I hate early mornings with the fire of a thousand suns, so perhaps the highest compliment I could give the APS Leadership Training Conference is that in order to attend it I got a 5AM flight from Dublin to London in the morning and got a flight back that night, and it was worth it.
Or maybe the highest compliment I could offer is that as Co-President of Oxford Students for life, I’ve used things I learned from the APS training day every single time I’ve organised an event. Or maybe it’s that they ran icebreaker events where people drew little faces on eggs and then had egg-and-spoon races with them. If none of those things pique your interest, maybe the day’s not for you (you monster).
So what exactly is the APS Leadership Training? It’s kind of like the Council of Elrond that happens before the fellowship set out on their quest, kind of like James Bond getting his gadgets before a mission*, and kind of like the underground bootcamp of a gradual pro-life revolution. People who have been doing the work of running student pro-life societies share their wisdom and insights with neophytes like me, and everyone gets an opportunity to meet other student pro-life leaders who are as passionate as they are about human dignity, to swap tips, hints and terrible jokes.
Going into the day I was particularly excited to see the presentation from Jo Jackson and Johnny Church of Oxford Students for Life on running a fresher’s fair – I was going to be stepping into their shoes as co-President of OSFL and Fresher’s fair was the first big challenge. The presentation was insightful, clear, and practically very useful. Those are just words though, and me saying them doesn’t give you a very clear how good the presentation was, so I’ll share two concrete things which might.
Firstly, the advice that Johnny and Jo gave for the way to approach conversations at Fresher’s Fairs was absolutely brilliant: the watchwords were “uncompromisingly pro-life, uncompromisingly civil”, and the Js emphasised that Fresher’s Fair wasn’t the place to get into giant arguments about abortion or euthanasia, but a chance to let people know who you are as a society and and invite people to come to your events. Finally, they gave some extremely handy tips for avoiding conflict with anyone who might have the power and inclination to make a pro-life society’s life difficult.
Secondly, the results the new OSFL committee got implementing their advice! We signed up hundreds of people to our mailing list, and had an absolutely brilliant time at the Fair, with a load of positive interactions and fewer negative ones than I can count on my fingers.
The rest of the workshops were of a similar quality: Eve Farren’s one on overcoming apathy as a leader and team-player has been something I’ve referred back to repeatedly in the months since, and some of the things I learned from session on event organisation and problem-solving have been invaluable when things, inevitably, don’t quite go to plan. The event is also just a great chance to get to know the APS officers like Mads who will be there at the end of a phone to help with advice, finding speakers, or digging you out of holes throughout the year. And yes, they give you free food.
All in all, if you’re involved in running a student pro-life group or society, or if you want to set one up in your university, the APS leadership training workshop is the place to be. Travel there by car, bus, boat or rail, and join the revolution.