Highlights from the 2023 #WPLNSummit: The Skills Building Workshops

The programming for our 2023 #WPLNSummit was built around the knowledge and skills that any woman on the trail or in office would need. 

In addition to our three larger panels and our two more intimate policy panels, we also held three workshops on the critical skills of public speaking, personal branding, and fundraising.

Our skills building workshops featured the following experts:

  • Speaking with confidence, led by Jenifer Sarver from Sarver Strategies (@utsarver on Twitter)

  • Building your brand, led by Madeline Fetterly of Be the Brand (@m_fetterly on Twitter)

  • Fundraising, led by June Cutter of Highland Illuminate (@junecutter on Twitter)

Jenifer Sarver from Sarver Strategies

Speaking with Confidence

During her session on speaking with confidence, Jenifer Sarver from Sarver Strategies emphasized that public speaking is a skill that benefits everyone.

“Not everybody spends a lot of time speaking on a stage,” she said, “but we all are presenting on a regular basis.”

“The more effective we can be at sharing our message with confidence, the more successful we’ll be broadly,” she added.

Jen shared that every year, public speaking is at or near the top of the list of people’s biggest fears.

It can cause fear or anxiety to make yourself vulnerable to an audience and asking people to pay attention to you.

But, said Jen, “being prepared is what’s going to make you confident. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful.”

Jen spoke about three key aspects of public speaking: The audience, the message, and the messenger.

She emphasized that the more information you have about the audience, the more effective you can be.

She recommended that before any attempt at communication or public speaking, each of us ask ourselves the following five questions:

  1. Why should the audience listen to me?

  2. What does the audience know about me or my organization?

  3. Why should the audience care?

  4. How can I connect with the audience?

  5. What keeps members of the audience up at night that I can try to solve?

“It’s not about you, it’s about the audience,” she added, recommending speakers put the audience first. “People are busy, and if you want to inject your message into their life, you better make it real easy for them to understand.”

Jen warned against making assumptions – because the wrong assumption means the speaker has missed the opportunity to effectively communicate.

She also emphasized the power of storytelling.

“People remember stories – they don’t remember data points, they’re not going to remember charts and graphs,” she said. “If I want you to remember something, I need to paint a picture for you.”

To effectively reach your audience, you need a balance of data points and emotion.

Jen also spoke about the physical responses our bodies can have to public speaking – and the messages our bodies can send.

“Our body is always communicating, even if our mouth isn’t moving,” she said. 

If you feel your body starting to betray you or your nerves getting to you, Jen recommends taking a deep breath, which she said is one of the most powerful things we can do to reset ourselves. The worst thing we can do, on the other hand, is to try to bulldoze through without regaining control of our bodies.

“If you want to be an effective communicator,” Jen said, “take that deep breath, pause, and be prepared.”

Madeline Fetterly of Be the Brand

Building Your Brand

“We each have a story, and it’s up to us to use it effectively,” said Madeline Fetterly of Be the Brand.

“When we think about the role that we play in the public life and everything that we do, branding has a role to play,” she added.

Madeline said that understanding and building your brand is a way to invest in yourself.

She spoke about the difficulties people, especially women, have with the idea of brand-building.

For example, she said, “amplifying yourself can kind of have a negative connotation.”

“But,” she continued, “branding and the importance of clear messaging is all over everything… Anyone who is not done leveling up, personally and professionally, needs a personal brand.”

“If we don’t talk about ourselves, nobody else is going to talk about us.”

Branding is a unique opportunity to identify your unique point of view and the things you want people to know about you and to organize on those things.

One of her areas of expertise is with digital branding. She helps her clients bring their stories to life online.

“The goal should always be, when you’re at a networking event and you spend five minutes talking with somebody, you want them to walk away with a pretty clear impression of who you are – the things you care about, your credibility, your expertise,” she said. “The same should be true for your digital presence.”

People can leverage their digital presence to reinforce their in-person reputation. And you want to bring your multidimensional elements of who you are to your brand.

“The goal is not to become an influencer,” Madeline said. “The goal is to leverage and showcase influence.”

“We all have zones of influence, we all have audiences that we have access to, that we can speak to,” she continued. “It’s about positioning who you are, the work that you’ve done to really garner and harness the influence that you have.”

Madeline spoke in detail about building your brand goals, establishing your brand purpose, and reinforcing your brand pillars, as well as knowing your communication channels.

Your brand pillars are the specific things that you want to be known for or to speak to, and they should ladder up to your brand purpose, which should ladder up to your goals.

“The goal and the point is to build an authentic and well-rounded presence that is true to who you are as a person,” Madeline said. “We are people, we are not robots, and so we need to show up online as real people.”

June Cutter of Highland Illuminate


In the session on fundraising, June Cutter of Highland Illuminate highlighted how necessary money is for any campaign.

“Money is the lifeblood of politics,” she said. “You cannot share your message with voters without any money.”

When June ran for office in 2022, she learned that she was a skilled fundraiser - to the extent that she even raised $25K in 24 hours!

June highlighted 6 key steps for successful fundraising:

  1. Create a plan - which includes establishing your budget, goals, and timeline.

  2. Map out your network.

  3. Expand your network by building new relationships and strengthening existing ones.

  4. Raise money via various fundraising methods.

  5. Make the ask and follow up.

  6. Say thank you.

For each step, June provided additional detail, including examples and stories.

For example, she talked about the misconceptions around fundraising.

“A lot of people think that fundraising is just about data,” she said. “‘If I could find that perfect fundraiser who has that list in her database… money will magically appear.’ That’s not the case. Fundraising, and especially successful fundraising, is about building relationships.”

“The fundraiser is there to supplement what you already have, but it’s up to you to build the relationships,” she added.

One of June’s tips? “My golden rule for networking is always to listen more than you talk so that you can learn what motivates them, and you can connect with them on what that motivation is,” she said.

June recommended keeping good notes on people, not giving up on a potential donor until after multiple attempts to connect, and preparing enough to ensure confidence.

“You have to treat fundraising as a job,” she said.

Lastly, June emphasized the importance of ensuring any supporter knows the candidate values and appreciates them.

“People remember feeling appreciated, and you have to think of fundraising as a long-term project,” she said, particularly since a candidate may run multiple times, whether for the same position or different positions. “You can’t think of fundraising as a one-day single effort, it’s a lifetime effort.”

“I say the most important step is saying thank you,” she added.

To see even more photos from the weekend, click here for our Facebook group. (If you're not a member of our Facebook group, click here to join!) 

Want to follow up with our speakers? Here’s a list of our panels, the speakers, and their social media information:

  • Economic and community development, featuring the following leaders and experts:

    • Former California Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (@CBakerAD16 on Twitter)

    • San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones (@RebeccaJ516 on Twitter)

    • Yorba Linda Mayor Pro Tem Tara Campbell (@tarapcampbell on Twitter)

    • Darian Z. Harris from Advantage Capital (Darian’s LinkedIn profile)

  • Diversity on the trail, featuring the following leaders and experts:

    • WPLN President Larissa Martinez (@LMart939 on Twitter)

    • Monet Bacs from the Libre Initiative (@MonetBacs on Twitter)

    • Nikita Pearson (@MsNikitaPearson on Twitter)

    • Lorenda Overman from the American Farm Bureau Federation

    • Angel Fimbres Barcelo from Big Fish Recruiting (@AngelFBarcelo on Twitter)

  • Voter outreach and community engagement, featuring the following leaders and experts:

    • Arkansas Republican Party Communications Director Amber Crawford (@AmberRowlett1 on Twitter)

    • Sara Marie Ridley from Majority Strategies (@SaraMarieK on Twitter)

    • Former California congressional candidate Tamika Hamilton (@TamikaGHamilton on Twitter)

    • Chris Lane from Cygnal (@ChrisLaneMA on Twitter)

We also offered more intimate panels on two important issues:

  • The future of the workforce, featuring

    • Cheryl Jaeger from Crossroads Strategies (Cheryl’s LinkedIn profile)

    • Pennsylvania Representative Kristin Marcell, also of HBW Resources (Kristin’s LinkedIn profile)

    • Rachel Michelin from California Retailers Association (@RachelEMichelin on Twitter)

    • WPLN Board Member Matt Ralston, from Troutman Pepper Strategies (@MD_Ralston on Twitter)

  • Secure and sustainable energy solutions, featuring

    • WPLN Board Chair Joel Noyes, from Hess Corporation (@JPNoyes on Twitter)

    • Emily Haggstrom from HBW Resources (@emilyhaggstrom on Twitter)

    • Kristin Westmoreland from American Petroleum Institute (@Kangus10 on Twitter)

    • Molly Determan from Energy and Technology Workforce (@molly_smart on Twitter)

And our skills building workshops centered around 3 skills critical for any candidate or lawmaker:

  • Speaking with confidence, led by Jenifer Sarver from Sarver Strategies (@utsarver on Twitter)

  • Building your brand, led by Madeline Fetterly of Be the Brand (@m_fetterly on Twitter)

  • Fundraising, led by June Cutter of Highland Illuminate (@junecutter on Twitter)

In addition, Maria Giannopoulos (@greekmaria) and Erica Arbetter (@ThatsErica) from Google gave a presentation on the importance of digital security (“Keeping Yourself Secure with Google”).

Lastly, have questions about our national summit? Learn more here.