The Women in HVACR Annual Conference was a huge success, as women with various leadership positions within their HVACR-related firms shared ideas, and listened to interesting and informative presentations by featured presenters.

The event was held Sept. 18-19, in conjuction with 2012 Mechanical Systems WEEK, held at the Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center, Schaumburg, IL, which ran Sept. 19-21.

A Luau-themed meet-and-greet session was held the evening prior to the meeting, with lively music by Polynesian musicians and hula dancers. A special Polynesian menu was created by the chef of the Renaissance Center, and the evening was full of fun and dancing.

A full day of workshops and educational sessions began the next morning, as industry leaders shared their insights and career experiences. Women in HVACR President Patti Ellingson, Southeast regional sales manager with Cooper Atkins Corporation, provided details of the year’s success with educational outreach, at HRAI, HVAC Excellence, AHR EXPO, HARDI and ACCA, through a new student initiative and other organization details.

The group then participated in an icebreaker exercise led by Nita Brooks, immediate past president, who led the group in an exercise demonstrating the importance of two-way communication. Attendees worked in groups to define effective communication, discussed the elements of the communication process, and described the barriers to communication they experienced while completing the exercise.

Brooks described the most effective communication approach:
• Positive attitude
• Active Listening
• Watching reactions & body language of those we are communicating with
• Using visual aids
• Minimizing barriers
• Getting feedback

The group then discussed the value of effective communication:
• Reaching common goals
• Better use of time and energy
• Clearer understanding of others
• Problems solved more quickly
• Needs can be identified
• Conflict resolution.

Keynote speaker Polly Craighill shared her story of success as the first female senior counsel in the U.S. Senate Office of the Legislative Counsel. She described how she navigated change in her career in a presentation titled, "Making it in a Changing World."

Craighill was followed by Sandy Bleustine, managing director at Raymond James/Morgan Keegan, who shared his knowledge on financial planning, and how to navigate the financial changes in life.

Throughout the day attendees viewed various safety-related products as demonstrated by "Safety Girl." A new, Women in HVACR member benefit now provides safety equipment to WHVACR members with a 10% online discount.

The event's luncheon guest was Contracting Business.com 2012 Women of the Year, Alana Ward, president of Baggett Heating & Cooling, Clarksville, TN. Ward shared her journey that began with a surprise change in her career path, her ambition to succeed, and the drive to do it right.

Blaine Fox, vice president of business development for Warm Thoughts Communications, shared the "5 Steps to Positive Change." He tied these steps to both the business and personal life, so that no matter what position within the industry members are in, the message had meaning.
Step 1: You must define your vision.
Step 2: Always find the bright spot, and learn from it.
Step 3: You must communicate this vision with you team, and ensure their buy in.
Step 4: Handling the People Puzzle. Fox said not everyone will be on board with change, and you need to know how to bring them along or let them go.
Step 5: Establish and schedule milestones, because what doesn't get measured doesn't get done.

The educational sessions concluded with a presentation by David Richardson, curriculum developer and trainer for National Comfort Institute. Richardson discussed making an HVACR contracting business complete by providing Home Performance Contracting. By sharing his expertise in the HVACR field David demonstrated how a contracting firm could use its technical strengths to set itself apart from "day-to-day" HVACR contractors.

By defining "Home Performance" as the control and verification of the individual interactions surrounding the home, Richardson shared how to move the business into this emerging opportunity in our industry:
• Always remains profitable
• Your customers are your best testimonial
• This is opportunity to grow your service base
• Determine your goal, tools needed and additional skills
• Make the transition- this will not happen over night
• Start with your own home.

The fact filled educational day wrapped up with wine and cheese reception sponsored by Emerson Climate Controls.

The next Women in HVACR Conference will be held Sept. 17-18, in conjunction with Comfortech 2013, Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 18-20.

The Women in HVACR Conference is held each year in conjunction with Comfortech, and is sponsored by Contracting Business.com magazine. Contracting Business has been the Platinum Sponsor for Women in HVACR each year ,and was the primary contributing sponsor in organizing Women in HVACR.

Women in HVACR is a not-for-profit industry organization that exists to improve the lives of its members by providing professional avenues to connect with other women growing their careers in the HVACR industry. It empowers women to succeed through networking opportunities, mentoring, and education. Membership is $75.00 per year, and runs from Oct. 1 thru Sept. 30. If you're interested in joining or becoming more involved, please write to: womeninhvacr@gmail.com

Women in HVACR Benefits:
• Network with top individuals from all areas of the HVACR industry
• Take advantage of existing educational and professional development opportunities
• Expand your role in the industry
• Be a mentor and help recruit more women into the industry
• Be heard in the industry and beyond.