You may have read previous blogs about international JCI events from participants, full of stories of inspiring keynote speakers, motivational training sessions and much networking with JCI members from all over the world at fun-filled parties. Whilst all of this is the main thrust of these events, the experience for national presidents and their deputies in quite different, although no less inspiring and tiring! So what is it that a national president does at a European Conference?
I arrived into Tampere gone midnight after delayed flights on 14 June. A few hours sleep later and I was up and dressed in business attire for my first meeting at 7.45am, a pre-meet with some fellow national presidents and deputies before our formal National Presidents Meeting began at 9am. This involved discussing current issues in the worldwide organisation and producing a report which would be sent to the international board of directors for consideration at their mid-year meeting. I then caught up with another fellow national president over lunch to share experiences and we both then chatted to the chair of the conference, Executive Vice President, Jef Hendrickx to get some advice on the forthcoming meetings. A quick walk took me back to the JCI UK base hotel where we had a briefing for the delegation of members and senators on highlights of the conference. It was then a change into my finest national colours themed black tie to head to the opening ceremony. Waiting in line for quite a while (United Kingdom is the last national organisation in Europe alphabetically) to then head out on stage to be introduced to a crowd of over 1,000 people was definitely one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Hearing the cheer and seeing the mass of union jackage from the JCI UK delegation in front of me was a very exhilarating moment.
Flying the UK flag on stage at opening ceremony
Thursday began with Deputy National President, Michael and I attending the energising morning show, where (as always) a large and enthusiastic UK contingent showed up to hear about some of the projects and initiatives being undertaken by JCI around the world. We then headed off for a meeting with our NOM2NOM (national twinning) buddies before attending a lunch celebrating next year’s European Conference in Switzerland. It was then time to take our place in the conference assembly. This is where we hear reports from the international board of directors and headquarters, find out about which countries are hosting upcoming events and vote on motions regarding the future direction of the organisation. I then dashed off to the first round of the public speaking competition to support our brilliant entrant Ilona Alcock, who breezed through to the finals. The long day was not over yet, as I headed over to a reception hosted by the City of Tampere in their town hall, followed by the Latvian/Canadian party.
City of Tampere Reception
Friday was another day jam-packed full of meetings: with World President Paschal Dike and other representatives from the international board, with our assigned Vice President Kaspar Ilves and our European Development Councillor Annalisa Schembri. Each meeting was a chance to express the views of JCI UK, hear updates on initiatives from other parts of the organisation and work together on taking JCI forwards. The afternoon was filled with another conference assembly, including the hard fought public speaking competition finals. Afterwards another dash back to the hotel for a quick change before heading out to meet our friends from the Scotland, Ireland and Malta delegations for a bite to eat and catch up before the Swiss party.
Conference assemblies were over, but that didn’t mean an end to the meetings – Saturday morning saw me at the Twinning Ceremony where JCI Southampton twinned with Belgian chamber JCI Kortrijk, then on to another catch up over coffee and a brainstorming session between national presidents and the board of directors. It was then finally time for a relaxing lunch with no responsibilities with the senators and even a quick rest, before getting ready for the gala dinner. It was great to meet with the JCI UK delegation for pre-gala drinks to catch up on their activities during the conference and give out the traditional “not the awards”.
After four days of meetings, Michael and I entering thegala for a night of celebrations
This was my eighth JCI European Conference and the gala was by far one of the best I’ve been to. The venue looked spectacular, we were greeted with a welcome alley of JCI Tampere members in white tuxedos and the entertainment was brilliantly different. Of course, to top it all off, I had the great pleasure of accompanying JCI UK’s award winners from JCI Manchester (Best Local Growth and Development Programme), JCI London (Best Long Term Community Programme) and JCI Southampton (Most Outstanding New Member – Celestine Onomo) up on stage. These awards were recognition of much hard work by our members, in many cases over several years and it was wonderful to celebrate with everyone there. JCI UK has a reputation for perhaps not being one of the largest organisations in Europe, but always one of the loudest and most impactful and I couldn’t be prouder to have led the UK delegation at EC 2016.
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This post was written by Sarah Beckwith