My Experience at the Junior League’s 2015 Fall Leadership Conference

By Phalyn Chenard

A new city, four days, three nights, five flights, six workshops, two plenaries, two luncheons, one regional meeting and 350 new faces later – I’m home – energized, educated and ready to make a difference.

The Association of Junior League’s International holds several conferences each year in order to connect, inspire and empower our local members on a larger level. When I was chosen as the delegate to represent the Junior League of Edmonton at our annual Fall Leadership Conference in New Orleans two weekends ago, experienced board members told me it would be incredible. But what you don’t realize until you get there, is just how incredible an AJLI conference experience is.

And, so the goal of this blog? To share a little bit of my time in New Orleans, and at conference, with you.

I arrived on Thursday with some time to spare before conference activities began, so I connected with delegates from the Calgary and Toronto Leagues to do a little exploring in the French Quarter. It didn’t take us long to learn that New Orleans is full of life. The sun was beaming at a warm 30-degrees, the squares were full of artists and the streets were full of colourful shops and music. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget.

On Friday, conference started bright and early with opening greetings by AJLI’s President, Ellen Rose and Executive Director, Susan Danish. They welcomed us, thanked the local League for hosting the conference and spoke about the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and how far New Orleans had come since the storm struck the city. It was thought-provoking and amazing. Plus, the opportunity to see hear both Ellen and Susan speak is one I’m thankful for.

That day, I also took workshops on Time Management for Mission Driven Leaders, along with Maximizing Fundraising Events for Profit and Growth (this one in particular will come in handy as we continue to work on the Junior League of Edmonton’s new annual fundraiser – stay tuned for details!). After a day full of learning, the four other Canadian attendees and myself relaxed at Brennan’s – an iconic New Orleans restaurant – for a night of great food and even better company. As the only Canadians at an event of this size, we stuck together and are sure to continue this partnership outside of conference.

On Saturday, I attended It’s Not What You Say… Body Language Basics, along with a workshop on what to measure as a board. While non-profit board metrics don’t provide for the most entertaining conversation, I’d say this was the most valuable workshop from the weekend in New Orleans. As a class, we learned that metrics are not only important for sponsorship and donors, but for volunteers and our members. It’s important to be able to share what we are capable of as an organization.

PC 4 On Saturday night, we closed out the conference with a celebration at Mardis Gras World – where all of the fun floats are stored!

These pictures only show a small portion of how many floats are stored at Mardis Gras World, how colourful and how fun they are. (And, yes, that is the Batmobile.)

The interesting thing about Saturday night is that it was supposed to be a celebration to mark the end of another Fall Leadership Conference but rather than feeling the excitement and celebration PC 5of the conference, I felt nostalgic.

How could I feel nostalgic over saying goodbye to 350 faces I just met?

It’s something that’s difficult to put into words but like I said earlier, members will tell you it’s incredible. What you don’t realize until you get there, is just how incredible an AJLI conference experience is.