Greetings devoted blog readers! It’s Eric here, and I’d like to share some recent happenings in my life as OMOD project coordinator:
At the start of each summer, while many Austinites prepare themselves for three months of near-suffocating heat with a full Netflix instant watch list and prayers that the A/C doesn’t break, we here at OMOD ready ourselves for a jam-packed conference season. We call it “conference season” because many of the conferences where we regularly present occur within a month-long period of time, starting in the second half of July and ending in the middle of August. During this time, we literally organize one conference session after another. Before we have a chance to breathe and reflect on the success of one conference session, we are all ready preparing for the next one.
This is also an exciting time when we begin to see our speakers’ hard work and training truly pay off. New speakers, who were painfully shy only months earlier, find themselves commanding attention from audiences of between 40 and 60 total strangers while older speakers, who have been with OMOD for over a year, assume greater responsibilities as session emcees and mentors to newer, less experienced speakers.
In addition to San Japan, OMOD speakers also presented at the Texas Advocates Conference in Dallas, the Texas Association of Vocational Adjustment Coordinators (TAVAC) Conference in Houston, the Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS) Conference in San Antonio, and an artists’ panel at DARS’ Celebration for the 25th Anniversary of the ADA here in Austin.At San Japan, OMOD speaker Jessica facilitated her own panel without any assistance from OMOD staff for an audience of almost 50 conference attendees. She navigated the entire process from drafting a panel proposal through the actual conference session independently.
Of course, OMOD conference season is not completely chaos-free. The occasional snafu does occur, as when we plan a session for 30 people and then more than 60 people show up or when we plan to break a session up into multiple groups in the same room and it gets far noisier than expected, but each mistake gives us the opportunity to learn, improve, and make our future sessions stronger. Perhaps the most important lesson we have learned is to be flexible and to think on our feet when our best-laid plans are not working. In the end, seeing our speakers’ personal growth and increased independence is what makes this one of the more rewarding seasons of my job.