Published on May 29th, 2011 | by thevyne


The Vyne 9: Reasons I Enjoyed the Odyssey Network Retreat 2011

I used to think if you’ve been to one business conference/retreat you’ve been to them all. You know the drill. You arrive, find your name in a list of nametags, grab your standard issue conference bag filled with stuff you don’t need, want or will use and head off to your first session already looking forward to a break. That’s the typical experience…or at least that’s what my typical experience has been. That is, until I arrived at Odyssey Network 2011 in Naples, FL. This was a conference/retreat like no other I had ever experienced.

Anything that is set in Naples, FL at the Ritz Carlton Hotel amidst 70-80 degree weather is bound to be off to a good start. Such was exactly the case with the invitation only Odyssey Network 2011 business retreat put on by CEO of Odyssey Media, Linda Spradley-Dunn and her team including Cheryl Walker Robertson. Instantly when I walked into the hotel and joined the line to pick up my badge and main conference bag I knew I was in for something really special. So here are The Vyne 9 reasons (in no particular order) why this was the best business conference/retreat I’ve attended thus far:

  1. The Fellowshipping – From the minute I walked onto the Odyssey grounds the spirit of camaraderie was overwhelming. Woman and after woman, most of whom I didn’t know and all of whom were women of color, just smiling, hugging and welcoming me to my first Odyssey conference. It’s the kind of conference that you can attend by yourself and still feel like you came with all of your friends.
  2. The Swag – The main conference bag, studded with the Odyssey 2011 logo, was chock full of fantastic “spa like” goodies and products from sponsors like Johnson & Johnson, Intel, Lincoln, Walmart and AARP to name a few. As if that weren’t enough, each evening after the main dinner for the night, we received another swag bag! It was like Christmas in May. The final bag, sponsored by Prudential, included items like Dior lip color and Estee Lauder eau de parfum and facial products.
  3. The Power Lunches – On one particular day we had the opportunity to choose a topic we wanted to attend while having lunch. The list of options was seemingly endless and the opportunity it provided to network with a smaller group of women was priceless.
  4. The Stylish Lloyd Boston – I attended a session with style maven Lloyd Boston who gave an invaluable two-hour lesson on what should be in every power professional woman’s closet. His guidance was practical, useful and I found myself taking several notes in addition to buying his new book The Style Checklist: The Ultimate Wardrobe Essentials For You.
  5. The Fabulous Mikki Taylor – Hearing Mikki talk about this season’s runway trends and how to interpret them was positively entertaining. It was great to hear someone talk about the runway in language the average stylista can understand. I picked up some great tips too, including the tip that you can wear whites that don’t match exactly as long as the fabrics complement each other. But what really did it for me was when she broke out her uber chic fan, that was it…a trend was born!
  6. The Focus on Health – This conference was not only about building yourself up professionally, it was also about building yourself up personally from a mental, emotional and physical perspective. I absolutely loved how our gift the first evening was a work out kit complete with weights, resistance bands, etc. Likewise, the Corporate Athlete session that was trained by Theresa Robinson was just what we all needed to hear about managing our stress and energy levels. And as if that weren’t enough, each day the Get Fit With Nik team (Nikki Kimbrough) worked us out first thing in the morning.
  7. The Music– The serenading began with the smooth R&B sounds of new comer Anthony David on the first evening and ended the last day with the soul stirring vocals of four time grammy nominee Ledisi (wooo weee she can sing!) Each night in the Odyssey lounge we got to let our hair down after a long day of sessions to enjoy the DJ stylings of DJ Kiss and Beverly Bond of Black Girls Rock.
  8. The Panels – From Soledad O’Brien and Bevy Smith to Iyanla Vanzant and others, the morning keynote panel sessions on topics ranging from managing the younger generation to messages around empowerment were all thought provoking and engaging discussions that left everyone chatting by the Starbucks booth throughout the day.
  9. The Networking – If it’s one thing any successful businesswoman knows it’s that you can’t do it alone. Everyone needs a network of people to partner with, learn from or get support from. I’ve never met so many women in one place willing to do just that for one another. The cool thing was, it wasn’t the kind of contrived “hard core” networking that you would typically experience at a “networking event”. It was more relaxed, natural and genuine.

Did you attend Odyssey Network 2011 or a previous Odyssey Network retreat? If so, share your experience with us here.


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