Submitted by Sara Kate Smith
On July 5 – 7 the first ever Speak Out Loud Conference was held at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. The conference created by Sara Kate Smith, in partnership with 4-H British Columbia, taught over 30 4-H members how to successfully navigate modern communications and their future careers. Laura Code, from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, stated that she “had the opportunity to work closely with Sara Kate over the last year as she developed the Speak Out Loud Conference. Her idea came from participation at 4-H BC’s provincial 4-H programs. She recognized a need for further education and experiences for fellow 4-H members to learn about modern communication skills and career preparation.” With the guidance of the Youth Development and 4-H BC staff, Sara was able to create a completely unique experience for provincial 4-H members.
The Speak Out Loud conference covered the basics about public speaking and other aspects of communications such as creating a personal brand, body language, social media, politics, and professional development. The conference in an effort to promote a professional learning environment had a business professional dress code. Delegates listened to the keynote speaker the, M.P. Cathy McLeod, as she touched upon communications and politics, providing examples from her own experience and advice for young professionals. The speakers later in the day included a 4-H alumni, lawyer, communications director and business association president. They spoke on a wide range of topics and taught the delegates valuable career insights they would not find anywhere else. The day, in amongst the speakers, was also filled with interactive networking activities and a photoop, providing professional headshots for all of the delegates. Later on, delegates had the fun opportunity to participate in two-step lessons and tested their leadership and teamwork skills with an escape the room challenge. One of the cornerstones of the conference was the banquet, where a professional etiquette instructor was brought in and provided valuable tips on how to act at a business meeting or interview as well as on social media. These lessons were paired with a plated dinner, which allowed delegates to experience the atmosphere in which those situations could take place.
It was important that this event not only had a strong, positive impact on a provincial level but on an international one as well. In order to achieve this, a portion of the money raised went towards financially assisting four 4-H BC members in their travels with 4-H Canada’s Going Global Service Learning pilot program.
“Which goes a step beyond local community engagement and creates a platform for 4-H youth to make meaningful contributions to a community development project in an international context,” according to one of the funding recipients Jessica Elvedahl, who travelled to Ghana.
This conference and the leadership and effort that went into it only sheds light on the unique values and positive youth development traits the 4-H program has. In one word, as stated by many of the delegates, the 2016 Speak Out Loud Conference was amazing.