Set in the beautiful area of Camden, the 2nd ‘Managing Volunteers in Charities’ conference took place, with my charming self as Chair.
Forum Training invited me back for the 2nd year running to oversee the event and it’s an exceptional example of giving a volunteer a platform to have a voice.
It’s nerve-wracking stuff being a Chair with a room full of eyes staring at you, listening to your every word (unless I put them to sleep) and putting their faith in you.
I normally thrive under pressure, but it wasn’t my day. Truth is, day’s like that happen and yet I’m incredibly grateful for Forum Training for the opportunity once again.
You don’t really see many volunteers Chairing a conference and it’s something I respect about them.
OK, I’m a tad cheeky and I’m a really good story-teller (I told my X Factor sob story), but no-one told them to get in touch. No-one told them that the guy who writes that volunteering blog is the guy who should be Chairing.
In my opening speech, I turned a bit soppy. I went true John Sennett style and said thank you. I said thank you to everyone in the room for what they’re doing for society and how they’re changing the lives of volunteers.
I started talking about my personal story (only around a minute compared to my normal 2 – 3 hour meetings) and mentioned how the way the voluntary sector has taken me in and supported my journey, and how it was a considerable influence in opening up about my mental health story.
That’s the beauty of the sector. We all come from various walks of life, but at the end of the day, we’re a family. We’re a family uniting for one cause and for one reason…
TO HELP OTHERS!
By giving me the opportunity to openly talk with no barriers, I was able to be myself. You hear it so much on here and on my social media channels about accepting opinions and giving people a chance, and even though it was my 2nd year, I was able to learn from the conference. I was able to not just learn from the speakers, but I was able to learn more about myself.
It’s part of the amazing experience of partially sharing your story, that you begin to understand the journey you’ve been on. My first ever speaking (conference) opportunity was last year at the same conference, and it’s going to be a memory. I’m going to remember who Forum Training as the company who let me conquer my fears. I hated speaking at school!
Let’s move on from my soppy side and get back to the event. You can probably imagine me standing their joking about my golden locks, my biting nature when food is around and how my resemblance to Phil Mitchell is too much to handle.
They were all part of my opening speech.
Outside of my opening speech, you might be wondering what I do with my time? Do I sit there with my phone out scrolling through Twitter looking out for the hashtag? (I completely forgot the hashtag *awkward* *blogger* *awkward*) Do I sit and chat to the attendees? I oversee the smooth running of the conference. That’s my role.
My role is to ensure the conference runs on time, speakers are happy and joke about my hair (sorry Rob Jackson for the Mitchell’s reference) and the Q + A’s don’t end up with Peggy Mitchell slinging people out of the conference (I wasn’t Peggy Mitchell luckily enough).
Even with this blog post, I’m laughing at myself and part of being a Chair is to be the entertainer. It’s to bring out your personality and let your natural charisma light up the room. Unless it’s my head! It apparently lights up every room! I even mentioned this in my talk! (WHY JOHN WHY?)
The day itself was stunning. Sitting alongside the canals, listening to incredible speakers share their experiences in the sector and how volunteer recruitment/retention sucks! I nodded a bit too much at this!) I sat there nodding away throughout the day agreeing with the speakers and how the sector needs to catch-up.
The charity sector is slowing down and it’s a scary consideration. When I spoke earlier about the Volunteer Coordinator who saw something in me, unfortunately it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes volunteers are treated badly and that was a main area of conversation throughout the conference. Especially during the training programmes and law speeches.
I loved how the speakers spoke up about what they’ve seen and how we can turn problems into opportunities of learning, as with so many charities, so many volunteers, so many charity professionals, there’s no limit to what we can learn or reach.
We can develop amazing talent through the sector and it’s only going to happen if we come together. I said this to a lovely lady named Rose who sat with me during lunch and listened to my story. Rose motivated me a lot whilst I was sharing my story, telling me I should be proud of what I’ve achieved and how I shouldn’t be afraid to go for what I want.
I know what I want and that’s to make a difference. It’s an example being there how much of a difference my story has made and whether someone in the conference managed to stay awake when I was talking and heard how I help others, maybe they’ll tell someone about my story? Maybe my story will gain more readers, and by gaining more readers, the bigger impact my story has.
I might not have been on the top of my game, and I might not have had long to share my story, but any opportunity is a blessing and it’s something I want to thank Forum Training for.
Forum Training, here’s a message for you;
Last year and yesterday, thank you. Thank you, Forum Training for allowing me to be part of your annual conference and for taking me in. You know how I mention about the family feeling in the sector, it felt as if I was part of the Forum Training family. The team looked after me (John, you’re 6’1, 25, you can look after yourself), listened to me, helped me whenever I needed help and most importantly…showcased what the sector is known for…
Giving people an opportunity.