The calm before the storm. A picture taken Monday morning at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA -- where the 2014 Fortune MPW Summit will kick off today.
Fortune MPW
By Leigh Gallagher
October 6, 2014

The sun is shining, the waves are rolling, and the makeup of the guests roaming the halls of the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA, has shifted from weekending families to clusters of polished businesswomen. As I write this, it’s MPW Summit morning—just hours before our 16th Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit kicks off—and some of the most loyal attendees and speakers know that now’s the time to relax and soak in the setting. This afternoon, they’ll be thrown into a whirlwind of news making on-stage discussions and off-stage conversations that will spark new professional and personal relationships.

It’s going to be a great Summit this year start to finish, but there are a few things I’m especially looking forward to:

*Interviewing Jane Lauder. This is the Estee Lauder (EL) executive’s first time at the Most Powerful Women Summit and her first on-stage, one-on-one interview about her career. I’m looking forward to hearing where she’s taking Clinique, the storied brand she now oversees (and Estee Lauder’s largest division). I’m also interested in hearing about what it was like to grow up in the Lauder family.

*Interviewing Lynn Good. Lynn is the CEO of Duke Energy (DUK), and she’s another first-time Summit attendee. She’ll be new to our audience so I’m looking forward to asking her about her career path, lessons she’s learned along the way and the opportunities and challenges in running the nation’s largest electric utility.

*I’m excited about a session I’m moderating on how to avoid being overconnected—ie. letting our devices, streams, and messaging platforms control us instead of the other way around. Dr. Camille Preston, a psychology Ph.D and “virtual effectiveness” expert, the always impressive Wendy Clark from Coca-Cola (KO), and Emily White, COO of Snapchat and ex of Facebook

, Instagram and Google (GOOG) will all weigh in on strategies to avoid being overwired (and I’m hoping Emily might be able to tell us what the folks that create and invent our messaging platforms have in mind for us next.)

Finally, I’m eager to hear from Mary Barra of GM (GM). Mary was interviewed on stage last year at the Summit, but she wasn’t even CEO at the time—she was named GM’s new chief two months later, and almost immediately after found herself the center of a historic recall crisis. What a difference a year makes. Barra is as straightforward and reasoned as they come, so I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say. She’ll be interviewed by Alan Murray, Fortune’s new editor, who has been a major supporter of the MPW franchise since joining Fortune, but he hasn’t quite yet had the full immersive experience. I’ll be interested in getting his take throughout the conference. We think he’ll be pretty impressed.

I’m also excited to connect with people I’ve gotten to know and to meet new people–especially some of the members of the upcoming Fortune 40 Under 40 list, which comes out this Thursday. Several of this year’s list newcomers will be here, as will many alums of the list.

But at the MPW Summit, one of my favorite places to be when I’m not moderating a session is parked in a chair in the audience absorbing everything that’s said on stage. The discussions are always informative, illuminating, insightful and revelatory, and I take multiple things away from each one.

The Summit kicks off on Monday at 1 pm PT. Livestreaming begins at our dinner Monday night, when Fortune senior editor at large Pattie Sellers will interview HP chief Meg Whitman—herself in the news this week with plans to break the company in two. The conversation starts at 7:15 pm PT/ 10:15 pm ET and you can watch it live at Fortune.com/mpw2014. You won’t want to miss it.

“From the MPW Co-chairs” is a daily series where the editors who oversee the Fortune Most Powerful Women brand share their insights about women leaders.

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