JCI UK Inspiration Day, Cambridge Gala Dinner and Business Skills Day
26th & 27th January 2013
I joined JCI between Christmas and New Year of 2012 after attending one social event in Reading and a tuition evening for Public Speaking. To say that I had not fully grasped what JCI was about would be just about right and there were still a few questions lingering. However, something said to me that JCI was unique, there are people in this group that put themselves out to raise funds for charity and at the same time there are training events for various business skills that are hosted by other members of the group. This ‘JCI’ is not like the many self-development or business networking groups you may find on MeetUp, Facebook, Twitter or via the local council initiatives. There is something more here… and that was probably the biggest question at the forefront of my mind that needed an answer.
So, I had already paid for the membership, hence I thought… why the heck not, let’s just go see what happens.
After a few days of scanning the JCI websites, the first national event came to my attention, that was the Inspiration Day and Business Skills Day. This was to be held in Cambridge of which I know only two small details, the University and Rowing. I even had to look up on Google Maps where Cambridge was, having never ventured that way before. Yes, I know, that is a bit sad to say but I think that is what JCI is about, discovery of new things, places, people and skills. I therefore signed up for a mini voyage of discovery.
A week before the off, It was highlighted to me that the ‘Gala Dinner’ is a Black Tie event… That received the response of an unknowing lifting of the eyebrow. The last time I have ever set eyes upon a Dinner Suit was at the Sixth Form ‘Prom’ and the occasional speech given by someone important on TV. Hence, on the Saturday I trotted off to find a Dinner Suit and returned fully kitted out for the following weekend.
I arrived in Cambridge on the Friday evening (25th) after a substantial drive following on from a busy day at work. The hotel was easy enough to find, then came the task of driving around Cambridge to meet a few random people I have never met before, for dinner. All I can say is… How many cyclists are there in Cambridge, it seemed like at least one to several on every corner?! (as a self-confessed ‘eco-geek’ I did think how brilliant it would be for other cities to many more cyclists) Alas, I got to the restaurant, ascended the stairs and made a nervous entrance. James, the President of JCI Cambridge provided a reassuring welcome. I sat next to Jen, who is the JCI Cambridge Past President and chatted about JCI until the meal arrived. Also at the table was a chap called Patrick with an American accent… who was busy keeping up with a little person weaving between the chairs and generally exploring the room. Little did I know that Patrick would be giving a talk the next day…
A word of warning to anyone trying to find a way into Jesus College Cambridge, do double and triple check your emails, because there is more than likely a map and there was. However, my trust in Google Maps led me to miss the said email and Gas Works on Jesus Lane resulted in a round trip of Cambridge town centre at least a couple of times. A second warning… Public Car Parks are not cheap for the whole day, especially on a Saturday. Oh well, all part of the Adventure.
If you have never been to Cambridge, You will instantly recognise Jesus College as I did. It is that very place you may have seen on TV quite often. I did feel like I shouldn’t actually be there, even if I was wearing a suit and tie. This is the place of the great Physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, at least that was my first thought, then there is Prince William so on and so forth. However, despite the Gravity I was allocating to the place, It turned out to be much smaller than expected. YUP! I did stop of a second or two to grab a photo on my phone…
Inspiration Day Starts
After a morning coffee Welcome by the JCI Cambridge Committee, the talks, networking and idea sessions began. First up was Patrick, you remember, from the dinner the previous night. Patrick Knight gave his talk on JumpStart. Starting with a big vision, Imagine! Is always a good start, That is what I like. I know I have read and heard words like these before, actually quite often, but normally they come from the Company Director, Manager etc. and don’t really mean much to the lower ranks. However, with JCI it is very much different because the ‘organisation’ is somehow upside down. It is the ‘Lower Ranks‘ that have the steering power here, the allowance to have the ability to go out and do things, be it charity or learning and putting into practice of business skills. And that first session struck the cord, that started firing off tangential ideas of where I was perhaps going wrong in my own pursuits or where I was holding myself back due to perhaps some hidden doubts or lack of confidence in some skill I had not quite mastered yet. A phrase stuck with me… ‘Fake it until you make it!’ some more good words.
The afternoon session brought reality crashing in. If you have never heard Patrick’s life story, then I very much recommend you finding your way to one of his talks. I won’t mention anything here that might spoil it for you later, but I am sure that saying that, everyone in the room will totally agree with me here… Take the inspiration of Patrick’s Story and make a start on what you want to do, Today! Don’t put things off because we can not predict the future.
I have already mentioned how unprepared I was for this Event. Here is a sample description… marry the picture of all of Hogwart’s Wizarding Students sitting in the Great hall; everyone dressed up in Dinner Suits and some fantastic Dresses; and here and there a JCI President wearing an ornate necklace with the names of Past Presidents embossed on medallions like what you may expect the Mayor of your town/city may wear.
Taking of wine was an unexpected new experience where essentially the Master of Ceremonies reads out an invitation to stand and drink wine with others in the room with an offered community wish or welcoming. For instance “All Members of JCI Cambridge”, “All New Members”, and to my embarrassment for standing up “All Members going Commando”. I was happy to see this lighter side of events because with the wine and the total surreality of the evening was having an effect.
Then Doth Cometh THE AFTER PARTY, no more mentioned there except for the view, loads of people in fancy Dresses and Dinner Suits at a Posh Night Club with one foolish one in the middle drinking from an £80 bottle of Moet Chandon Champagne. Ouch the Head! What a Numpty???
Business Skills Day
Now this may come as a surprise but Coffee and Biscuits do work very well when starting the second day of a JCI weekend. So by the time the first talks were starting, Sunday was feeling more like a normal Sunday, just without an omnibus of Stargate on Sky One. However, I can vouch for the presentations on Leadership and Circles of Influence, for those who were there “The Shirtless Dancing Guy” (I am still trying to find it on YouTube) given by Garin Roach. Followed by Patrick Knight presenting “Positive Seduction” in the afternoon. The later title probably perked your attention as it did mine, so a little about that…
Positive Seduction compares how one may interact with a partner on a first date with how one would approach say an interview or a ‘sales pitch’ or meeting mentors or generally networking in a busy room. So there you go, PROOF that many first dates is not just practice for meeting the right one but there are many add on benefits to practicing the art. This presentation also came with a very nicely bound booklet that has been a very handy memory jogger.
While I had not formulated a huge picture of what to expect at a weekend like this prior to my arrival, I was very won over by the quality of delivery of both days. I have come away with three distinct and interrelated ideas about approaching sales opportunities, building connections via networking, creating a community feeling, how to measure the influence one may have in various settings and how to increase the influence one may currently have through positive measures.
I would call that a very worthwhile weekend away but considering the talks/presentations alone would be unjust. My picture of JCI has expanded immensely that now I see a UK wide network of really quite brilliant people, all striving and endeavoring with projects and many running their own businesses. It is this community, I believe, that tops the cake.
To Anyone looking at JCI and thinking that they may join, I would say GO FOR IT because it is not just about wee small UK but encompasses many countries around the world with opportunities to go to all sorts of places, meet other JCI people and experience their successes at events just like the one described above.
Matthew John Ritchie
Categorised in: Charity
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