Thank-you from President Maria Powell

Maria Powell, GAI President Opening Address

As the report indicates ... we had a great AGM & Conference!

With strains of 'Funiculi Funicula' still ringing in my ears ... I must admit to being a little sad that this year's GAI AGM & Conference is now behind us. With the theme of Rethink being threaded through as much of the proceedings as we could, I believe the weekend was both a refreshing change and hugely entertaining. Certainly from those I spoke to during the weekend and the messages I've received since, it was appreciated by everyone who was part of it.

As you'd expect, the business part of the Conference was rethought as I abandoned the President's & Chief Executive's Reports in favour of a more inclusive, engaging panel session that made the audience feel part of the conversation, rather than simply being talked at. Combined with the welcome relief of no PowerPoint presentation ... the format worked so much better. It provided an excellent platform for each of the three pillars to be discussed and debated and opportunities for delegates to ask the panel what they liked about any topic!

Although attendance numbers were a little lower than hoped, the delegates easily found plenty to get involved with. From singing waiters who burst spontaneously into song during Friday's BBQ, through fascinating tech gadgetry unveiled by LJ Rich and even taking mind-blowing virtual reality journeys - you couldn't fail to be entertained & enthralled.

The weather tried its hardest to dampen spirits during the afternoon - but hadn't bargained for the great resolve of our members to get out there in the muddy field and get (quite literally) stuck into the various activities being staged there.

Our pre-dinner drinks & gala dinner finished things off in style as we presented prizes to the various winners of the weekend. The gathering of old friends along with many new ones made the occasion very special.

None of it would have been possible without the generous sponsorship support given by so many members, many of whom couldn't even attend - yet felt it important to support our AGM. I would like personally to thank all sponsors for their support and all attendees for making it such a lively weekend.

The GAI head office team made a big difference, so thanks to Lucy, Davina & Harry - along with Gary, Douglas & Rachel. It was good to have more pairs of hands to make things work this year.

I now look forward to the second half of my tenure. There's more than ever to be done, but I believe we have an awful lot of the right resources in the right places to make great strides this year. I look forward to working alongside Gary; my Vice President David Stacey; Treasurer Julian Newman & Institute Chairman Mario Del-Signore to serve the interests of our members all around the world.

Maria Powell