Jennifer Rudolph Walsh was a little girl who could get lost in a good story, no matter how it was told.
“Growing up, I was drawn to stories because they were a way to feel less alone in the world,” she says. “Whether I was watching a soap opera or devouring a book, I lived inside the stories I was consuming, and afterwards, wanted to talk about them with as many people as I could.”
Walsh’s passion for stories led her to a career representing some of the biggest names at the intersection of women power and publishing — including Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg, and Arianna Huffington — as a book agent. In this capacity, she had the opportunity to get a rare peek into what happens behind the closed doors of our society’s most brilliant, influential meeting rooms (talk about Hamilton’s “the room where it happens!”) — experiences that were the first spark of inspiration for Together Live, an annual speaking tour set for its second year this coming fall.
“From Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women’s Conference to the Oval Office itself, I have had the great honor of being close to transformational thought leaders throughout my career,” Walsh says. “And from the wisdom of these elite rooms, I confirmed what I intuitively believed to be true. We are more alike than different. We all want the same things. People want to be seen and connect.”
Having also had what she calls the “once in a lifetime experience” of co-creating Oprah’s “Life You Want” Tour, Walsh was well-versed in the power of live events to bring people together and to amplify the magic of the “small rooms” she’d visited to much larger groups of women. Later, she met author Glennon Doyle Melton (you may recognize her book Love Warrior from bestseller lists and Oprah’s Book Club), who had a similar vision for a storytelling conference for women. Together, Walsh and Melton founded Together Live.
“Glennon and I committed early on that the only flavor we want is delicious, that we would always give everyone the most respectful interpretation, and that we wouldn’t move forward unless [the plans] felt right for everyone,” Walsh says. “We designed our DNA to represent who we are — ignited, curious, intersectional.”
That DNA grew into the beautifully energetic organism that is Together Live, which debuted last year. The tour hit six cities in 2016 and featured speakers including Gina Rodriguez, Ciara, Sophia Bush, and Alicia Keys. Fifteen thousand women from across generations experienced Together’s first year, and Walsh and her team hope to see growth in 2017. The tour has expanded to 10 cities, and like last year, each event is planned for after-work hours and priced at just $25 in order to maximize accessibility for hardworking women everywhere.
“[It’s] one night where you will hear the most badass women telling stories, finding purpose, taking action, and self-reflecting,” Walsh says. “You’ll experience a transformational night in one of the country’s most beautiful theaters, all for the price of a movie and a slice of pizza. What’s better than that?”
This year’s national speaker lineup includes Melton, author Luvvie Ajayi (I’m Judging You), Connie Britton, and Abby Wambach, US women’s soccer star and author of Forward. Other major names will appear on shorter legs of the tour, and local heroes will also appear regionally to share their stories.
“Storytelling is the greatest way that we can connect, elevate, and heal ourselves and each other,” Walsh says. “Our philosophy is that fear cannot survive proximity. You want to understand someone? Listen to the stories that break down the barriers that divide us. It’s more important now than ever.”
While experiencing Together Live’s stop in her hometown of New York was a highlight of the event’s debut year, Walsh calls last year’s entire tour “completely transformational from start to finish.”
“Laughter through tears is the perfect embodiment of the emotion felt during the tour, which I look forward to every single night,” she says. “And, of course, the late-night French fry party after each event, which has become our Together family dinner tradition.”
Good stories and good French fries? Sounds like a winning night to us. Together Live will kick off on September 18 in Portland, with dates scheduled throughout the country until late October. Check out what other cities are on the schedule here. Tickets are on sale (for just $25!) now.
What is the value of storytelling in your life? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via of Together Live)