It’s the incredible speakers who craft memorable sessions that help bring the annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum and its theme to life, and the Alliance solicits session proposals every year.

In 2023, I enjoyed attending Pri Ekanayake from the Institute of Conservation Leadership (ICL) session titled “Resilience Techniques for Adversity.” I walked away from her session with the understanding of how to slow down in my work to better embrace and manage adversity through resiliency and stress management techniques. This year, I talked with Pri about her experience as a first-time Forum presenter.

Pri Ekanayake presents her session entitled “Resilience Techniques for Adversity” at the 2023 Forum.

What was your experience presenting at the 2023 Watershed Forum? What might others get out of presenting at a Forum?

To be honest, I was nervous about presenting at the Forum for a combination of reasons. Though I have been working in the environmental space for years, it was my first time attending, and my session (Resilience Techniques for Adversity) didn’t feel like a “typical” topic. I had no idea how many people would sign up. I was delighted to find that the group was incredibly engaged, excited to be there despite our early start, and ready to brainstorm and talk through actionable and realistic techniques we could use to manage personal adversity in our field.

I found that presenting at the Forum was not only an opportunity to meet folks I might never have met otherwise, but it was also a chance to create a space for participants to connect. I know we come to the Forum to learn from our peers, but I also think that sessions can be a really great space to develop connections if you employ some engagement practices. Also, I believe presenting your content is the best way to test drive what works and where to tweak it so the next iteration can be stronger.

What is your favorite part of the Watershed Forum?

My favorite part of the Forum was the time between sessions. Though I found the content to be interesting and topically relevant, it was the spaces in between – the dining room, firepit chats, or picnic table breaks where I was able to connect with people. I didn’t feel pressured to take part in all the social activities, but they were structured or segmented enough that it was easy to do so. In this new work world, where we are primarily on zoom, it was a great opportunity to have some unstructured time and space for learning without an agenda.

Pri Ekanayake, Senior Associate, Institute for Conservation Leadership

Pri Ekanayake is a Senior Associate with the Institute for Conservation Leadership. Her work involves engaging with organizations and collaborations to build their capacity through training, meeting and conference support, and designing strategic plans. Pri’s role also allows creativity to flow through development of initiatives to support environmental and conservation professionals, most recently with the Delaware River Watershed Professionals of Color cohort.

Pri brings her experience as an environmental educator and teacher to her role as a facilitator and trainer for ICL. She enjoys work that allows her to use her synthesis and facilitation skills, such as supporting groups in planning a new collaborative effort. Her background in teaching and training is well utilized at ICL where she developed and runs live public training programs for environmental professionals.

Growing up between Sri Lanka and Florida, she developed a deep love for travel. Pri enjoys volunteering in her community garden, cooking, baking, petting every dog (and amenable cat) she sees, and exploring Rock Creek Park.

Are you interested in presenting at this year’s Forum?

Read the request for session proposals and access the submission link