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Impressions of a Conference Virgin

At the Regional Meeting in November club member Sonia O’Hehir was asked to give her impressions of her first Federation Conference (Gateshead 2013).

While we cannot reproduce Sonia’s enthusiastic delivery we can pass on her message.

“I have called this short piece Four Eyes

  • Illuminating
  • Informative
  • Inspiring
  • Impressive


The light went on in regards to where the Branch sits within the Region, the Federation and International and the light also added clarity to the hierarchy – President, Immediate past president, vice president etc. etc. The fact that I am a member of a world wide organisation of 80,000 + women was also highlighted.

Our presence at the United Nations where we have category 1 Consultative status with the Economic & Social Council an accolade that does not come easy also brought home to me how powerful we can be.

Friendliness – Smiley lit-up faces everywhere we went. Even waiting in the lunch queue for 45 minutes was dealt with, with humour – it also gave us a chance to meet some very interesting ladies.


To be informed of some of the projects that many of the branches in our Federation have and are managing. It really is amazing how much so few ladies can achieve.

There was not one bad speaker amongst those who spoke, all were articulate and passionate about the areas they work in that help women and girls. I learnt a lot.


From the moment the Flags were carried in by Guiders from North East England on Thursday evening to the singing on Saturday evening of Helen Redy’s song I am woman I was inspired. There is so much going on out there in the world of Soroptimists that it has made me proud to be a woman and a member of such a great bunch of people.

The speakers were amazing – they brought tears to your eyes, lumps in your throat and an urge to do more for women throughout the world.

Dorothy Johnson – the Chief Conference Maker really did keep everyone together, she was authoritative kept us on our toes and always had a smile on her face. Every now and again she would come out with a little thought. Here are a few samples:

  • A smile is just a little curve but it can put a lot of things straight
  • If you walk towards the sunshine the shadows are always behind you.
  • It is difficult to shake hands with a clenched fist.
  • It is ok not to see eye to eye so long as you walk side by side
  • Why are women like teabags – because you don’t know how strong they are until they are put into hot water.
  • and finally


I was so impressed with the organisation. Every item on the program started on time except for the final event on Saturday evening when Dorothy agreed to wait 10 minutes to allow for people who had been caught up in a traffic jam due to an accident to arrive. And so she waited the 10 minutes. No more no less!

Speakers also kept to their time slot, if they were running on a bit apparently a red light on their rostrum would light. For those speakers who moved around I dare say there were various signals coming from the front row. In fact some were obviously so worried that they may overrun they actually finished early.

1200 women jigging about and singing to the 60s and 70s music of the Chris Morrison & State Express 5. The lead singer was dressed in pink (I guess in deference to us pink and fluffy women.) and, for our show, there were 6 of them!! But we coped and I have to say they were fun and played some good tunes.

However, I have to say the most impressive thing for me was the fact that at least 2 hotels that I know of ran out of white wine!!

I really do urge those of you who have not been to Conference to give it a go. It is great fun, you meet some very interesting people, listen to inspiring talks and really do feel a part of a wonderful world-wide organisation”.

Sonia O’Hehir

November 2013