Stay-at-home-mom turned award-winning filmmaker turned speaker and podcaster showing up as your ‘belonging bestie’ that gives you all the bite-sized advice you need to belong anywhere you wanna be.

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Uncovering the “How” of Belonging: Insights from an Accidental Belonging Expert

I arrived at the convention center 30 minutes early because I had a feeling I might get turned around looking for the room. #IYKYK

My phone buzzed in my hand – it was them. Phew!

“Denise! We’re over in “C” turn around, can you see us?” 

Relieved, I swiveled my body to the right and immediately recognized the two women from the pre-event Zoom call walking towards me and smiling from ear-to-ear.

“I love my job” I thought

They waved, and I waved back, and we laughed the way friends do when they’re so excited to see each other.

“We’re so happy you’re here Denise!” they said.

Over the next hour while the production crew was readying themselves for a full day of programming the following day, I was given a tour of the entire footprint of the conference. 

Two thousand attendees would be walking through the doors of the convention center the next morning and with a million things to do these two women went out of their way to show me everything they’d planned. 

This rarely happens.

After the tour, one thing was clear. Whoever planned this event was very keen to create belonging whether they knew it or not. 

By the time soundcheck was over, I was sure of one thing: The event the next day was going to be fantastic.

As someone who’s taken the mic at countless events, I’ve witnessed firsthand what it looks like when attendees feel like they they belong. It feels special, and out of the ordinary, and like you want to put it in your pocket and bring it home with you.

Pure magic. 

From the buzz I can feel on the stage of a packed meeting room, to the intimate huddles of attendees enjoying each others company during networking breaks, I’ve seen belonging blossom and take shape in all kinds of forms at all kinds of events. 

And because I understand how belonging is created, I marvel at the thoughtfulness of event planners who intentionally ‘set the stage’ for these magic moments to unfold. 

Yet, amidst so many beautiful moments of connection, I’ve also noticed so many missed opportunities – instances where belonging could have been nurtured, a “magic moment” that could have been created, but instead, it went ignored.

At that particular event I saw countless examples of how they were setting the stage for belonging to happen the next day (all research-backed) and when I saw it unfold, I couldn’t help myself – I needed to let them know.

Why? Because I have 40 minutes on any given stage to share about belonging and what better example to use, than the event we are all experiencing to illustrate my points – in real time. And also, let’s face it, belonging strategy can get so heady and cerebral and frankly, the approach that works best is the most heartfelt one, the most authentic one and the one that feels the riskiest. That’s the one that returns the most belonging.

It’s too simple for complex minds.

So in the spirit of contribution and wanting to make a difference, I shared 10 things that the event organizers did right so the audience could understand the “how” because were human and we want to understand the how.

In fact, the number one question I get from attendees is a “how” question…

“What is the easiest way to create belonging?”

The practice of sharing my belonging insights has become my favorite part of my work because it’s real and raw and authentic and event teams love it because when you have a heart to create Belonging, it’s really nice to know when you’ve done something right. 

I’ve spent some time categorizing the different tactics that I’ve seen work beautifully at events and I’ll be sharing them in future posts because I’m not going to gate keep these ideas any longer.

We’re going to get started with a tactic that packs a big punch and is also underutilized. This is something you can use “immediately if not sooner.” as my dad used to say.

BELONGING TACTIC #1: “The Declaration”

I call this one “The Declaration” – it’s a full blown power statement and it’s best used by people in Leadership. This tactic is so simple yet so very impactful.

Here’s what it looks like at your event: 

There’s often a moment when the President or CEO speaks at your event.

I think we can both agree that these speeches can often sound canned, boring and the farthest thing from authentic and sincere. I mean, we all know it, and the knowing of it is important to understanding why this tactic works SO well. 

At a relatively small leadership event last year, the President of the company I was speaking at, was slated to share some remarks to a group of 100 attendees. She started with “The Declaration” tactic by saying…

“If you’re here, you belong here. If you’re working in this building, you belong here. If you’re in one of these chairs, you’ve got a seat at the table. Know it.” 

The certainty, the gravitas, the authenticity blew everyones hair back.

The rest of her speech was punchy and deeply personal. We hung on her every word as she shared personal stories that made her relatable, and lovable and powerful.

She also set the stage for a two-day event that was a smashing success that received all A’s in my belonging playbook.

There were so many things that these two groups (the 2000 person event and the 100 person event) did to create belonging and I can’t wait to share them with you. For now, I want you to understand the power of a simple declaration of belonging delivered in an authentic way. 

Try it out next time you’re in front of a room and see all the hearts light up like a Christmas tree in winter and feel how belonging is created.

Part of what I do as a Belonging Strategist is to help my clients create belonging at their event or meeting. If you have a question about any element of your agenda and you’d like to run it past me, I’d be honored to help you! Fill out the contact form here.

And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, if you are here because you want to learn how to create belonging at your events, you belong here. You have a spot at this table. Know it.

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  1. Sonia says:

    I share th feeling with you and applaud your goals in sharing those strategies with others. It is needed!

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I'm Denise Soler Cox

Stay-at-home-mom turned award-winning filmmaker turned speaker and podcaster showing up as your ‘belonging bestie’ that gives you all the bite-sized advice you need to belong anywhere you wanna be.