A First Timer’s Perspective on the Annual POC Conference
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It’s been a great year for professional organizer conferences, based on the many guest posts we’ve had about the 2013 NAPO, MARCPO and POC Conferences! For our final guest post of 2013, I’m happy to introduce April Miller, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
Attending the Professional Organizers in Canada’s (POC) 2013 National Conference for the first time was a dream come true! Seneca (and more recently Oprah) described luck as what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I felt so lucky to attend conference at this point in my life – my education, my professional experiences, and even my growth as a person all came together to make this the perfect time for me to attend, and The Power of O.N.E. the ideal theme for my first conference!
But let me backtrack a bit. I’ve always been really organized – my books were in alphabetical order as soon as I could read! – and after watching shows like Clean Sweep, I wondered how I could do something like that? I had been a full-time teacher for about 5 years when I Googled ‘professional organizer’ – and, lo and behold, I could become a trained professional organizer through POC! Finally, this past year I took the plunge. I took POC classes with the goal of completing the exam and prepared for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization’s (ICD) Chronic Disorganization (CD) Specialist exam.
I flew to Toronto with no checked bags for the first time in my life! It was awesome – I jetted out of the airport and was on my way to the conference hotel to squeeze in some last minute studying in no time (totally felt like a professional organizer move!). As a first time attendee, I felt nervous and excited, unsure of what to expect. My first exam on Thursday was the CD Specialist exam – I was nervous to even turn the paper over but I did, and was relieved to see that my studying had paid off. A little while later I was on my way to POC’s Trained Professional Organizer’s (TPO) exam and was given my CD exam results – I aced it! That boosted my confidence and set conference off on the right foot. During the TPO exam, the power went out and someone joked that organizers should’ve been prepared with flashlights; I felt more comfortable after that – I was with my people!
I wasn’t sure how I’d done on the exam and bonded with some other newbies over our exam nerves (I recently found out I passed my TPO exam!). From the exam, we were off to the First Timer’s Orientation. Cathy Mendler, POC’s Director of Education and Internal Communications, and Alexandra Ross, POC’s President, addressed us, encouraging us to volunteer and get involved with our chapters (for me – Cyber Chapter), to learn as much as we could, and to get the most out of our conference experience.
Alexandra encouraged us to reach out to our fellow organizers – to network at conference, to connect through an e-mail or phone call after conference. We were given tips in the First Timer’s Orientation that were emphasized again and again over the coming days – the importance of networking, of being a good listener and avoiding judgment, the importance of self-care, business advice like preparing an elevator speech and carrying business cards, and above all, working hard, being vulnerable and not letting fear hold you back. The spirit of support and camaraderie stayed with me throughout conference and beyond – I’m still in touch with organizers I met at conference thanks to social media and video conferencing.
After the grand opening of conference, the sessions began. As a first timer, every session was a chance to learn a ton and connect with others! Every session seemed to have a few golden nuggets that challenged my perspective and woke me up to a new perspective. The presenters were all so compelling in different ways – some had great humour and were full of energy; others had a quiet, calm demeanor but left me hanging on every word.
On Thursday evening we had our chapter get together – it was really special because I had only met the members of Cyber Chapter through video chat! I was a bit nervous beforehand – it was yet another situation that day where I walked into a room knowing no one – but the other members were so warm and welcoming that I was instantly at ease. It was a unique experience for me to be able to talk about organizing with other organizers – I live in Newfoundland and organizers are rare birds here! To feel like I was finally amongst a flock of my own was so motivating!
On Friday I put vulnerability into practice by approaching a table of strangers and asking to sit with them (hello high school cafeteria flashback!). My first session that morning was about follow through with Lois Kennedy. Like several sessions to come, the presentation followed a life coach model. Lois talked about leveraging our willpower to ensure follow through; for example, scheduling follow-up time the day after an event. She said that change (the key to follow through) comes about in two ways: through physical/emotional trauma, or repetitive action. From then on, I used a few minutes each evening to follow through with people from conference – to follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, or drop them a line to thank them for their presentation. Change through repetitive action is much more appealing to me!
POC’s The Power of O.N.E.! Conference made me feel like everything I had come to think and feel and am still learning was coming together – something a friend recently told me you feel when you’re on the right path. The whole experience felt genuine and honest: the key messages of accountability, authenticity and vulnerability were expressed again and again. I’m so excited about my future in the organizing business and I can’t wait for conference next year in Calgary! In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t pursue organizing when I first looked into it. I was in the perfect place in my life to accept the learning offered at the conference and I’m so grateful for the experience.