Jessica Sinclair, an adult nursing student at the University of Dundee and 2017 SLP student, shares her advice for the new cohort going in to the first conference next week.
Top 10 tips and tricks for the first Student Leadership Programme conference
- Familiarize yourself with the list of speakers before you go! I wish I had paid more attention to this and had a better idea of people’s backgrounds so I could make the connection between who they were and when they got up to speak. Don’t sit and memorize it or anything – it’s more just for your own reference afterwards. You might also find that you want to get chatting to them during the coffee breaks/dinner so it’s a great way to have a conversation starter.
- Similarly, if you are taking notes – write down who was speaking next to those notes! This might seem really obvious but I forgot a couple of times and when I went to look over them, I got confused as to who had taken which workshop. You don’t have to take proper notes (better to listen and engage in any conversations!) but a wee heading with the topic that you’re discussing and the ‘main ideas’, plus the person that was speaking, will definitely help with any reflections you want to do.
- Remember that nobody knows each other, and everybody is looking to make friends – so everybody will be really friendly if you strike up a conversation.
- If there is a particular person that makes an impression on you, get their name and contact details! You might not have anything to say right at that moment, but if they are involved in any work/areas that you are interested in, you might find that you wished you could get in touch with them later down the line (and can’t remember who they are!). It can be intimidating, but just say something along the lines of ‘I found that really interesting, and something I might want to follow up in the future.. would you mind jotting down your email address/social media details?’. The people taking these workshops are a dab hand at networking – they will understand what you are trying to do, even if it seems a bit weird. They all signed up because they are passionate about promoting students and leadership! You’ll have all the students on the Facebook group already, but if there’s somebody you really get on with/like what they’re doing, then try to remember their name (or ask them to write it down for you!).
- Write up a reflection ASAP afterwards. It doesn’t have to be a proper one – just bullet point the things that stood out to you and how it made you feel. It will be a great starting point for discussions with your mentor when you get assigned one, and people at your university might want to know what you got up to. Much better to have a simple list of bullet points to refer to, than have to try and think back afterwards and remember. You’ll be writing a short reflection at the very end of the programme anyway (which is a good few months after the initial meeting) so it will be a great tool to make comparisons if any of your opinions/attitudes have changed since you started.
- Leadership is about supporting those around you. If you notice somebody not joining in as much or struggling to get a word into the conversation, then be the person that makes a conscious effort to include them. I’m sure you would be the kind of person that does this anyway, but it’s really easy to get caught up in the excitement of the conversations and forget about the group dynamics.
- Don’t confuse passion with intelligence! This seems like a weird point, but when I first got there, I felt like everyone seemed wayyy smarter than me, and felt bit out of my depth joining in conversations. After getting to know everybody a bit, I realized that everybody was just really passionate and excited to be there (like I was!) and it doesn’t necessarily mean they are ‘the best of the best’ – they’re all just normal students.
- Arrange to meet people in the ‘in-between’ times (if you want). Obviously, don’t feel the need to do this. If you want to spend the ‘free time’ by yourself to relax, or get ready (or nap!) then absolutely just use the time to do that. But if you do fancy meeting people for coffee/beer/getting ready, then put a wee post in the Facebook group and there will definitely be someone else who wants to as well.
- Think about joining Twitter, if you aren’t on it already. I was genuinely super against it, and spent a lot of time explaining to people why I don’t like social media. This is totally fine, stick to your guns if that’s how you feel! However, I had no idea what the nursing/health Twitter communities were like (as I had never actually looked) – and it’s totally different than I had initially thought. I use it purely as a professional platform, and have gained so many educational/networking opportunities since joining.
- Finally, remember it’s supposed to be fun!! The whole programme is set up so that you can enjoy yourself too. There’s loads of key messages and learning to take away, but it is a really social event and you can definitely have a bit of laugh while you’re there too.