, it’s a conference. My message to salaried women back then was, “You’re a woman and your work is your business, so come.”
When it was still at the 300- mark, I felt like I knew everyone personally. Two years later, we hit 400 attendees and I no longer knew everybody in the room. That’s when I realized that WIBC is bigger than just one person, it is its own entity. I was careful to brand it as its own thing. It has grown up and now I’ve kicked it out of the house!
It may be its own thing, but you personally guide the choices. Ultimately, it’s on you.
Yes, that’s right. I pay for and guarantee payment for everything. As it grew, though, I needed help. The were just too many things to do, and I also needed a sounding board, so I created the Advisory Board. There’s a great dynamic among the business women on the Board – it’s a big help.
Why do you continue to do it?
I fundamentally believe there is nothing more precious than the human to human experience, that we need to be chest to chest, that the best business that we do is always eye to eye, hand to hand. That’s why you’re in that room. It’s not because of a certain speaker or theme, but because of the whole experience: to listen, to connect with the speakers, to connect with everybody in that room, to celebrate whatever level you’re at, to get inspired, and to learn.
Those are all admirable goals and reasons to go. But what differentiates you from other day-long conferences in Ottawa?
It’s an intangible thing in that room. It is never about us, it is about what we are giving to each other, each person in that room. People say, “If you’re going to go to one conference, go to this one because there’s something in that room.” And there is zero selling from the stage.
What kind of feedback have you received from attendees?
That it was an inspiring, fun day – they’ve just never had so much fun. And they are left with a few things that they can implement in their lives. They have something useful, but they also feel they’ve had the time to celebrate their accomplishments.
You know, employees or colleagues don’t often have time to spend quality time with each other. At WIBC, they connect in a different way than when they’re at the office.
What is it about this year, beyond the 10-year anniversary, that has you most excited?
I feel it’s important to deliver a little something for every aspect of a woman’s life. As I’m getting older, I can see that it’s almost like that juggler who’s got the plates going on. It’s only when all the plates are spinning together that there’s perfect harmony. When one spills over, they all fall. This year we have something for all the important aspects of a woman’s life, including laughter. Finishing on a humorous note is so important. It’s the perfect way to end the conference.
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