September 30, 2013

10 tips for anyone attending One Young World

For those of you who have been following this blog for some time, you'll remember how excited I was about One Young World last year. I blogged about it here, here, here and here. Oh, and here.
I was pretty damn excited.
One Young World changed my life. That place was like Disney World for me.
Sadly, I won't be attending it this year due to a number of reasons; mainly because of a lack of funding but also because I'm on the job hunt and couldn't commit to attending this year.
Luckily, a really great guy by the name of Alan Warner is representing Barbados this year after winning the full scholarship that I won last year. He's been asking me a few questions about attending One Young World for the first time and these questions raised quite a few emotions and memories for me. It was really difficult for me to narrow things done in one paragraph. Since then, a few more friends have asked me about my experience and whether I had any 'OYW tips' or tricks to share with them. 
I started scribbling a few notes down and decided to put together this list of tips I have for anyone who's attending One Young World. Whether it's your first time or your fourth; I hope these tips prove useful:

1. Don't sleep
Sleep when you're dead. Seriously though, don't let the jet lag or lack of shut eye catch up with you, you can sleep when you get home. Go to bed as late as possible after having dinner and beers with different groups of people. Wake up early every day and have breakfast with different groups of people.
Coffee is your new best friend.
 Use every single hour at One Young World because before you know it, it will be over and you'll be wishing your sleep deprived butt could be back in that conference room soaking up the energy that you took for granted.

2. Don't compare yourself to others
One Young World was the first youth leadership conference I had ever been to. It was the first time I was surrounded by 17 year olds who made me feel like shit. I was shocked at how much people had done with their young lives! It was intimidating and overwhelming at first but I soon got over it. I was there for a reason and I knew that I had to focus on what I could learn from these amazing people rather than compare myself to them. I also quickly realized that some people were playing up their achievements because they themselves felt insecure and overwhelmed and they had just as much to learn from me as I did from them. Every single one of those delegates and Ambassadors has something to bring to the table, so don't waste your precious time comparing yourself to others.

3. Connect with people on LinkedIn and Twitter
OYW is a networking beehive, so try to connect with people by getting their full name, a business card and their Twitter handle. Most people will be on Twitter by now so make sure you add them straight away, or you'll forget. You will meet about 500 new people every day (or it will feel that way at least!) but don't let a fleeting moment go to waste. Be it in the elevator, whilst grabbing a much needed cup of coffee or a bus ride, make sure you can follow up with that person after you've met. 

4. Take a million photos
Having lots of snaps is a great way to remember people's names and faces after you've met because they'll likely get tagged by someone on Facebook through the OYW network. You'll wish you took a gazillion more photos than you actually did.

5. Say 'YES' to everything.
Want to go for a beer with a group of us? Yes.
Up for joining this random break out session? Yes.
Care to join us at this table for lunch? Yes.
Ready to step outside of your comfort zone with people you wouldn't normally hang out with? YES!
Use every single opportunity to meet more people and have fun. Don't think that you'll have time for it later, you won't. It will all be over before you know it, I can't stress this enough.

6. Sit with new people at every meal.
Similar to No.5 but kind of different. I love meeting new people, but being faced with 1,800 new interesting people can be a bit daunting to say the least. I found sharing a meal to be an easy way to have a chat. I had my 'conference buddies' from Day 1 but we managed to find new people to sit with at every meal. My most memorable one was breakfast on my last day, just before departing Pittsburgh, with a group of Brazilians who were having a heated debate about their local government policies. It quickly got heated but we were all hugging and exchanging contact details by the end of it. Awesome way to start the day. 

7. Ask lots of questions (but don't hog the mic)
One Young World is all about creating dialogue between different cultures and there's nothing more refreshing than being asked a good question. People are asking questions everywhere; in person and online, so be sure to keep abreast of the conversations happening on Twitter too. On a personal level, people asked me a million and one questions about Barbados, our social structure, schooling system, etc. There were the occasional few who asked really dumb questions, such as these ones about being a white kid from Barbados, but it was generally pretty cool. On the other hand, the conference also offers the opportunity to pose questions during their plenary sessions and people tend to go to town on these. Try not to claim your 15 seconds of fame in front of someone like Jamie Oliver. My friend Shaaz wrote this great article on 'How to ask questions at One Young World.' It made me laugh and I'm sure you'll be able to appreciate it after you've seen it for yourself. 

8. Write about your experience to your local paper.
This may seem obvious to some of you but not many people know about One Young World. Once you've entered 'the world' of One Young World, you can't really remember what life was like without these amazing people in it. Wouldn't you like others to have a similar experience? I heard about One Young World through a friend of mine in London and I was one of a handful of West Indians who attended. This wasn't for lack of interest or funding opportunities but purely because this conference is unheard of in the Caribbean. Once I came back, I made sure to contact a friend of mine at the local paper and asked him to do a feature. He went a bit overboard and did a two page spread, but it did the trick and got people interested. There were far more Barbadian applicants this year and I'm still holding on to the dream of sending an entire team of Barbadians to this conference in the future. Fingers crossed!

9. Connect People
My networking skills were put to the ultimate test and I had a really cool buddy to learn from throughout the event. He has a natural talent for connecting people in a very unique way by remembering small details about them and linking those details to others, allowing them to immediately bond over something they have in common. For example: He knew that the guy next to him was a web developer and that the guy across the table was looking for start up funding. He linked the two by suggesting that they work on a fundraising app. Seems random, but it worked. He also remembered people's names and nationalities, which was a big deal. People loved that.
This year, I've been trying to connect friends of mine who will be meeting in Johannesburg for the first time. Friends from London, friends from Barbados and ones I made at One Young World will all be in the same place and meeting up. It makes me sad and really excited to know that those connections are happening organically, because all of these people have a common interest.
 Remember that this event isn't just about you and what you can gain from it. If you think two people could benefit from meeting each other, connect them. Don't be shy about it. You can harness the ability to affect change in more ways than one.

10. Tweet, Tweet, Tweet!
Until now, I've been trying to ignore the buzz on Facebook and Twitter, mainly because it makes me really sad to know that a whole bunch of my friends are going again and I have serious FOMO. But I'm going to stop feeling sorry for myself and embrace the beauty of the OYW network by following along as much as I can online. So please, TWEET as much as possible and let us live vicariously through you. Give me the best you've got at @Skiptomalouuu

You are SO lucky to be attending this event. Lap it all up!
I hope you benefit from it as much as I did. 

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