The Chevening Orientation is certainly not dubbed the biggest event of the year for nothing! I have never seen a more diverse and global gathering in one place. It oozed culture, heritage and diversity and allowed everyone present to showcase their identity wearing pride. It happened on the 21st of October and 5 days later, I am still reeling while typing this.
I am not proud to say that because of the complicated transport system in London, as a first timer who lodged further away than planned, I missed the first few minutes of the Orientation, much to my regret. I was looking forward to savouring every second of it. Nevertheless, I’ll say I got most of the best parts.
The event took place at ExCel London, a grand exhibition building and we had the honour of occupying the auditorium. The first thing I noticed upon entering the venue was the sheer number of us, then the sheer remarkableness of the occasion. This, right here, in this room, is the globe in a few numbers on their way to making history.
I promptly joined the Nigerians who were the closest to the door thankfully and who were the hardest to miss. I remember that during our pre-departure event, our Chevening Officer, Mrs Olufunmilayo Ladepo told us that there’s a general talk to lookout for Nigerians, they always somehow shine through the occasion. Did we do that again? You bet! We were a green dream.
From the fun and bubbly hosts who made sure the event was interactive to the touching messages by various professionals and teams of Chevening who work tirelessly to keep the programme a go, to the networking session where everyone was all warm and smiles and everyone was welcome to speak to all and establish relationships that could possibly lead to something huge, to a speech by our very own Layo Ladepo, to the picture taking sessions, the breakout sessions and and my favourite, unveiling the Social Media Ambassadors (I wonder why), we were given a taste of what it means to excel.
There were speeches by various people such as Loiuse Thompson, Head of Chevening and Naomi Rayner. Some messages, one of which was rendered by Vicky Ford, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean) as well as a keynote speech by Prof Adnan Khan, Chief Economist FCDO.
The breakout session I attended was on Media and Policy delivered by Salmah Shah. It was on the crude power of communication and tactics of effective communication for influence as “what you do and what you say matters”. Referred to as a spin doctor by some and people who live in the dark by others, she is officially a special adviser. She had been working with a former chancellor for 5 years in the shadows and her name had only appeared twice in the media (shadow much).
Salmah was inspiring, smart, witty and funny. It did not take long to understand how she got where she was. Being a woman, a Lancashire born Pakistani origin hindered her career progression. But it was also her strength because people would underestimate her because of that and she made sure that never happened twice.
Here are some of my favorite Salmah Shah quotes;
“Change the world through your ideas and words by being true to yourself”
“THIS IS MY TRUTH NOW TELL ME YOURS”
“…But truth is truth, facts are facts, up is up, down is down”.
“15yrs in business and I have never told a lie”.
“…And when people feel you lie, they’ll never truly trust you again”.
“You can downplay, you can manoeuvre but act within confines of truth”
As a PR expert, she left us with some nuggets of wisdom on establishing reputation through communication;
-Speak the language of your audience
-Get on social media
-Never speak over and above them
-Trust that people are not stupid
-Complexity can be simplified
-Be strategic with your communication goals
-Find new ways of communicating; poetry, art, be unconventional
-Remember to always listen, there are future leader who have so much to contribute
She welcomed us to the UK and took her own advice to listen to us contribute.
A highlight of the event was finally meeting all members of the 2023 Cohort from Nigeria and from all over the world. It was impossible to chat with all 1700+ of us but I got to interact and exchange contacts with a sizable number of people.
The grand finale (for me), was when the Social Media Ambassadors were unveiled. I am one of the 12 proud social media ambassadors for Chevening for the 2022/2023 cohort and I am almost bursting at the seams in anticipation of our adventures (you and I). Read up about the SMA’s here
Or watch our amazing video on Youtube; Ambassadors 2022
In case you haven’t guessed already, the Chevening Orientation was one I enjoyed immensely. I am looking forward to attending and covering more events by Chevening. I am looking forward to sharing it with you all.
From Hafsat, With Love.