What Happens in Japan…

I’ve really enjoyed reading about my guest bloggers’ experiences at various conferences for professional organizers, particularly those held in faraway places like Africa and Australia. So when I learned that Laurene Livesey Park, with whom I served on the POC National Board, was going to a conference in Japan, I asked her to tell us all about it.

Laurene Livesey Park presenting on Family Organizing at the JALO Conference 2012

I had the privilege of being invited to speak at the Japanese Association of Life Organizers (JALO) conference in Nagoya, Japan in November.  What an experience!  After attending 28 organizing conferences in North America, participating in the JALO conference was a unique opportunity!

This year’s conference had 150 attendees, similar in size to ICD and POC conferences.  The conference is typically held in a western style hotel, this year a Hilton, but there were some Japanese differences – low hard beds, high-tech toilets, and gorgeous deep bathtubs.   With a 14-hour time difference, the jet lag was extreme, and we were heading for bed early in the evening, while the JALO members were still partying!

JALO’s president, Mayumi Takahara has attended NAPO and ICD conferences, and has shared those experiences with the JALO conference committee.  Each session was a plenary session.  The first afternoon was a public symposium and included an Ask the Organizer panel, as well as sessions by ICD President Val Sgro and myself.

Day two was for JALO members only. Val and I each presented ICD classes, and there was a state of the industry address as well as a panel of life organizers talking about their businesses.  The awards dinner was the culmination of the conference, and great fun!  Val and I were honoured to present the first ICD Foundation Certificates of Study in Chronic Disorganization to about 35 JALO members/ICD subscribers.

Laurene Livesey Park and Val Sgro with new ICD certificate holders at the JALO Conference 2012

JALO’s translator, Junko Bradley was a great help to us, and generously spent the evening sitting between Val and I, whispering English into our ears!

The language difference was definitely a factor in both our conference experience and our trip. We sent our handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and speaker notes to be translated well in advance of the conference date.  Perhaps the hardest part was that once those documents were sent, we couldn’t improvise.  As a fairly informal speaker who likes to incorporate things I have learned about the attendees into my presentation, this was very difficult.  Also, North American humour doesn’t always translate well, so we couldn’t include any little jokes. Junko and JALO vice-president Nina Saeki sat in the translation booth with our notes, and translated while we spoke.  Attendees wore wireless headsets to listen to the Japanese version of our presentations. Since we had asked if we could sit in on the Japanese sessions, Junko also translated that content into English for us, and we wore the headsets.  The fact that Val and I participated on the panel and presented five of the sessions meant that there were far fewer speakers than we are used to – I hope the JALO members didn’t get tired of listening to us!

The food was delicious! For the public symposium no meal was included, but the local JALO members had arranged dinner for conference attendees at a nearby restaurant, and we were treated like royalty.   Val, Carl (Val’s husband) and I were seated with a number of English speaking organizers, and people kept bringing us food and drink from the buffet – it was lovely!

Laurene Livesey Park and Val Sgro with JALO members

The second day included a bento box lunch, eaten in the conference room, and an awards dinner in the hotel ballroom.  There wasn’t as much networking time as we are used to.  There was only one vendor, but with a good lineup of residential organizing products. Perhaps most surprising was that there was a seating chart indicating where in the room each attendee was to sit.

I am impressed with the JALO members’ commitment to education.  Life organizing is a very young industry in Japan, and many members have not yet worked with clients. They are dedicated to learning about the industry, client issues, and organizing strategies.  Many members were brave enough to try out their English on us, and had the same kinds of questions as new organizers do anywhere – how do I find clients, what do I do if I get in over my head, where do I find resources for my clients?  Once they get rolling, they will be well prepared!

I would definitely go back again!

Laurene Livesey Park is a founding member, Gold Leaf Member and Past President of Professional Organizers in Canada, and is currently the Certification Program Director for the ICD. As well as working with clients through her business, OrganizeMe101.com, Laurene loves working with new professional organizers and is a popular educator and speaker.

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