SmarterPreneur Stories: Ciara Feely Cahalane, Conference Converter

Ciara Feely
There is a special cohort at the core of our society and economy; ambitious people who run their own business. Some of them have joined SmarterPreneur Circles so that they can build a stronger and more profitable business. These are their stories.

Introducing Ciara Feely Cahalane, owner of Conference Converter.

 

Ciara, what is your business all about and what is your role?

I make it really easy for hotels to focus on and convert profitable business. The conference and meetings market is exactly that. I am a Conference Converter and I show hotels how to attract, convert and win more conference business. My approach is to inspire hotels to raise their game, understand the challenges of their conference clients and help them to run an amazing event.

I am the architect of my business, a game changer in the industry and the personality behind the brand.

I have essentially productised my knowledge. I am now operating in the expert industry. I am writing a book and from that online courses and numerous bespoke workshops have been created that I deliver for hotel teams.

My role in the industry is developing as being a person of influence, who helps to bring Conference Planners and Hoteliers together, figuring out how to best work together and change the way conferences are delivered. I have been asked to speak at three conferences as a result of writing my book and one of them is an incubator of fresh ideas in the conference industry.

 

Can you remember when you first got the idea for starting your own business?

I grew up only knowing the entrepreneurial spirit as my father has run his business for fifty-five years now! So I always assumed that I would run my own business.

My “working for other people” experience has been in hotels, and sitting in a pub in San Francisco one day with my boss, Dayna, I said “one day I would generate qualified leads for hotels.” We were a bit frustrated with the quality of leads we were receiving from third party agents at the time. My first business did just that – FindaConferenceVenue.com, which I still run. ConferenceConverter.com has emerged from that. Again, it was born out of frustration that hotels were missing out on opportunities. I saw each day how they were not converting conference leads and I really wanted to do something about that. So I did!

 

Who has influenced you in the development of your business?

  • Paul O’Mahony of ChangeAgents. He has helped me to look at my business from way outside and peel it back to its core. And most importantly be clear on that message.
  • Ali Brown in looking at her model of selling her expertise and productising her business, which is essentially what I am doing.
  • Vincent Walshe of Internet Success for helping me work out how to sell my products online.
  • Aodan Enright in giving me different lenses to strategically figure out my business and put great people together in my Smarter Egg SmarterPreneur Circle. (we didn’t pay Ciara to say this – honest!)
  • My membership of BNI for the training and development I received. I would never have been able to put together my workshops and deliver them without that training. My presentation skills have dramatically sharpened too, standing up every week pitching your business is amazing practice. I am now focusing on being a presenter and facilitator from the stage.
  • Sam Rathling for our many unofficial coaching sessions and encouragement to go the expert industry route.

 

If you could meet the person you were one year ago today, what would you tell them?

  1. I started writing my book a year ago today so I would have to encourage myself to stay diligent in writing that. The clarity I have gained from writing that has been unbelievable, therapeutic almost, as I am letting out all of the industry knowledge in my head. I have realised how much was in there and how valuable it is to my clients. What has emerged is a Conference Converter System which I have turned into three different online courses and seven workshops.
  2. Slow down, take it one step at a time. Stay focused. You have definitely nailed your niche.
  3. Look at how you are going to finance this so I can afford to be even more entrepreneurial.

 

How long did it take for you to transition from “technician” to entrepreneur? (ok to say not yet!)

Getting there!! I guess the short answer is: as long as it takes me to build the right team. A team of experts that care as much about my business as they do about theirs, as they are entrepreneurial themselves and I bring them on board to help me with different projects.

 

What would you do if you weren’t running this business?

I really don’t know. I have found my “thing”. I knew FindaConferenceVenue.com was leading me somewhere and ConferenceConverter.com is it.

 

What approaches/techniques help you get the most out of your working day?

Staying positive. Not being a slave to email. Surrounding myself with the right people.

 

What has your experience in SmarterPreneur Circles taught you about yourself?

The group and the “lenses” we used really helped me to see the value of my insights and knowledge: the unique way that I look at a hotel and how that can help hoteliers to attract the right business and position themselves as a game changer in the industry.

One challenge that Aodan set me really has had a profound effect. I put a lot of time into it and it brought out my creative side. We were asked to create a work of art that represented what a mature business might look like, feel like, smell like, sound like etc.. We were asked to add milestone dates to it and so far they have all come true.
Ciara's Biz Mat Challenge.001

 

In January 2013 I had a conversation with Tommy Murphy (introduced to me by Michael Lynch, another Smarter Egg). Tommy heard the passion in my voice speaking about the opportunities hotels were missing out on. He asked me to run two workshops for two hotels on his portfolio. At the time, I had considered creating workshops but hadn’t developed them.

All of a sudden I found myself selling two workshops that hadn’t even been created yet. One of the milestones on my work of art was to have nailed my business model by February 2013. So that was achieved. The next milestone I set myself was to have it monetized by June 2014. That has been achieved. My next date is January 2015 and the wheels are in motion for that. Writing my book has had a big influence on that date for launching myself in America.

 

Who would be in your Dream SmarterPreneur Circle (living or dead)?

Ohhh, a tough one. The guys I shared my journey with in my first one of course – Paul, Vincent, Orla, Jan, Michael, Conall. After that a mix of artists and business heads:
Janis Joplin, Jeff Walker, Ali Brown, Maya Angelou, Chris Rock and David Ogilvy. Oh, and George Clooney just to look at!

 

How have you adjusted your business arising from your SmarterPreneur Circle participation?

I have turned my business on its head, looked at it from every angle, given it a big shake and I just love what fell out! What has emerged is my passion; I have found what I am really great at, what my clients really need and most importantly will pay for!

 

What is your business going to look like in 2020?

Conference Converter will be a seal of confidence for a Conference Planner. They will look upon a hotel as a serious conference player if they have gone through the training and learning modules created by Ciara Feely and her team. The tools and resources created by ConferenceConverter.com will be seen as a mark of excellence in the industry, a standard to strive for and hold on to dearly.
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You can connect with Ciara on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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