The JCI UK National Convention 2017 took place between 24th and 26th November 2017 and was my first ever experience of attending a JCI event. Whilst in some ways it felt a little like being thrown in at the deep end, it was actually the perfect introduction to JCI.
Help – what am I doing here?!
Prior to the National Convention, I’d never heard of JCI and had no clue what it was about. Being a die-hard Southampton fan, when my brother told me his Christmas present to me this year would be meeting Southampton ex-manager and club legend Nigel Adkins, I wasn’t about to refuse! A week before the event (which until then I had thought was a one day conference, Chris sent me through the details of the jam-packed weekend, including Black Tie Masquerade Ball(!) and I nearly fainted. What on earth had I got myself into?!
Still, being incredibly cool, calm and unfazed, I didn’t panic (ok – maybe I did a little/lot), dug out my heels, (usually worn only once a year for the work Christmas party), and prepared to meet my idol and then be bored for the rest of the weekend whilst dodging any questions that might reveal how little I knew about why we were there.
I was wrong…
Whilst I had no idea what to expect, I must admit I thought it would be awkward. Networking has never been something I’ve enjoyed – that odd situation of standing in a room whilst everyone else chats and having to decide whether you strategically pretend to be reading something or if you instead randomly insert yourself into conversations with complete strangers.
Fortunately, it wasn’t like that at all. As soon as I showed up, people came over to introduce themselves and having done so, proceeded to grab others to join the conversation as well. Anyone in the room who looked lost, or who was standing alone, wasn’t for long. Phew!
The Programme of events was fascinating – the range of topics covered was really diverse and even the talks I thought would be less applicable to me were well presented and entertaining. For those who bought their ticket a bit earlier than a week before the event, there were activities that could be pre-booked at no extra cost, such as a Costa Coffee Experience and Tour of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. As a late-booker, I had to follow the main programme of speakers. Apart from my personal highlight of Nigel Adkins, I also really enjoyed the talks on Imposter Syndrome, authenticity in the workplace and systems thinking. The latter is an example of a talk I was expecting to be too technical and potentially dull but actually it was really interesting and could be relevant to anyone of us – I’d definitely recommend Adrian Reed as a speaker.
Whilst the National Convention is of course designed with JCI members in mind, I found it to be a perfect introduction. It can be difficult to explain JCI to an outsider (as demonstrated by my brother’s failed attempts – sorry Chris!) – but the weekend really demonstrated the JCI tenets of Training, Business, International, Community and Social. Not only did the speakers show me the kind of events that local chambers might put on, but there was the Public Speaking competition, Extempore competition, National Awards and handover from 2017 President to 2018 President. All of these served to show what JCI is about (as well as the opportunity for socialising with a cheeky beer or five).
Make sure you go next year!
Even if you aren’t a JCI member, I’d recommend a National Convention – not just to learn about JCI but also because the content of the talks and events is so broad that I’m sure pretty much anyone would find something of interest and benefit to them, whether it be in their personal or professional lives. Personally I was really inspired to hear about the achievements of the different local chambers and the differences they have been making to their local communities and as such, I’m now the newest member of JCI Greenwich!
I’m ready to Be a World Changer – Are You?
This post was written by Mary Mambwa