No Laughing Matter

Usually, planners of Bay Path College’s annual women’s professional development conference pick a theme and then select speakers who can properly address it.

For 2006, however, that approach was turned inside out.

Organizers thought they had a theme — concerning how careers and lives evolve, said Caron Hobin, vice president of Planning and Student Development, and then went about assembling a program.

As they looked at the resumes and speaking styles of the keynote speakers, however, conference planners noticed that they all used humor to get their various points across, said Hobin, noting that this trend eventually shaped the 11th edition of the conference into an event titled Humor Incorporated.

“This won’t be a program about humor,” Hobin said of the day-long event set for May 5 at the MassMutual Center. “Instead, it will provide lessons in how humor can be an effective tool to help get a message across or to help people understand dry or complex material.”

Like punctuation.

Indeed, Lynne Truss used humor in her discourse on that subject in the #1 New York Times best-selling book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. She will be the morning keynote speaker at the conference, and should get the event off to a rousing start.

Other keynoters are noted journalist, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and director Nora Ephron, who has directed such hit movies as Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally …, and You’ve Got Mail, and philosopher/comedian Emily Levine.

The three speakers will have different subjects to address, said Hobin, noting that Ephron will focus on her career and the subject matter that has been the focus of much of her work — the evolving relationships between men and women. Meanwhile, Truss will expound on civility in the world today (or the distinct lack thereof), which was the subject of her latest book, Talk to the Hand, and Levine will touch on a variety of subjects in a talk titled It’s Not You, it’s the Universe: How to Have Your Cake and Eat it Too and Lose Weight

But while what they have to say is important, said Hobin, how they say it is what this conference is really all about.

“By using humor, they’re going to provide some direct examples of how it can help people communicate better, and we all know how important that is,” she told BusinessWest, adding that there should be valuable lessons for women at any stage of their careers.

“This is something completely different for us,” said Hobin. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and very entertaining.”

In addition the keynote speakers and their focus on the effective use of humor, the conference will feature several break-out sessions designed to give attendees some knowledge and insight they can take to the office on Monday. This year’s offerings are:

• The Change Before the Change: Laura Corio, MD will address the subject of perimenopause, an important and highly misunderstood biological phase of womanhood. Corio, a board certified OB-GYN with a medical practice in New York City, will speak openly about perimenopause and suggest treatment options focusing on stress and diet, safe and natural hormonal treatment, and alternative therapies;

• Reading Between the Lines: Jo-Ellen Dimitrius, considered the nation’s leading jury consultant, and author of the book Reading People, will offer insight into how individuals can decode the hidden messages in appearance, tone of voice, facial expression, and personal habits to predict behavior and attitude. Dimitrius has used such skills as a consultant in more than 1,000 trials, including such high-profile cases as Scott Peterson, O.J. Simpson, and Rodney King, but she will show attendees how they can apply them to everyday situations, including job interviews, professional interaction, or even a date.

• The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life: Therapist and painter Rosamund Stone Zander will lead a workshop based on the book, The Art of Possibility, which she co-authored with her husband, Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. Zander advocates that art can be a springboard for creating innovative ways to reach personal and professional fulfillment. She will show individuals how they can open their minds to the notion of possibilities and how it can play into their lives and careers to fulfill dreams large and small. For business leaders, the workshop will offer insight into many of the challenges people routinely face in organizations.

• Unfinished Business: A Democrat and a Republican Take on the 10 Most Important Issues Women Face: When Julianne Malveaux, a Democrat and writer and featured columnist, and Deborah Parry, a Republican and political commentator, met in 1998 on MSNBC to discuss a presidential scandal, they found their passionate viewpoints illuminated important political issues. In Unfinished Business, a book they co-authored and sessions they stage together, the two take on subjects that resonate with women such as child care, education, health care, reproductive rights, and foreign policy. Their program sheds light on issues from both sides that help individuals better understand and form opinions on those subjects.

Hobin said plenty of seats are still available for the conference — the move to the MassMutual Center will enable organizers to host more than 1,000 people, 200 more than in the past — but the event is expected to sell out. v

To register online, visitwww.baypath.edu. For more information, call (413) 565-1293 or (800) 782-7284, ext. 293.