Suzy Payne takes us through all the events at the JLA AGM…
What a gig for conference speakers, eh? Speaking at a conference of the people who may next week be recommending you up and down the country in turn? That’s right, we had our own conference with conference speakers, internal speakers, facts, figures, discussions, a quiz and other activities. We may book your conference speakers all year round, but it was our turn to embark on a bit of motivational team-building self-improvement, and we did it in the sun-bathed countryside just outside of Bath in May.
Most of us ambled down by train though our own Adam Harkness arrived on foot after his car broke down a mile away from the venue. Poor bloke. Still, his enthusiasm didn’t wane throughout a busy morning of updates from JLAers in abundance, and a few new HR innovations to nip and tuck our processes. We might all sit in the same office but it never ceases to fascinate that so much is happening right under our noses that we’re not always fully aware of. Impressive.
Our afternoon was energised by a visit from TV presenter Alistair Appleton, one of our conference speakers who has an interest in mindfulness, which many of us had heard of but, as it turned out, few of us actually knew much about. Far from the assumption that it’s about taking you out of yourself, it seems that a strand of the practice is to achieve ‘radical honesty’ with yourself about how you’re feeling and not allowing your thoughts to affect negative physical changes in the body which is often the result of stress. Encouraging us to ‘defuse from our thoughts’, Alistair gave us a few exercises, discussion points, and a bit of the history of the practice before putting us on track for a lively conference with some vagal breathing (deep intakes of breath and extremely loud exhaling) which we continued using throughout the coming days to release tension, slow our heart rates, and loudly interrupt others during discussion time.
BBQ. Sunshine. Excellent.
JLAer Simon King took on the mammoth task of writing us a unique quiz to bury ourselves in for the evening. Teams were drawn up to ensure we all felt like smart Alecs and dimwits in equal measure by the end. Gin to the winners!
Ellis Watson who enthusiastically pumps JLA’s self esteem levels through the ceiling as our energetic chairman (and is surely any other conference speakers’ billing nemesis as he will totally steal the show) gave us a session on ironing out the creases in our office and our brows, switching up our positivity and taking advice from colleagues within our happy JLA bubble. We are always looking for ways to improve, though Ellis always ensures we feel warm and fuzzy inside by telling us how great we are too. A whirlwind of tips, energy and one-liners, Ellis bought the energy back to the room after one or two more Espresso Martini’s than we should have had the night before due to his own very diligent waiting skills! Conference speakers that really get to know you and your company before getting onstage are invaluable, and Ellis proved he really does know JLA through and through.
Margaret Heffernan came up to far and away prove her worth as a stellar example of the kind of conference speakers we really want to work with, giving us a flavour of her superb strides forward in reviving ‘social capital’. Stating that social capital is what often sets smaller companies apart in ways larger companies struggle to captivate, Margaret explained the term, reminding us how important it is to spend time getting to know your colleagues, in turn giving them the confidence they need to step out of their comfort zone and say ‘this needs to change’. It’s simple to ask that we’re friendly and respectful of the people we work with, so why doesn’t every business accept that when colleagues ‘look after each other, the business is looked after’ too? Speaking with ringing clarity on other factors of successful and innovative businesses, we were left more convinced that we could make changes back in the office that would improve not just business, but the practice of working with each other day to day.
After a morning of extreme ego boosting from such articulate conference speakers, we went full pelt with icing sugar, jam and all manner of creative tools into an afternoon of cake decorating. My team were robbed of first prize, avoiding the soggy bottom but coming an uninspiring middle of the road for our take on a Chelsea Flower Show theme, complete with rockery and babbling brook (aka gumballs and edible glitter)!
After a sit down dinner together, during which toasts were given and thanks relayed around the room, agent Allan Grant finally succumbed to the cries of the masses and sat down at the keyboard, encouraging us to sing along to a variety of hits, tunes and classics. The finale we’d all been waiting for. Thanks Allan, and thanks JLA!