An invitation for a conference I’d never heard of, with a glitzy title I’d normally shun, proved a most welcome and heart-warming surprise to me and others who attended the 2020 Leap and Shine Conference in London, England. This unique event is where I discovered first-hand that everyone can shine atop their own red carpet without false pride or dissimulation.
The experience enriched me and I would like to share with you why.
Months ago, I received a Facebook message from the U.K. with a Clara Rufai asking me to connect and to check my business emails. Her email was curious, indicating she had been “cyber-stalking” my blogs, podcasts and other posts on recommendation from a friend. Would I consider speaking at her upcoming conference in London?
Typical speaking venues for me tend to be universities, national leadership conferences, even American Embassy outposts. Despite carrying the honorary title of Ambassador of Happiness(R), I favor the more sober environments where ideas rather than egos are on display. I shun personality-based conferences and transactional networking events and wondered if this international conference and “gala” I was invited to speak at was another such opportunity.
Any skepticism I held was dispelled during our first video chat. Clara Rufai is equal parts intelligence, refinement, warmth and wisdom. A corporate compliance attorney in London, she shared with me her background challenges while growing up in Nigeria. When Clara was young, her father passed away suddenly so Clara quickly assumed the role of her mother’s right hand. Later, a tragic boating accident took the lives of her twin sisters. Despite this harrowing past, Clara told me with a radiating smile that revealed a powerful, inner strength, “I realized that if I could go through those experiences, I could do anything.”
Clara disclosed that she’d learned of me through her friend Alex Okoroji. Alex is a Nigerian actress, radio host, publisher and promoter of others with whom I’d collaborated on previous occasions. Alex is a global connector who knows my mission is to find and foster the best and brightest elements in us all. The connection was as fun as it was fortuitous. I decided to step out of my comfort zone to join Clara as she advanced from annual Leap and Shine webinars to her first physical conference and evening gala.
At her request, I even packed a glittering gown!
An Uplifting and Joyful Conference for All
It’s no small feat to create international webinars where individuals are invited to speak and present on-line. It’s quite another to gather a group of relative strangers in a foreign city and create a collective sense of warmth, joy and brilliance. But, miraculously, that’s what I experienced – in the flesh – at Clara’s fourth annual Leap and Shine conference.
Founder and organizer Clara Rufai may be quietly unassuming, but she is a woman with vision and muster. She realized years ago that despite a happy family life and commendable corporate career, she still felt the need to fill a different void. Creating her own S.H.I.N.E. concept (Start Harness Identify Network and Express), she wrote a book, launched local events, mentored emerging professionals and started hosting webinars. In her own ongoing, purposed fashion, she has been making a worthy imprint of the sort that I – and others – now recognize, relate to and tangibly feel.
This year’s Leap and Shine Conference brought together Clara’s carefully curated speakers from the U.K., Nigeria and the U.S. The panoply was diverse and the experience proved inspiring, expansive and revelatory. At some level, Clara facilitated an atmosphere that made everyone feel relaxed and at home with others they hadn’t previously met.
Far from static, the conference afforded ample time to socialize naturally without a contrived agenda. Conversations emerged that proved thought-provoking and mutually creative. Formal presentations were brief, sharply distilled, greatly varied and often interactive. The dinner and award night gala proved especially shimmering and fun for awardees, ambassadors, attendees and even extended family members who flew in for the event from Nigeria and the U.S.A.
Feeling the Collective Love at Leap and Shine 2020
When I returned to Florida, I felt happy and renewed: I made new acquaintances that could easily turn into friendships; I acquired new perspectives from the many and varied exchanges; I birthed a more expansive view of what I could develop in 2020 to further my own life and initiatives.
As a way of memorializing the experience for myself and others, I invited fellow presenters and awardees for their feedback. They were quick to chime in with similar sentiments.
“The conference was impactful on so many levels: mind, body and soul. It was also distinguished by authenticity. Despite the plethora of star qualities and accomplishments, everyone’s ego was checked at the door. It was about the present moment: genuine, a family reunion . . . like kindred spirits who finally had the chance to get together.” – Dr. Corey Hicks, aka “Coach Corey,” Author and Award Winning Speaker spreading the “Keep Winning” message around the world
“Community, collaboration and connection are words I’d use to best describe this conference. Clara has this ability to connect people that would not normally connect and to fuse them into a collaborative community. It’s not something you see until you work with her directly.” – Brandy M. Miller, The Opportunity Prospector
“Conferences can sometimes be sites of performance for the ego, but there was a spirit of openness in this heart-centered gathering. The Leap and Shine conference model created a collective shine, leaving a space for participants to absorb different perspectives. Clara and her team did an excellent job of curating speakers and constructing a framework which enabled us to cultivate powerful bonds of trust.” – Dr. Yewande Olukele, CEO/Founder, of The Power of Nine: Creating Connectivity and Purpose
“This experience has been different from other conferences where I’ve spoken and totally unforgettable for me. The conference was void of the usual, unhealthy competition among speakers. Instead, there was an unexplainable camraderie and support that had us bonding and cheering each other on like old friends and family.” – Cresta Durojaiya, President & Co-Founder of PineTree Group. Founding Chairperson of the Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals in Nigeria (APON).
“The Leap and Shine Conference was time well spent. It was divine! Many thanks to all. I soaked in every bit of wisdom released. Looking forward to connecting further.” – Titi Horsfall, Award-Winning Author, Poet and International Speaker
“The speakers at this conference all came from a place of love, honesty and integrity. It was totally heart-felt. My take away was: Never dull your shine!” – Mark Stephen Pooler, Press PR and Media Specialist, Inspirational Speaker and Public Speaking Coach
Thanks to Clara Rufai and her willingness to shine brightly in her own way, we’ve all been afforded the opportunity to leap and shine this year. And we’re all somewhat better for having been part of her gathering.
Whether you’re an organizer, a speaker or a devotee of attending specially curated events, I wish for you a a similarly uplifting experience. May you shine brighter in your own brilliance . . . even as you bask in radiance of others!
I referenced above how I arrived home from the Leap and Shine conference feeling especially uplifted, as if I’d made some new friends. As a special bonus to this blog, I introduce to you to the story behind one of the extraordinary individuals I met while in London. Meet Cresta Durojaiye. Find out how a traumatic childhood experience became her gateway to greatness today.
I hope you feel the love.
Click here or on the link below for Podcast 164: From Trauma to Treasure.
* Thank you to fellow speaker Brandy M. Miller for her assistance in collecting the above feedback and commentaries.
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