WOW Forum Speakers

Check back soon for 2022 Speakers and Bios

We would like to express our sincere gratitude and our highest appreciation for the following speakers who made our 2017 conference such an amazing and memorable event:

Master of Ceremonies:

Karen Thomas

Karen Thomas is a certifies etiquette expert enjoying 21+ years of continued success creating leaders and powerful business practices throughout the Tri-State area. She offers unique training that strengthen communications, company, and entrepreneurial image; all while increasing the bottom line. Karen’s powerful training techniques allow participants to emerge with a new sense of confidence knowing their leadership skills are on point in any given situation. Her unique ability to engage an audience is what allows Karen to enjoy a long and continued presence on television, radio, and at colleges and universities across the US.

Karen is a published author of Poised, Polished, Professional – the Experts’ Guide to Executive Presence which is used as her teaching tool in CT colleges and universities including Quinnipiac and UCONN where she lectures each semester. She resides in NW CT with her husband and 3 children.

Keynote Speakers:

Coryse Villarouel

Coryse Villarouel is an educator, dancer, actor, and human rights consultant with over 20 years of experience in various fields. She has a passion for arts & culture, human rights, and insurance, and she has used her skills & creativity to inspire & empower others.

As a proficient ballet dancer and an awarded choreographer, Coryse has motivated young black and brown individuals to pursue their dreams, regardless of societal constraints. She received her training at The Hartford Ballet and Alvin Ailey and danced professionally for several dance companies in CT. She has also served on the student advisory board for Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts, the West Indian Students Awareness Organization at UCONN, and the West Indian Carnival Committee in Hartford, CT.

After suffering a debilitating ankle injury during her dance career, Coryse didn’t give up on her artistic aspirations. She transitioned to becoming an actor and has appeared in over 20 films, television shows, and commercials and has been a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild since 2008.

As a seasoned brand ambassador and outreach coordinator, Coryse has traveled the US representing brands such as Petco and Unilever. She has also helped raise awareness of Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance marketplace, by educating people about the benefits of health coverage. She has a knack for simplifying complex terms and helping people make informed decisions. 

Coryse has faced racial & gender-based discrimination in her professional journey, which motivated her to become a human rights consultant. She studied the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the US Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights and became passionate about spreading the work about this crucial document. She believes that education is the key to understanding and promoting human rights.

Coryse is currently a member of the non-profit organization Culture 4 a Cause, where she is the events, marketing, and production coordinator. She is also a devoted mother of two handsome energetic boys, ages 12 and 2. Her 12-year-old son is currently following in her footsteps and is also an actor who has appeared alongside his mother in several Hallmark Christmas movies.

Frederique Poulain

Frederique Poulain attended L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in her native county, France, an academy art school which led her to specialize in creating murals and Trompe L’oeil (trick the eye). Additionally trained and perfecting the art of hand painted ceramics, she started creating a variety of home décor accessories. 

Frederique moved to Southwest Florida in 1993 and opened “Frederique’s Studio” which filled the demand of a rapidly growing list of clients. Over the past 25 years, she has been commissioned to paint for a “Who’s Who” list of clientele from New England to Florida, and shows annually at the Boston Flower and Garden Show, the Chatham Festival of the Arts, the CT Flower Show, and the Newport Flower Show. Add to these her Equestrian show lineup at the Land Rover 3 Day Event in Kentucky, Dressage at Devon, and Equine Affaire at the Big E.

Throughout Frederique’s life she has learned how to embrace her talents and learn how to live fearlessly!

Christina Geist

Christina Geist: In work and life, Christina Geist tries to leave a positive footprint on her corner of the world using the simplest of tools: her words.  Whether it’s as founder and CEO of Boombox Gifts, a service that helps friends and families collaborate digitally to create an heirloom-quality memory box, co-founder of True Geist, a branding and design firm, or as a New York Times bestselling picture book author, Christina helps create moments and emotional connections through storytelling.  Christina will be sharing her journey developing big ideas into successful brands and businesses and engaging in an open and interactive discussion.  Christina is married to her high school and college sweetheart, Willie Geist, who you may know from the TODAY Show.  They live in New York with their teenaged children, Lucie and George.

Brooke A. Goff

Brooke A. Goff is a personal injury lawyer dedicated to improving the lives of accident victims throughout CT. With a proven track record, Attorney Goff only works for the injured or those suffering injustice – not for insurance companies. As a prominent personal injury attorney in Hartford, Attorney Goff has never shied away from a challenge, regardless of who the opponent may be. Notably, Attorney Goff pursued sexual abuse cases against the Boy Scouts of America, which were covered by TIME and CNN. Attorney Goff also earned Super Lawyers Rising Stars recognition in 2017, marking 2018 as her second consecutive year. Attorney Goff…breaking barriers, glass ceilings and living into your purpose!

Cathy Coyle

Cathy Coyle will entertain and inspire our audience with personal stories, lessons, self-improvement strategies and career advice. She will make you laugh she may make you cry, and she will definitely provide you with at least one new aspiration for your journey!

With a career spanning more than 30 years of executive leadership, Cathy is currently the Executive Director at Brooker Memorial, a non-profit children’s organization in Torrington. Cathy holds a bachelor's degree in health care administration from Providence College and an MBA from UCONN.

Afternoon Breakout Session Speakers:

Allison Blackwood

Allison Blackwood is the President/CEO and owner of AEI Staffing, a thirty-year-old local staffing firm based in the NW corner of CT. After a 20-year career in financial services, socially driven businesses, and not-for profits, she returned to her hometown and bought her family’s business. Throughout her work with various sized community minded organizations, Allison has developed an expertise in leading teams of people as they go through significant changes in both their personal and professional lives. She has a B.A. in Psychology from American University, an MBA from Georgetown University, and has completed additional Certifications in Change Management and Conflict Resolution. Her professional passions include economic development, organizational design, employee engagement & development, and career coaching.


Resilience Through Change

Whether you believe it’s something inherent people simply “have” or something that can be taught and learned, resilience is a critical quality for everyone in their professional lives, especially during times of organizational change. In this session we will discuss various definitions and understandings of resilience, how we can use it to enhance our own capacity, and how it can prepare us for additional transformations in our lives and in business.

Doreen Dilger

Doreen Dilger is a Certified Manifest Method Coach, Certified Life Coach, Desire Map Licensed Facilitator, Author, Speaker, Founder of PINC Management, Founder of Women Empowering Women Now, and mentor to women on living their best life now.

Known as the "The Master Motivator," Doreen works with fast-moving, highly-motivated women entrepreneurs who want to make a BIG leap in their business that works with their lifestyle and who want a clear vision and plan to get there.

She will show you how to STOP working so hard, stop the distractions that pull you off track, and START focusing on the core essentials: prioritized action steps to help you achieve your goals faster.

Her secret weapon is planning with focus and fun. With over twenty years of experience helping women entrepreneurs, her clients say her rare gift is to cut through the B.S., create an action plan that will help them stay focused, produce results, and live their best life now.

A natural mentor, motivator, and leader for women, Doreen can instantly see what's blocking and preventing you from a successful lifestyle business — and will skillfully help implement strategies and systems.

And whether she's running her online women's community for entrepreneurs, networking, publishing her next book, or flying to Florida for beach therapy, there's no doubt that this woman knows how to Power Up her Productivity.

She resides in Watertown, CT, with her husband Clive, dog Bailey and two cats, Lilly and Binx.

Connect with Doreen:


Strengthening Your Sense of Purpose

Are you unclear about your future path? Is there a desire deep inside you that you would like to take action, but fear is keeping you back? Are you uncertain about your sense of purpose?

Through this fun and interactive workshop, Doreen will help you narrow down your sense of purpose, determine what obstacles are blocking you, and provide key action steps to Strengthen Your Sense of Purpose so you can live your best life now.

Lance Leifert

Lance is a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor certified with the International Mindfulness and Meditation Alliance (IMMA). In addition to training in mindfulness meditation, Lance is also formerly trained in the Transcendental Meditation® technique under the direction of the Maharishi Foundation, the originators of TM®.

Lance teaches mindfulness mediation to individuals of all ages and experience levels. He currently teaches out of October Gardens Yoga and Meditation Center in Harwinton. In addition to practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation, Lance is also a Reiki Level 3 (Shinpiden) practitioner.

“Meditation is a very important part of my life and daily routine. I rely on it to keep a healthy mind and body and to stay focused on the things in my life that are important. Additionally, I love to help teach others to embrace the power of meditation and the positive changes it brings to them.” – Lance Leifert

David Olchowski

David had a very successful 30-year career in Connecticut aerospace manufacturing, working for legendary companies like Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand and United Technologies. He spent the last 15 years of his career as an executive with full P&L ownership in president and general manager roles as well as senior “Lean” leadership roles. Under David’s leadership, one business grew from $20M to $32M; another from $41M to $70M and from 135 employees to 260. Not only has David worked for Fortune 500 companies in multi-site operations and international organizations, he has also worked with private-equity owners and for small, agile businesses.

A true passion for people and continuous improvement has been core to David’s success. That passion has enabled David to grow businesses profitably, driving the top-line sales while delivering operational improvements and implementing significant organizational change. He impacts a business by:

- Engaging the hearts and minds of the organization, top to bottom.

- Aligning the team around the most important initiatives.

- Driving accountability for delivering results.

- Creating a culture that continually improves.

The critical element to his success has been a focus on people: developing, coaching and mentoring others to succeed. That mindset of enabling others’ success and of serving the community led David to ActionCOACH, inspired by the vision: World abundance through business re-education.

David’s business, Acadia ActionCOACH Business Coaching, is a team of certified business and executive coaches. They help driven and energetic business owners and leaders grow their top line, increase their profits and improve their operating efficiencies. They will hold you accountable for your results and, just like a sports coach, push you to perform at optimal levels.

David’s Core Competencies: General Management, P&L Ownership, Strategic Planning, Business Development & Marketing, Organizational Development, Team Leadership, Culture Change, Employee & Leadership Engagement, Continuous Improvement, Change Management


Creating Great Habits and a Success Mindset 

Many of us struggle to create and achieve goals that fill us up and help us to be become more successful. We will discuss how to create a success mindset, overcome your limiting beliefs, and create great habits that will unlock your greatest potential. 

You will walk away with:

  • Clarity on what is holding you back from achieving your goals
  • Strategies that you can use to build great habits and eliminate bad ones
  • Practical, actionable steps to make real meaningful change to your mindset and open the doors to success

Cailyn Paradise

Cailyn Paradise is a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones who has over 15 years of experience in the finance and insurance industries.

Cailyn's finance career began in 2006 when she found herself sitting on a trading desk and discovered a new passion. Cailyn worked for several different hedge funds and commodities traders before moving into the insurance world. While she felt her insurance career allowed her to have a positive impact on her clients and allotted more freedom to care for her young children, she missed finance. In 2019 she joined Edward Jones as a Financial Advisor where she has the ability to direct her own business. Cailyn's main focus within her practice is to uncover what is most important to her clients and then help them to achieve their personal financial goals.

Cailyn and her husband are raising their two children in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, where they grew up themselves. They can typically be found hiking with the dog, taking trips to Rhode Island or skiing in the winter.


Financial Empowerment

Together we will discuss our emotions around finance, the hurdles that we face as women and how we can overcome some of those obstacles.  Let's get some of our goals on paper and put a plan in place!  While we are at it, let's chat about why this is important!

Karen Thomas

Karen Thomas is a certified etiquette expert enjoying 21+ years of continued success creating leaders and powerful business practices throughout the tri-state area. She offers unique training that strengthen communications, company and entrepreneurial image; all while increasing the bottom line. Her powerful training techniques allow participants to emerge with a new sense of confidence knowing their leadership skills are on point in any given situation. Karen's unique ability to engage an audience is what allows her to enjoy a long and continued presence on tv, radio and colleges across the US.

Karen is seen heard and read monthly on NBC CT Live, Good Morning CT - News Channel 8 as well as in MA on Mass Appeal Lifestyle show. She is the resident etiquette expert to the Anna & Raven morning radio show on Star 99.9 FM CT & WALK 97.5 FM Long Island, NY as well as a contributor to Moneyish Magazine - a Dow Jones Publication, Best Life online and several other magazines.

She is a published author of Poised, Polished, Professional - the Experts' Guide to Executive Presence which is used as her teaching tool in CT colleges including Quinnipiac and UCONN where she lectures each semester.

Karen resides in NWCT with her husband Ken, her 3 children and her 2 exceptionally well mannered black labs, Ruger and Axel. Visit:


Power Up Your Presence - to be Seen Heard & Read

In this workshop you will learn:

  • Specific techniques to allow you to stand out in your field
  • How to use the Power of Polite to attract and maintain connections
  • Establish yourself as an expert 
  • Valuable connections you can utilize immediately to connect to media resources