I had the privilege of attending a fascinating collaboration of three Canadian MPI chapters (Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal/Quebec) at Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa for a conference dubbed the EVENT from April 12-14, 2018.
The goal of the EVENT, as stated by the conference committee on their website, “is to do things differently. We want to challenge the “typical” conference format. We are not oblivious to the fact that there are many education and networking choices for event professionals to invest their resources. Cultivation, Collaboration, and Elevation will guide us to our goal to make the EVENT stand apart from the others.”
I have to agree with the conference committee, the EVENT did stand apart from the others.
The tagline for the EVENT was Collaborate, Cultivate, Elevate. These three principles guided the EVENT planning team in every decision they made.
Collaborate – a true coming together of 3 Canadian chapters, each one lending time, talent and resources to make The Event a success
Cultivate – incorporating formats and room set ups that nurtured and grew business relationships
Elevate – raising the bar on event design and the debunking the traditional conference model
The 2-day event included aspects very creative and energizing in nature, and a number of elements are easy to implement and may have other event planners rethinking their conference formats.
I’ve detailed some of the different programming elements that the EVENT offered to their attendees. Some ideas you may have seen before, some brand new.
Creative sponsorship options and recognition
Almost every aspect of the conference was available for sponsorship, and the sponsors were provided with flexibility to make it their own. All the examples below had sponsors involved, and it allowed each sponsor to showcase what they did best.
General session room set up – Banff Lake Louise Tourism
The general session room’s AV (done by FMAV Canada) had screen’s set up in the shape of mountains, and images of fireplaces danced across the screens as people filed into the room. When recognizing Banff Lake Louise Tourism, images from the region flashed across the “mountains”. Table décor also resembled the region. It was a great way to recognize The Event’s primary sponsor.
Breakout room set ups – the sponsors were provided with the flexibility to set up their sponsored room in a manner suited to their destination. As a result, each breakout room was an experience in and of itself
- Niagara Falls Business Events – the destination’s blue colour was woven throughout the room, on the tables, in the décor and as giveaways to the delegates. They also hosted cream whiskey and wine in the corner of the room, to pair with chocolates and licorice. You can see why this was one of my favourite rooms.
- Caesars Windsor – a casino-style room, with casino table, Greek columns and a mimosa bar. Lots of great comfortable seating as well!
- Quebec City Business Destination – the “wellness room” set up with minimal classroom seating, but lots of yoga mats and exercise balls. They also hosted a Smoothie Bike and SpinNPop activities, brought in by Coeur a l’ouvrage.
- Hotels Red Deer – the “hockey room” with tons of comfortable seating. No rigid classroom tables here!
- Tourism Saskatoon – they took over the lobby bar that was set up in smaller facilitated groups, with lots of opportunity to share ideas and expand on concepts.
The breakout topics were all very engaging and the speakers did a great job of including the audience as part of the discussion. While speakers are topic experts in their field, they also acted as facilitators of dialogue amongst all the talent in the room.
Some breakouts were offered twice, so if you missed it the first time due to another compelling topic, you could catch it the second time around!
Reader board – EventMobi
A FANTASTIC reader board was set up as you enter the event spaces, just in case you couldn’t log onto your app and needed help with finding sessions, or your own schedule.
Lunch on the go
There was no “keynote luncheon”; something we’ve all sat through over the years. The breakouts and Braindate sessions continued through the lunch hour and you were encouraged to take your lunch into your next session.
Experiential labs and Engagement experiences
Escape Room – sponsored by Edmonton Tourism
LinkedIn Corner – Dahlia El Gazzar
Floral design breakout – Meetings Calgary
Tie a scarf breakout – Fredericton Tourism
Braindates – sponsored by Tourism Winnipeg
This was one of my favourite activities. Participants were encouraged in advance of the event to set up either a 4-person Braindate or 1-on-1 braindate topics. The dates were put into a booking system, and participants could view all the various braindate topics. You booked your date and then met at the Tourism Winnipeg Braindate lounge to meet up with your date. I LOVED this concept and I can see it growing for next year – lots of fascinating talent at our events!! You don’t need to be an expert in a topic, it’s a facilitated dialogue and everyone shared ideas that we could take away from the date.
A simple activity of propping up window markers by the windows, with a simple question such as “What Did I Learn Today”, or “What Would Make You Return to the EVENT In 2019”. And away you go!
Initiative 1:1 – a sponsorship option for suppliers to provide funds to assist meeting planners to attend The Event. The sponsors and planners were provided with a private reception for networking and business development.
From beginning to end, the EVENT offered experiences that really raised the bar on meetings in Canada. Take a look at your own conferences, and see if you adapt any of the ideas seen at the EVENT, and raise the bar on your OWN meetings!