Creating Connections: Why Speak at WITS?

In this episode, host Gloria Bell re-unites with regular WITS speaker—and Inspiring Tech Foundation board member—Bobbie Carlton. As an expert public speaker, Bobbie gives insight to why WITS is a great opportunity for speakers at all stages of their career, and why more women should consider speaking as an avenue for career advancement.  

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[00:00:00] Celine Dirkes: These days, every job is a technology job. Whether you are a programmer, a marketer, or even just someone who sits down in front of a computer every day, you have a stake in the tapestry of the technology industry. Welcome to WITS and Wisdom, a podcast sharing insights, innovations, and inspiration from the award-winning women in Tech Summit. 

[00:00:32] Join host Gloria Bell, founder of the Women in Tech Summit, multihyphenate entrepreneur and advocate for equity and equality in tech as she sits down with extraordinary guests from the WITS community. Listen in as they discuss wisdom from their career journeys, pro tips from their areas of expertise, and sneak previews of the biggest upcoming tech trends. 

[00:00:54] This is WITS and Wisdom, a podcast from the Women in Tech Summit and Inspiring Tech Foundation.  

[00:01:02] Gloria Bell: Hello and welcome to WITS and Wisdom, a podcast sharing insights, innovation, and inspiration from the award-winning Women in Tech Summit. I’m your host, Gloria Bell, founder of the Women in Tech Summit, known as WITS, and the Inspiring Tech Foundation. Our first summit of 2023, WITS Mid-Atlantic, is happening soon, March 23rd and 24th in Washington, DC and here to share the excitement with me is Bobbie Carlton, and where do I start? Bobbie is the founder of Innovation Women, Innovation Nights, and Carleton PR and Marketing, plus the publisher and editor-in-Chief of Lioness Magazine, and somehow in all of that, she is also a frequent public speaker. Welcome, Bobby.  

[00:01:52] Bobbie Carlton: Thanks so much for having me.  

[00:01:54] Gloria Bell: Bobby gives these wonderful talks to our audience about how to be better speakers and how to better engage your audience. And what I love about what she has done with Innovation Women is she doesn’t call them a speaker bureau. 

[00:02:13] They are a visibility bureau. She’s really trying to help women become more visible and really take their presence to where it should be. And so I wanted Bobby to join us, because not only is the work that she is doing with Innovation Women and all of her other projects, hugely important in helping women in general and women in tech in particular. 

[00:02:43] I’m so proud and so honored that she is helping us with what we are doing with the Inspiring Tech Foundation.  

[00:02:51] Bobbie Carlton: I’m gonna actually take us back to that first presentation that I did in Philadelphia because as you mentioned, Innovation Women is a visibility bureau, and that first presentation that I did in Philly was talking about how important it is 

[00:03:10] For women to consider and get comfortable with public speaking. So I generally start off by talking to people about public speaking, just to put the idea in their heads, because I think a lot of people don’t think about public speaking until much later in their careers. And there are opportunities for public speaking pretty much at any. 

[00:03:39] And so one of the things I really love about WITS is that you very publicly talk about making room for new speakers. And I have been so impressed with that from the beginning. And I think not enough conferences and events do that encouraging people to think about public speaking if they haven’t done it before. 

[00:04:02] In other words, you have to start somewhere.  

[00:04:06] Gloria Bell: Yeah, sometimes it’s that new voice that sparks the next person to take that chance and you know, we try to make room for those new voices.  

[00:04:15] Bobbie Carlton: The Washington event, which I have spoken at before, was one where there was somebody in the audience who evidently heard me speak, got inspired and said, okay, this sounds like something I can do. 

[00:04:31] And when we did the virtual event last year, she reached out to me to let me know that she had heard me speak at another WITS event, and she was on this particular WITS speaking slate. So it just felt like a complete full circle opportunity where I spoke. I urged somebody to think about public speaking. They did, they applied and then they too became a speaker at an event that I was speaking at. 

[00:05:02] It was just like, it felt so good.  

[00:05:05] Gloria Bell: I remember that comment coming through. I’m trying to remember which speaker it was, but you know, those, those are the most fulfilling things when we have that opportunity to make that impact. And it may take a little while for it to come full circle, but it sure does feel good when it does. 

[00:05:26] Talking about public speaking, when is your next speaking engagement?  

[00:05:29] Bobbie Carlton: I have a whiteboard right next to me with a whole list of them, but the one I’m really looking forward to most right now is coming to join WITS in Washington, and I’m going to be giving my presentation on making your tech talks better. 

[00:05:48] Gloria Bell: Let’s talk a little. About, we know you have been a WITS speaker. You have been a huge supporter. We have used Innovation Women to source some of our speakers as well as our call for speakers that we do every year. You’re gonna be speaking in DC at our Mid-Atlantic Summit, and I cannot encourage everyone. 

[00:06:12] There are not even enough words to tell every. Come to DC Hear Bobby speak. If you do not walk out of that room going, “where can I sign up to go speak somewhere,” I, I don’t even know what to tell you because she will encourage and inspire you to great heights. It is the best part is not only will you be inspired, you’ll actually have actionable things that you can. 

[00:06:41] which is the best part.  

[00:06:43] Bobbie Carlton: I do think that people should have a conscious thought about public speaking as part of a business or a career evolution. I think a lot of people don’t actively think about public speaking until somebody else says, “Hey, you should be better known. Hey, you should think about applying to.”

[00:07:10] you should think about actively seeking opportunities because it would be good for your career or your business.  

[00:07:19] Gloria Bell: Why do you think the women in tech community as a whole business community as a whole needs an event? Like which right now  

[00:07:30] Bobbie Carlton: I’m saying you’re going, where’s the big, there’s like a big list. 

[00:07:33] It’s like where do you start with the big list? And I’m gonna actually, back a second and say, when I talk about public speaking, I talk about public speaking as a way to access other things. It’s the conversation about visibility that supports your career, your business, but it’s even bigger than that. 

[00:07:57] It’s things like pay equity. We deserve to be equally equitably for the work that we do, and women are still getting pennies on the dollar board seats. More women on boards, more women in the C-suite, more women who can look up on stage and see someone who could be a mentor for them, or an example for. 

[00:08:32] And I don’t think about public speaking as the end. I think about it as the path to different things, and I see WITS and the work that WITS does, frankly, the exact same way. The sharing of knowledge, the connections with people. Who could be a role model, who could be a mentor, who are an example. That’s just one side. 

[00:09:07] Then on the other side is just all the knowledge sharing. Like I think one of the things that WITS has shown me over the years is just because I am not a programmer does not mean I do not work in technology. Saying that another way, I’m not a programmer, I’m not technical, and yet I have spent my entire career working inside technology companies. 

[00:09:37] You know, those big enterprise software companies I worked with. I had to be buzzword compliant. I had to be hanging out with people who were very technical and understanding the messages, and I think so many of us work. Technology companies without being acknowledged as part of that community. So if you’re in marketing, if you are in HR, you are still a woman in technology if you’re working inside a technical company. 

[00:10:13] And so I think that’s one of the unique things about WITS is being that open and welcoming to all the women who work in technology, like I’ve always thought that was something that was important and different in WITS. I do see a lot of events and conferences out there that are not as welcoming, and so I think that’s a real differentiator for WITS in the WITS community and to have people just surrounding you who are technical, who are interested in sharing their knowledge. 

[00:10:46] Like I look at the agenda for all the WITS events. I’m like, oh my God, there’s so much information here, so much interesting stuff that I’m just a little, sometimes a little overwhelmed with the round of stuff and I’m like, I want to go and see it all. Can I clone? Can I split myself to be able to be in the different rooms? 

[00:11:12] So it’s great in terms of the programming, but then there’s also. The networking and social aspect of it. Everybody is there to help each other, so just can’t say enough good stuff about it. I’m gonna stop now, stop myself. Hold myself back.  

[00:11:32] Gloria Bell: Thank you. It is all very much appreciated. And your recognition of the fact that WITS is for everyone is that’s what we’re trying to. 

[00:11:45] We really are trying to be that conference for every woman who works in technology and we want everybody there. That’s how we build strong networks.  

[00:11:55] Bobbie Carlton: Yep. And we do need to work together to pull different people into the industry to prevent people from leaving. You know, I think that there is a bit of a leaky pipe in this industry, uh, for women in part. 

[00:12:14] and we wanna make sure that people feel supported throughout their careers.  

[00:12:20] Gloria Bell: Exactly. And part of that is having that very broad, very deep network. And it means having women that do all kinds of different things at all kinds of different levels of their careers, mm-hmm, as your support system. I wanna talk about WITS speakers for a minute. 

[00:12:40] you’re the speaking expert, and you’ve been a WITS speaker and you’ve met a lot of our WITS speakers. So if you had to sketch a profile of who should speak at WITS, who would that be?  

[00:12:54] Bobbie Carlton: Who should speak at WITS?  

[00:12:57] Gloria Bell: Yes.  

[00:13:00] Bobbie Carlton: I think probably some of the best speakers I’ve seen at WITS have been people you wouldn’t necessarily think of as speakers. 

[00:13:10] And by the way, they’re fantastic, but I think a lot of times they are people who have deep knowledge. They have been doing something themselves that they are interested in sharing with others. I feel like so many of them might not necessarily think of themselves as speakers, but they understand the knowledge that they have and that they’ve learned and they are open to sharing it with other people. 

[00:13:45] And a lot of speakers are probably better identified as subject matter experts than speakers because, they’re sharing the things that they do every day. They’re sharing the things that they’ve learned on the job, and they are also there to learn. At the same time, they share their knowledge. So subject matter experts often feels like a better designation than speakers. 

[00:14:18] Gloria Bell: So, Bobby, how did you just give the explanation of how we choose the speakers for WITS? 

[00:14:24] Bobbie Carlton: I’ve been hanging with you a while. 

[00:14:26] Gloria Bell: Yeah, exactly. We’ve known each other for a while because that, that really is a lot of how we choose speakers is we’re looking for the people who wanna talk about the very cool, interesting, fascinating things that they’re building. 

[00:14:43] Yep. So, touched on this a little bit in your answer, but maybe we could expand on it a little. If someone were to ask you this question, what would be your. Do you have to work with technology or work for a tech company to speak at WITS?  

[00:14:58] Bobbie Carlton: I hate to say it, but these days almost every company is a technology company. 

[00:15:03] We are surrounded by it. There’s more technology on my phone than went to the moon, you know, in the sixties, and we are constantly surrounded by it. But it’s just understanding the technology that happens on a day in, day out. I think it’s important to everything we do professionally these days. You know, like I’m in marketing. 

[00:15:26] The marketing technology stack these days is so complex. You have to understand technology, you know, you have to understand everything from what gets people to your website, to how does social media work? All kinds of different things.  

[00:15:44] Gloria Bell: Oh, most definitely. 

[00:15:49] How about speaking experience? So is WITS a good way to develop your speaking skills?  

[00:15:57] Bobbie Carlton: Yes, and I do think that your openness to new speakers is terrific, and I do think that everybody who is just getting started, you have knowledge. You should feel comfortable in your knowledge.  

[00:16:14] Gloria Bell: Well, Bobby, this has been. 

[00:16:17] Such an enjoyable conversation and such great information. I know our listeners are taking away some great things to think about, and hopefully their minds are spinning with what are the things they can talk about, and hopefully it means I’m gonna see a bunch of new speaking proposals for. I cannot wait to see you in DC. 

[00:16:42] It has been much too long since I’ve gotten to see you in person, so I am very excited. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Everyone, please be sure and go to and check it out, sign up, get your profile. You are an event manager. Make sure you’re taking a look at the speakers on there. 

[00:17:03] Bobby, if our listeners wanna get in touch with you, uh, beyond reaching you on innovation. How can they do that? Uh,  

[00:17:10] Bobbie Carlton: Well we mentioned Lions Magazine a couple times, and Definitely check it out. If you are a female entrepreneur and you are looking for information and inspiration for your entrepreneurial ventures, is a great place to catch up with me. 

[00:17:31] Also, I’m pretty findable out there in the. Relatively active in social media, Innovation Women is on both Instagram and Twitter @WomenInno.  

[00:17:44] Gloria Bell: Let’s get all of these wonderful women and more women, some more visibility and. I want to remind everyone we have the Mid-Atlantic Summit coming up in Washington, DC March 23rd and 24th. 

[00:18:01] You can go to women in tech, click on the link for the Mid-Atlantic Summit and check out the speakers and the schedule and get your tickets. You can also see the rest of our 2020. Schedule. If DC is not convenient, you can join us at one of our other summits across the country. Hopefully we will see you at one of them soon. 

[00:18:27] And if you are interested in speaking, there is a link on our website. You can submit a speaking proposal. Technically, our 2023 call for speakers is closed, however you can submit a speaking proposal. , if we happen to have some openings, we will be reviewing speaking proposals throughout the year. If we have openings that come up for any of our summits later throughout the year. 

[00:18:58] Thank you all so much. Thank you, Bobby, for spending time with us today.  

[00:19:05] Bobbie Carlton: Gloria, I can’t thank you enough for having me on your podcast. It’s so good to see you. Cannot wait for our next conversation.  

[00:19:13] Gloria Bell: Thank you all for listening, and we will see you on the next WITS and Wisdom. 

[00:19:24] Celine Dirkes: Ready to learn more about the Women in Tech Summit, visit our website at, that’s, to view our most up-to-date event schedules, calls for speakers and sponsorship opportunities. If you enjoyed this episode, bookmark the show. Give us a follow or leave a review on Apple. 

[00:19:48] It helps us educate, inspire, and connect with even more movers and shakers within and beyond the technology industry. Thanks for listening and see you here again soon on WITS and Wisdom, a podcast from the Women in Tech Summit and the Inspiring Tech Foundation.