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What's your definition of success?

I have just delivered my annual Power Up event in London and I wanted to share some of the learnings that have come from that event.
When I envisioned my event and came up with the idea originally, it would now be very easy for me (a few days after) to see it as a failure in comparison to what I had in my mind.
It was during a coaching session with my own coach last June, where I was in the process of bringing forward Kelly Swingler as a brand. I was stepping away from my old consultancy that I started in 2014 and over the last year I have really put myself out there, flying the Kelly Swingler flag and brand. During my coaching session I said I wanted to reach as many women as possible, in person, in a room, being able to help women step into their core power.
My coach asked me to do a visualisation exercise, where we went into a brief meditation, to visualise ‘this thing’. I knew it was something that had to happen in person and as we were doing this exercise, I could see Power Up.
I didn’t know at the time what it was going to be called, but I could see myself on stage, in a room surrounded by 500 women. I knew what the building looked like, the layout of the room, I knew how the day would run and I could feel the energy in the room and the breakthrough and change.
After the visualisation I started to frantically scribble down everything I saw and started to take steps to bring this event to life. I reached out to a copywriter to write copy for my website, I asked my brand designer to create the graphics, I reached out to speakers, tickets went on sale and I started to get some bookings.
But I had so many moments of doubt over the last year and feelings of failure. I have had moments where I wanted to pull the plug and just wash my hands of it, questioning myself, wondering why on earth I was trying to do an event.
But I kept on going.
Do you know what?
I didn’t have 500 people at my event, I had around 50 people.
I didn’t use the big venue that I had envisioned.
I didn’t get the sponsorship I wanted.
But what I did have was so many lightbulb moments of learning and things that I will do differently next time. The venue for next year is already booked and the tickets go on sale next week. I’ve changed the pricing, changed some of the format of the day, I will look into my marketing and how to effectively get my message across and I will ask for more help.
I could easily sit and think ‘I’ve failed’ because I didn't get 500 people. But next year I’m not going to aim for 500, I’m going to aim for 100 people.
I haven’t failed. I’ve learnt a lot during the process.
The Power Up event isn’t about me, it’s about the people in the room and the experiences they will have and what they will learn from it. So for me, that is what makes it a successful event.
A few years ago if I had only got 10% of the people I wanted, I know I would have given up, cancelled it and given everyone a refund. Maybe one day I will get 500, maybe not now, but in the future.
If I think back to this time last year, I had only just launched my business as Kelly Swingler. Before that I was speaking to a very different audience and spent the last 22 years speaking to an HR audience. I built a network and circle of HR Professionals, but then I changed who I was talking to and I now work with core-led women.
So I’ve only been in business for a year and I had 50 people in the room… that’s a huge success.
Before planning the event I realised in order to fill the seats, my messaging had to change. And I did change my message and my audience, deciding to work exclusively with core-led women. But I didn’t make that change quick enough, so my 500 people target wasn’t realistic.
We only get 1% of sales from our audience.
I would have needed a 50,000 active audience to get 500 people in that room.
What I have done in the last year is ;
I’ve doubled my active audience of potential new people who will come to the event next year. That is a success.
I know what my marketing and sales will look like going forward. That is a success.
I know everything that needs to change and improve. That is a success.
I didn’t fail. The event was amazing and I have more insight on how to make next year’s event even better.
Around Christmas time last year, I had quite a few people tell me the event looked great, but they wanted to join online and not attend in-person. But I didn’t want to host the event virtually, for 2 reasons;
Firstly, I designed this event to run in-person. I need people in the room and I would have had to replace half the agenda for the event if it went online.
Secondly, energy. You need a very different energy when it is a hybrid event. Speaking effectively to the people in the room and the people online is not easy and I wouldn’t want people to feel excluded or comprise the event in any way.
I had such a crisis of confidence and wondered whether I should make it a virtual/online event instead. I could have given in, but I knew it was supposed to be an in-person event.
One potential avenue for next year is that I stream the event live for those that want to watch it online, but will they get the same out of it and get the same level of engagement as those in the room? NO.
So do I want to devalue the learning to those online, by not giving them the best opportunity? Of course not.
If there’s a way I can bring it all together, I will.
It can be very easy to think we have to change things to suit others, and of course we do need to do that sometimes depending on the situation, but in this instance I knew I had to go with my gut and what I had envisioned. It had to be an in-person event.
I want each of you to think about a time that you have been really close to giving up. What successes came from that? What did you learn?
Our definition of success needs to be flexible. We need to celebrate all of those small wins and successes along the way. We need to give ourselves permission to learn, to grow and to develop.
My event was a success. We all had an amazing time and I’m going to continue to do this event year after year.
So, if you ever feel like you have failed, redefine your definition of success, create something amazing and magical and continue being core-led in the process.
Core-led women, let’s change the world together.
In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with family. Determined to enjoy the success that she had earned, she's learned to create a life of balance and boundaries that is also highly successful. Today at, Kelly helps women leaders all over the world to prevent and recover from burnout without giving up their career or jeopardising their wellbeing.

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