At this year’s, TRO conference in London Ontario I was fortunate enough to be receiving the Adrienne Gilbert Student Award of Excellence. Being a student this was my first TRO conference experience, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived at the Four Points London on Wednesday bright and early feeling very professional, I was one of three people at registration. The nervous excitement I had been experiencing in the car, effectively dried up. Sometime later, another wave of nerves came flooding in when the lobby seemingly went from deserted to over populated with unfamiliar faces. The TRO Conference had begun. Looking back on my first TRO conference experience, here are a few tips I think would be helpful for anyone attending the conference for the first time.
TRO is bigger than you think
When I was told, I would need to give a small acceptance speech, I didn't even break a sweat. I have given plenty of class presentations, how different could it be? Classrooms hold up to thirty people, a ballroom at a hotel holds infinitely more! I had not realized how many members TRO had until I sat down for day one’s keynote speaker Dr. Jennie Wells. I took in the bustling ballroom full of professionals reconnecting with old friends from pervious conferences. I felt like the new kid at summer camp, and within a few hours I would have to speak in front of all them. Breath in 1,2,3 breath out 1,2,3,4. That is the best advice I can give, that, and now you know that TRO has more than thirty members so hopefully the shock will be smaller. You can also take comfort in knowing that you are a small cog in the bigger Therapeutic Recreation movement.
You are shinny and new
As a recent graduate, I felt as though I had zero professional experience to speak of. This fact made me feel out of place surrounded by TR veterans. Sometimes I literally had no idea what people were talking about; do I just smile and nod? How can I contribute to conversations? You can quickly find yourself feeling irrelative, if you let your thoughts go down this path. I had to take inventory of my own strengths. I am a shiny and new creation like the cutting-edge inventions found at the trade show. I am a new product minted 2017. This means, I have been given access to new knowledge and research coming out of our industry. I can see old ideas with new eyes. Share what you know and take advantage of your student status to ask for clarification or questions are my tips for getting through a conversation that may have you feeling as if you were treading water.
Prepare to be inspired
Obviously, the point of the conference is to learn new things and get our professional minds working on how we can better serve our participants. Was I expecting to leave a session about aromatherapy feeling like a mad scientist that could solve difficult problems through smell? Not at all, but there I was with all the answers at the tip of my nose. What inspired me most within the session "The Science Behind Aromatherapy & It’s Effects on Mood & Emotions" was the information given about human vibration. It got me thinking, if each person has a set vibration level, could Therapeutic Recreation elevate this level and effectively improve someone’s health? Go into each session with an open mind and free of bias, you never know what genius may come out of it.
The knowledge I have gained from my first TRO Conference experience is that TRO is a large organization who’s reach goes deep throughout our province, just because I may not have much professional experience (yet) the knowledge I do have is valuable, have fun and don’t hold back and be prepared to learn and meet new people.
My life experiences have led me to the profession of Therapeutic Recreation and I would like all TRO members to know I am proud to be among a group of individuals that strive to foster greatness in others. I am honored to have been selected for the Adrienne Gilbert Student of Excellence Award. I feel through my education and my first TRO experience, I am on the path to being an excellence professional and colleague. Hopefully these observations and tips from my first TRO experience will help new and seasoned professionals as TRO heads into their 2018 conference in Ottawa.