5 Tips on Making the Most of Permaculture Voices

Javan K. Bernakevitch
Tuesday, 24th February 2015

Permaculture Voices Conference in San Diego is less than a week away. One of the speakers, Javan K. Bernakevitch shares his top tips for getting the most out of your time at the conference.

There is only one week to go until the Permaculture Voices Conference in San Diego, USA. Are you ready?

Javan K. Bernakevitch, one of the speakers at the conference shares his 5 tips for getting the most from your time at the conference. Javan is the Co-Founder of the open source Southern Vancouver Island Permablitz Network, and the soon to launch BC Permaculture Map and Directory. He will be speaking at the conference about how to start designing your own ideal lifestyle on the first day (March 4th at 10.15am). This will explore holistic management and zones of brilliance, both of which can be applied to your life. For more information on Javan's topic and a list of other speakers and their topics, click HERE.

The most important thing to remember is: be organised and prepared.

1. Set Logistics to Autopilot

What budget do you have for PV2?

Ensure that your accommodations, food and other travel logistics are sorted before coming to Permaculture Voices 2015 (PV2).

You're coming for the conference, so make sure that you're 100% available for the sessions and connections, not getting caught up in sorting out things you could have organized earlier.

Have your accommodations organized well ahead of time (and that time is now). Check out hostels, couchsurfing, hotels or BnBs.

One of the most fun and cost-efficient ways can be sharing a house with other PV2 participants; you can find all kinds of vacation homes and rentals in the area through AirBnB, VRBO, FlipKey, and, HomeAway. You'll meet great people, have fun, share food, space and transportation, and you never know what could happen: I know of a couple that met at PV1 through a group house and are now engaged! Reach out to the permaculture crowd in the area to see if local folks are billeting for out-of-towners.

Bring a few snacks so that you're not thinking about your next meal while Toby Hemingway points out in particularly poignant way that permaculture can save humanity but not civilization.

San Diego has some incredible history and sights to see, but plan to visit them either before or after the conference. Why? Because being present is the best gift you can give yourself for this conference.

As for us speakers, it's tempting to bring work or schedule calls during the conference. Take the time to schedule a break for PV2 and be present for the opportunities that come from meeting your peers and collaborating on something you've always been waiting for but never knew they existed.

Those moments happened every 45 seconds in PV1. Be available for them to happen just as often during PV2.

Your clients in the long run will thank you for the value you bring back to their project.

You're here to attend the conference. Be available and present for all of it.

2. Know the 3 problems you're here to solve.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) has plagued humanity since the Romans had to decide between taking in the harvest festival or going to the gladiator games. There are tough decisions to be made. Do I see Mark Shepard or Elaine Ingham? Curtis Stone or Diana Leafe Christian? There are so many choices! Define your priorities ahead of time.

If you haven't already asked yourself, then ask yourself this question now:

What problems am I facing right now that I need solved?

If you're facing a soil issue, how to start and edible landscaping business or wrestling with just what to do and how to start, then you've got all the right people to help you solve those problems at PV2. Go through the speakers list ahead of time, and highlight the key players that will help you tackle your issue and solve your problems head-on. Then go to their talks, meet them in person, and find the answers you need. (And if you're looking with help with what to do and where to start, be sure to come and check out my sessions [time/date] and [time/date]).

Knowing what problems you're currently facing and having an idea of who's able to help you solve them will make it much easier and less stressful to choose your sessions and know where to be and when. That means you'll be able to plan and enjoy time to mingle and have those spontaneous connections that make events like this so uniquely valuable.

3. Ask jugular questions of presenters and remember that presenters are people, not infotainment vending machines.

I've been sitting on a blog post for some time entitled, How to be a valuable student in an entitled world. One of my axioms in life is to show up with value... but what does this mean? It means if you're a participate in a conversation, or attending a lecture or an interactive session, then show up with value to support, contribute and connect with the presenters.

It also means going out of your comfort zones to ask a Jugular Question that goes in for the weak spot of your learning or of the content being presented. Being a good attendee doesn't mean rolling over when there's a gap in cognitive clarity.

Remember however that the presenter isn't an information vending machine. A friend related to me a story from a recent workshop of Stephen Jenkinson, a bushman and the founder of Orphan Wisdom School.. After a particularly involved teaching session, a student demanded, "Say that again" in a tone that made it clear he felt entitled to more because he'd paid for the time in the course. To which Jenkinson responded that he isn't a vending machine, but a man connecting with people to share in each other's learning and he wouldn't be repeating his comment as it would reduce him to little more then a pay-per-view infotainment vending machine.

Jenkinson also has a saying that when we learn, we risk that which we cannot afford to lose. He refers to our sense of being right. To truly learn we have to give up our position where we think we know the answer, in order to even consider what's being presented.

Come to your sessions open minded and considering yourself lucky to be able to contribute to this session as a participant. If you check your ego at the door along with your hat, coat and shovel you'll find that people and opportunities will open at astounding speed.

4. Follow up with value, or fail

I received a dozen responses from the first podcast Diego and I did, talking about finding your niche, and living an original life. I was thrilled to hear that our conversation was of value to folks and a few solid connections came of it.

A core tenet to that podcast was that as a species we've been failing so badly for so long it's time to FAIL BETTER with strong intent, high-grade information and skillful execution.

Failing better means reaching outside of your comfort zone and asking the questions you want answered and making the connections you want to experience.

The true successes for me from PV1 last year came from the individuals who followed up consistently and politely. Presenters and attendees are busy folks. If you're involved with land regeneration you'd have to be; just look at all the work there is to be done. Ensuring that your follow-up conversations, phone calls and emails are polite and consistent will ensure you're heard. Eventually we have to grease that squeaky wheel!

After the conference it took me a few weeks to get back to all the folks who took the time to email, phone and write down a project or idea on a business card. From those contacts, I ended up guest-teaching in half a dozen PDC's; ran an online course on finding our niche and designing our lives with permaculture in mind (with 35 international attendees and 12 success stories); and gained 3 contracts for design. But the work wasn't where I felt the most amount of value in following up from PV1.

Last year I had two people come up to me at the end of the session and told me I had changed their lives by giving them permission to be who they were and explore their natural gifts in permaculture. By the end of the next day I had two offers for lunch introducing me to two innovative projects and another offer to buy me a beer and chat about an individual's work. I gladly accepted all three, and I'm still in conversation with the individuals who told me I changed their lives.

When we speak about applying self-regulation and accepting feedback part of that process is supplying feedback to others. Take the time to let speakers and new colleagues know the effect of their work and your desire to connect on a project or idea.

Now if you can't follow up or it's not time yet, then consider for yourself if it's time to go fallow and allow a period of rest, to digest and readjust to what you've learned. Schedule time to pick up conversations in your calendar now, for a week, or a month later. A later follow up will also help your response to be outside the amount of traffic a speaker or colleague will receive right after the conference.

But remember, follow up with value.

5. Have a process to create ruthless clarity of vision for your project, business or life, and a way to make solid decisions to make that vision come true.

I can't count the number of goal setting systems or getting-things-done time management processes I've tried over the years.

It was finally when I read Thomas Leonard's The 28 Laws of Attraction that I fell onto a concept that Bill Mollison would later support. 'Don't set a goal, for goals can be achieved and surpassed; set a vision of how you want the future to look and every day make efforts to make that vision a reality.'

After reading those words, 10 years later I'd come across the Permaculture Designer's Manual and the process of backcasting. This simple idea is about defining what success looks like and then designing the steps to move towards it, and the decisions to avoid, to make that success a reality.

Then two years ago I was introduced to Holistic Management and the Eight Forms of Capital. Well, it was a bit of a revolution to have the lens, process and tools to not only set a vision for the future but also have the means by which to measure my success in achieving that vision. I've massaged these methods into a holistic approach to life design called Cultivated Life Design.

I'm not advocating my process, although it's worked for a great number of clients and students. What I'm advocating is that if you're making decisions without a process of evaluation, flying by the seat of your pants, then you are in the cognitive minor leagues. It's time to move past little league and make decisions on a larger scale for a larger purpose.

Like Holistic Management advises: don't take anything as truth, but test it first. So whatever process you decide to try, test it out and begin to create a ruthless clarity of vision for yourself that filters the decisions that bring that vision to life.

If you have this process in place, you already know why you're coming to PV2.

If not, then stop by my session before the conference starts, and I'll share a modified version of my process that will provide you with a tool to make sure you get out of PV2 exactly what you need, while still being open to the spontaneity that 700 permaculturists create.

Come find me at PV and have a spontaneous moment. I'm a fan of Scotch, conversations about right livelihood and games of ninja (bring a group of people and we'll play a round or two).

See you in San Diego

Javan "Ohhh I'm looking forward to PV2" Bernakevitch

Further resources

Our co-founder and editor, Maddy Harland, will be speaking at Permaculture Voices 2, and Maddy and Tim Harland will also be available to meet attendees. Please email tony[at]permaculture.co.uk to organise a meeting.

Alternative voices: Permaculture magazine in the USA


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