By Jenna Davies
Arriving in Wales on 1 April ready for the Spring Conference felt pretty special; this was the first in person PSA event I had attended since my very first PSA encounter in January 2020.
The excitement was buzzing, the energy was high – and the pressure was on, as I was compering the event!
But like most of us, I consider a stage and a microphone to be the best toys to play with, and I knew I would be sharing the stage with some incredible speakers. And I wasn’t wrong!
The pre-conference dinner was the perfect kick off to the big day, catching up with new and familiar faces and trying to fathom how everyone was so much taller than they seemed on Zoom.
Getting to the ICC venue nice and early meant I could get my bearings for the conference and get in the zone, which for me means getting the energy levels up. This wasn’t difficult, thanks to the national cheerleading competition taking place at the same time as our conference!
I spied on a few rooms that had essentially turned into a nightclub scene and witnessed some impressive acrobatics to the beats of Sean Paul and Michael Jackson. Now if that doesn’t get the energy levels up, I don’t know what does.
Over to Room 3 where we would spend the day and the atmosphere as members arrived was epic. As I stepped onto stage to kick off the conference it was a joy to see the smiling faces staring back at me. Everyone was ready for an awesome day. Let’s get this party started.
Conveniently I had brought along some pom poms and planted them with members in the audience so that we could channel the energy of the cheerleaders in the venue. And my goodness did we give them a run for their money.
Chairman Rebecca Jones had us all in awe as she welcomed us in Welsh, before National President Dr Lynda Shaw continued the excitement with her talk on the science of pleasure. I’m pleased to say we all now know what a pleasure umbrella is.
The schedule that followed was phenomenal; Alex Williams and Shelley Bridgman shared their incredible stories with wit, humour and passion that left us not only with invaluable takeaways but a sweet rollercoaster of emotions to channel into our businesses.
After the much anticipated coffee break that had for the last 2 years been in our own kitchens, we ventured into three mini keynotes and panel discussion with Della Hudson, Nathan Littleton and David Hyner, wonderfully hosted by Elsa Caleb. It was brilliant to feel the audience’s engagement with questions coming left, right, and centre for the panellists, who were refreshingly honest and direct with their responses.
The excitement continued after lunch and the room came alive during the Ask The Experts session; members gathered around tables that were each hosted by an expert and focused on a particular topic. In between preparing for my next stint on stage I could see people frantically making notes and hanging off every word of their table host. A sure sign of some brilliant nuggets of wisdom being shared.
It wouldn’t be a spring conference without some much-deserved awards being presented and an exceptional range of speakers were recognised. Among the winners were Jackie Handy who hit the hattrick with three awards for best speaker in two regions and the award for overall Speaker of the Year, while Lee Jackson was rewarded for his inspiring efforts on the PSA board and leading the PSA Foundation.
When you venture into the final break of a full day conference, the energy sometimes plateaus, but witnessing the buzz in the room from start to finish was an absolute joy to be part of. Members danced their way back into the room and continued to wave their pom poms and I knew it would be an electric end to the day.
Sarah Furness got us to tackle our fears of rejection, inspiring us with her 20 years of experience in the RAF before one of the founder members of the PSA, Kriss Akabuse MBE wrapped up the conference in heroic fashion. As I stepped closer to the side of the stage ready for his finale, Kriss treated us to a live commentary of the iconic 4×400 metre relay at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo when the British team clinched gold. We knew the outcome but in the audience we still shouted and cheered, encouraging Kriss to beat his US opponent to the finish line.
A suitably out of breath finish to a jam-packed day. It was time to hit play on Paul Simon and dance the conference away.
I always learn so much when I MC events and I came away with a huge amount from the PSA Spring Conference. Here are some of the highlights I have reflected on that might prove useful:
- It’s all in the prep – doing my research on what was happening at the venue, the speakers and liaising with the team massively paid off and helped the day run smoothly
- It’s all about the speakers – I’m there to be the glue. The speakers are the stars that the glue helps to position in the best way possible and I always aim to get this balance right
- Fill the gaps – have some filler content prepped and ready. I was glad I could use some of mine and it even got a much better reaction than I had anticipated (there are 10 million sheep in Wales!)
- If you’ve got a good memory, use it – there are times when I need notes on a cue card, but I trust I know my content and stick to my style
- Wear comfortable shoes – says she who was in 6 inch heels … but they are the only heels I can run the length of a room in and still stand up. Go with what works for you!
Huge congratulations to all the speakers, the members and the whole team for making the day so awesome. I had a blast and I hope you all did too.