They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Much in the same way, life-changing movements, ideas, and dialogues start with a single thought: an “aha” moment. This is the driving force behind the Aha Women’s Speaker Series, an emerging national storytelling initiative founded by St. Louisan Keith Alper who wanted to put our city on the map by redefining what a speaker series should be.
Aha has gathered support from some of St. Louis’ most influential brands and media outlets to share the good news about women in our region. The inaugural event, which will be held at Stifel Theatre on Thursday, October 4, is expected to attract about 3,000 attendees.
We reached out to Jennifer Oertli, the Aha Speaker Series experience strategist, to get an in-depth look into what Aha is all about, how it’s impacting the St. Louis community, and its vision for the future.
Can you give us an overview of what the Aha Women’s Speaker Series is all about?
Everyone has those “aha” moments, those epiphanies and realizations that impact us profoundly and inspire action. The Aha Women’s Speaker series is about capturing and sharing those moments. We have Olympic athletes, best-selling authors, C-level executives and more sharing their perspectives on what matters to women, whether that’s motherhood, business, or cultural issues like the #MeToo movement. What’s more, Aha is a way to tell the nation that good things are happening here in St. Louis.
Who are some of the women speaking at the event?
Some of the featured speakers include Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson, New York Times best-selling author Jennifer McCartney, and Wendy Walsh, who was Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for being a leader of the #MeToo Movement. These are only a few of the speakers — more women are being added weekly, including an interactive roundtable of top women executives and entrepreneurs in St. Louis.
What distinguishes Aha from other speaker events?
So many speaking events are the same: you get your ticket, sit your butt in an uncomfortable seat, listen to somebody promote themselves, then you go on with your day. We didn’t want to create another cookie cutter speaker series, so we focused on making Aha an experience for everyone who attends. That means being immersed in all things women from the moment you enter the Stifel Theatre: sharing, listening, relating, networking, laughing, crying, feeling a jolt of inspiration, and going on to do something amazing. But at the end of the day, all of those feelings define the human experience — and that’s exactly what we want to capture.
How did the Aha Women’s Speaker Series start?
11 years ago, CPG Agency brought TEDxStLouisWomen to St. Louis and saw tremendous success over the years — last year we had a sellout crowd with more than 3,000 attendees. But we thought it would be even better if St. Louis had a community-oriented speaker series of its own. That was Keith Alper’s own “aha” moment which lead to his concept for the Aha Women’s Speaker Series.
What is the vision for the Aha organization moving into the future?
We’re planning a second speaker series for 2019, but in the meantime we’re working to expand our digital footprint with educational resources and business events. Regardless of the direction Aha takes, our mission will always be to provide high-value, inspirational content that keeps St. Louisans connected.
What excites you most about Aha?
When 3,000 people can come together and say ‘I’m not in this alone,’ there’s no telling what this community can accomplish. Some organizations have weak ties between members, but our focus on connection within Aha is what excites me most. This is a unique opportunity for women to come together and think big, but also to send a message to the rest of the country.
If you could give someone one reason to attend the Aha Speaker Series, what would that be?
When people hear about a speaker series, they often associate it strictly with business. But “aha” moments don’t just happen at work, so we felt it was only right to reflect that reality within the organization. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time executive, a volunteer, or a stay-at-home mom. Aha is an opportunity to join a community that transcends job descriptions.