Learning how young leaders should participate in world conferences.
The World Justice Forum gathers all the world’s foremost leaders — young and senior — dedicated to improving the rule of law for future generations. This international event is hosted every two years by the World Justice Project, and this past summer, it took place from May 20-June 3, 2022, online and in person in The Hague, Netherlands.
Outstanding speakers such as Michelle Bachelet, Mo Ibrahim, and Mary Robinson, to name a few, took the stage at daily plenary sessions helping other global figureheads home in on possible new solutions to growing issues plaguing the rule of law worldwide. But how do young people fit into all this? Shouldn’t the next generation of people be front row in order to tackle the challenges presented at the world forums to come? Nevertheless, attending these serious and goal-oriented forums can be intimidating to navigate. So, here are the top 5 points to keep in mind to attend events such as the World Justice Forum and other international conferences as a young leader.
1. Say Hello
Introducing yourself is the easiest step (yet somehow hardest for teenagers to do) to speaking to accomplished professionals in any field. It starts with a name, a handshake, and a smile — then you’re golden. The High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations will not remember your question on the sustainability of child rights if she cannot put a name to the face. A simple introduction can go an incredibly long way and will make it much easier to re-approach the leader(s) you were talking to on other days of the conference or over email etc. Always start with hello!
2. You Do Belong There
The hardest part about speaking to these world leaders is the sheer power they seem to hold because of the respect we all have for them as agents of change. It is important to remember, however, that you are just as capable of talking to them and asking them questions as any other person older than you. In fact, a fresh, new, younger perspective may be precisely who these more senior leaders need to hear from. Any teenager 15+ has the basic inquiry skills to ask meaningful, thoughtful questions to these leaders. Who knows, you may actually change their ways of thinking. You don’t need years of experience or schooling to ask and learn from knowledgeable elders.
3. Come Prepared
You will get the most out of any conference, but especially a dialogue regarding issues surrounding the rule of law, if you know exactly what the rule of law is. That is not to say that you must learn about every country’s legal and social justice history for the last ten years, but you must come with a general sense of world issues and an open mind to learn. Additionally, to get the most out of a conversation with leaders of successful foundations, such as with the founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, then arriving with specific questions regarding leadership discrepancies in Africa or Africa’s commitment to Cop26 is crucial to effective conversations. You never want to come to a party (or conference) empty-handed!
4. Bring A Trusty Notebook
A physical notebook isn’t necessary, but any device or piece of paper is recommended to help anyone be an active listener. As a teenager, it’s hard to be listening 24/7, especially if the topic at hand is difficult to comprehend or way out of your level of comprehension. Just bringing a pen and pencil or typing away in your phone’s Notes app can help your short attention span stay engaged with the speaker you are interacting with. Plus, if you need any of this information for future papers or academic projects, you have it all written down!
5. Exit with Style
The end of a conversation is just as important, if not even more important, than the introduction. When nearing the end of a conversation or networking interaction, it is essential to leave anyone you are talking to a piece to remember you by. This can be a LinkedIn profile, a business card with your name and contact information, or even just a piece of paper with your email or phone number. It is important always to leave someone you are talking to some way to contact you after you’ve left. This is key at world forums where distance, time zones, and many other unforeseen factors can hinder communication. Remember not to be too forward with your contact information, though! You do not want any leaders thinking you only spoke with them to get a job or network your way to the top.
The number one thing to remember while attending future World Justice Forums or other international conferences and talks is that confidence is key. Young people are the up-and-coming change-makers of the world. So, it is never too early to start questioning and listening to current leaders to plan for future innovations to the rule of law and improvements in the world of social justice. The future is now, so let’s prepare our pens, paper, and questions and take on these conferences with conviction.
Paloma attended the World Justice Forum 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands.