Why #RCSAconf was more than your average conference

From the moment I touched down at Nadi airport and was welcomed by a trio of Fijian ukulele players, I knew this wasn’t going to be your average conference.

The 2017 RCSA International Conference kicked off on Wednesday night with the Welcome Cocktail reception – and the “cocktail” of the night… kava. Lead by the aptly dubbed “Chief Van Stokrom”, we were all invited to join in and experience a local kava ceremony. The theme this year – The Power of Community - rang true as we were reminded by our hosts that “it is only mine, if I share it”. A good discussion point as enjoyed a barmy night under the palm trees, sharing a beer or two with friends from the industry, both old and new.

Day one of formalities was opened by the thought-provoking genius and authenticity of Dr. Jason Fox, who warned the crowd that default thinking will lead us to the “inevitable Kraken of doom’ which feeds upon the nectar of impending irrelevance”. While I’ve never before heard it articulated with the use of majestic sea-creatures, the message was clear – doing what we have always done won’t lead to meaningful progress.

And this was a message reiterated by a number of presenters over the next two days. From the rise of the gig economy to raising your recruitment business from the ashes. From building strategic leadership to building a gold-medal winning rugby team. From a war about bacon, to a spontaneous dance with the Duchess of Cornwell. Very few stones were left unturned, as we enjoyed both education and inspiration from world class speakers and RCSA members alike.

But perhaps my greatest learning came from outside the conference room. On Thursday morning, we were fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with students from the local Fijian Sabeto school.

These days, my normal world has become filled with meetings, emails, video conferences, brunch decision fatigue, excitement about the latest i-Whatever, and an impatient countdown to the final season of Game of Thrones. I think I’d actually forgotten how to enjoy the simple things in life.

Fortunately I was reminded by a truly beautiful community of school kids, as delegates joined them in a range of games and activities to break up day two of the conference.

Pictured: Matt Sampson chats with the children from a local Fijian school

I learnt how to go tenpin bowling using only coconuts and bamboo, I was taught a Fijian war-cry (and admit to being completely intimidated by six 12 year-olds) and I was given a world-class lesson in egg and spoon racing.

I was incredibly proud to see the RCSA and Prime Super provide the school with a cheque for $2,000 – an amount we learned would have taken the school 6 years to fund raise. If I wasn’t so terrified of getting sunburnt, I would have tipped my hat to the RCSA and Prime Super then and there.

I’ve never felt more of a belonging to a professional community than I did then and there.

All good things must come to an end, but not without a farewell party on Friday night. We were again spoilt with a warm evening, which made my watermelon margarita(s) all the more delicious. Members, staff, partners, speakers and one very handsome MC, we are the RCSA community.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Monica, Jodie and the RCSA team on an outstanding conference. Thank you for being brave, for pushing the boundaries and for creating a truly valuable experience. You have made it evident, from my 3 days in Fiji, that the evolution of the RCSA is far more just a new logo.

To Charles Cameron… Well played. And I’m not just talking about your karaoke rendition of Livin' on a Prayer on Thursday night. I’m also talking about the direction in which you are driving our association. Yep - the waves are swirling and the kraken of doom lurks underneath. But you’ve set us on a course for meaningful change and inspired passion in a community to support you on the journey.

I’ll see you guys in Noosa next year!

written by Matt Sampson - Director of Aspect Personnel

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