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Speakers | Opening Night at the Conference | Oct. 23, 5-9 pm

A Special Conference Preview Evening
Oct. 23rd • 5:00-9:00 pm • Austin Convention Center



ELIZABETH GILBERT is the author of Eat Pray Love. Exploding onto the scene in 2006, the best-seller famously chronicled the year Gilbert spent traveling the world after a shattering divorce. Translated into more than thirty languages, Eat Pray Love has sold over thirteen million copies worldwide, and in 2010, was made into a feature film starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. Her writing has been published in Harper’s BazaarSpin, and The New York Times Magazine. Gilbert was a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and her work was anthologized in Best American Writing 2001. Her first book, Pilgrims, was a New York Times Most Notable Book, and won a Ploughshares prize. Her first novel, Stern Men, won the Kate Chopin Award in 2001. The Last American Man, which compellingly explores America’s long-standing intrigue with the pioneer lifestyle, was a finalist for the National Book Award. In Committed: A Love Story, the anticipated follow-up to Eat Pray Love, Gilbert tells the story of her unexpected plunge into second marriage. The Signature of All Things, Gilbert’s first novel in over a decade, was named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York TimesO, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, and Time.  Out of the period of introspection following Eat Pray Love, came Gilbert’s brilliant nonfiction treatise, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In 2019, she’ll return to fiction with City of Girls, a love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s.  @gilbertliz

DANIELLE WEISBERG and CARLY ZAKIN are co-founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm, a membership company dedicated to helping millennial women live smarter. The two former news producers launched theSkimm from their couch in 2012, and have built a brand that continues to be a trusted source to their more than seven million daily subscribers. theSkimm is committed to helping its members tackle big decision-making moments in life by giving them the information they need to make informed and empowered choices whether that be in civic engagement, finance, career, health, and more. theSkimm’s flagship product, the Daily Skimm, is still the fastest growing newsletter on the market, and the company’s product suite has grown to engage with members at home, work, and on-the-go, including theSkimm app and Skimm Studios. theSkimm’s first book, How to Skimm Your Life, was released in June 2019 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Zakin and Weisberg have been featured on Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, Vanity Fair’s The Next Establishment, Fortune’s 40 Under 40,  and Adweek’s Young Influentials. You’ve also seen them in TIME’s Most Influential People, Marie Claire’s New Guard, and they were named one of the most 100 Intriguing Entrepreneurs by the Goldman Sachs Builders and Innovators Summit. They still prefer to work from a couch.


ERICA WILLIAMS SIMON is a social critic, author, host and CEO of Sage House, a company that creates spaces and content to surface wisdom about “who we are and how we want to live.” Most recently the former Washington politico and lifelong civil and human rights activist was head of The Creator’s Lab at Snapchat, a first of its kind program that developed inspirational experiences for a global network of young storytellers and creators. The self-described professional question asker is an accomplished moderator and interviewer. She is host of the popular podcast The Call with Erica, creator and host of the Rosario Dawson produced digital talk show The Assembly, and author of the book You Deserve the Truth (Simon & Schuster). She has been featured on The Today Show, O Magazine, and Washington Post and is a frequent TV commentator. @missewill




CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee



DENA BLIZZARD is One Funny Mother, known as the “Target mom” for her viral videos including Back to School Rant, which had over one hundred fifty million views, and Chardonnay Go, with twenty four million views. She is a comedian and mother of three who’s written and starred in her own Off Broadway show, created Chardonnay Go, The Board Game for Wine Lovers, Moms and Other Shameless People, and was a LIVE with Kelly top five co-host winner. She has served as the official host of the Miss America Pageant Preliminaries for ten years, as co-host with Anderson Cooper, and has had her own talk show on NJ 101.5 FM. In her free time, Blizzard enjoys making videos about wine and laughing until her face hurts. She drinks in her living room every week on her Facebook LIVE show, Tipsy Tuesday, with thousands of fans worldwide. She hates doing dishes and enjoys eating gluten-free lasagna. @onefunnymother


JACKIE VENSON’s astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace has been compared to the likes of Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and fellow Austin native Gary Clark, Jr. Originally a classical pianist, she picked up the guitar, shortly after graduating from Berklee College of Music, and made the giant leap from the tradition of classical music to the raw and gritty blues and soul. Enthralled with music since the age of eight, this young singer, songwriter, and musician instantly captures your attention with a vibrant musical soul and passionate control of her instruments, that reach far beyond her age. She mindfully blends blues, rock, R&B, soul and more with her introspective lyrics. Her live performances revisit what makes music so powerful: emotion and passion. She thrives without the flash, instead favoring a clean sound, genuine soul, and meaningful connection with her audience. Music is not only what Venson does – it’s who she is. @jackievenson


AMANDA HODGES is senior vice president, North America marketing for Dell Technologies. Dell Technologies is a global leader in IT infrastructure developed to drive human progress and help businesses succeed in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing environment. Hodges is responsible for the strategy, go-to-market, and execution of marketing to support NA commercial, enterprise, global accounts, verticals and channel sales. Prior to this role, she led OEM and Internet of Things marketing. Before that, she served as chief of staff for Dell’s CMO. Hodges has held several strategy and analytics roles across Dell, including international assignments. She joined Dell in 2005 from McKinsey, where she served healthcare and technology businesses, and also spent five years at GE Plastics. Hodges earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech. She serves on the board of SAFE, a non-profit supporting Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace. @hodges_al @dell

STEPHANIE E. TURNER is vice president of diversity and inclusion strategic engagement at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston, MA. She is responsible for creating and executing D&I strategic engagement enterprise-wide initiatives that drive business results and establishes a competitive advantage. Over the past twenty years, Turner has worked in six industries across the US, as a diversity practitioner. She was the corporate director of D&I for Lockheed Martin, and was a director of talent and D&I for Kaiser Permanente. At ESPN as their associate director for diversity, Turner launched and managed eight ERGs and coordinated their company-wide mentoring program. She was the global inclusion and diversity manager in Motorola’s Corporate HR business, and also worked in the oil industry. Turner earned an MS in agricultural economics from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and her BA in economics from Spelman College. Stephanie joined the regional board of directors for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts in September 2018. @libertymutual

LAUREN WENDORF-CHANDLER is a senior account manager on the retail and brand solutions team at RetailMeNot, where she provides advertisers with data analysis on branded marketing campaigns. Additionally, she serves as the co-lead for the Womxn at RetailMeNot employee resource group following two years as events lead for the ERG. She believes in creating a balanced community that celebrates all people’s voices while increasing impact through equal representation in the workplace. Prior to RetailMeNot, Wendorf-Chandler spent six years supporting the director of revenue at the Sheraton Austin, doing everything from managing enterprise budgets, to organizing President Obama’s stay at the hotel. She earned a BA in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. @retailmenot

More special guests to be announced!