It's that time of year when being a member of JCI enables you to see we belong to a much wider network of young leaders - European Conference has arrived!
When I personally joined JCI, the international events and the opportunity to meet other JCI members from around Europe and indeed the world was such an appealing prospect. In 2011, I attended my first European Conference in Tarragona, Spain, with absolutely no idea of what to expect. I knew one person also attending from my home chamber JCI Southampton, Drew Charman, who said it would be an experience I'd never forget...and it wasn't.
We arrived at the conference hotel and after dropping bags in our room, headed out to meet the rest of the JCI UK delegation. I was very nervous. I had imagined that these members had all been before and I would not know anything about what they'd be talking about. I even ensured I had roaming on my mobile phone in case I needed to slip into email world...
Arriving at the restaurant, I sat next to a member of JCI Doncaster who immediately starting taking me through elelments of what I could expect from the conference. From the registration to the training session through to the evening parties - she was so helpful and I remember thinking she was someone I'd stick close to as the days went on.
The opening cereomony was...a carnival! Think a few thousand people in an open air amphitheatre mixed with Eurovision! Members were waving flags, singing and cheering. Members of the UK were running over to different members wearing different flags - clearly people they'd met on previous conferences. I sat and watched each National President come onto the stage and wave at their supportive and cheering delegations. JCI UK National President Allison Cowell looked radiant and beamed with a smile as she took to the stage with the Union Jack flag. The atmosphere was one of positivity, pride and love - I had never experienced anything like it before.
As the conference progressed I attended training sessions & sat in on some high profile key note speakers. The parties which went into the small hours gave me the chance to meet members and make new friends. Where I was in my professional and in some aspects personal life...I needed this conference. I never looked at one email.
We jump forward six years on the eve of the European Conference in Basel, Switzerland. I take the honour as Allison did and represent JCI UK as National President. I am truly excited to seeing the faces of our members who are attending a conference for the first time. All of us have been that first timer at one point and we now support those attending for the first time. The member from JCI Doncaster who walked me through how a conference would unfold is our International Director, Katie Ogley, on the JCI National Board and I couldn't think of a better person for the role in 2017.
This conference like so many, will create long lasting friendships, memories and show hidden potential you never thought you had. The key is to book and come experience it for yourself.
Enjoy the pictures and posts from Basel and fingers crossed our members, chambers and projects take home some awards on Saturday evening at the awards ceremony.