Meetings + Events
The power of gathering people
The power of gathering people
by Laura Bickle
Each week we are spotlighting how venues, planners, hotels and suppliers are reopening and re-imagining their businesses.
We spoke to several Canadian meeting and event industry associations on how they are supporting their members in the transition to our new reality.
Our national association has collectively responded to how COVID-19 has affected our industry by forming the Exposition Recovery Taskforce. This group of industry leaders from across Canada has helped guide and shape an industry response to government and public health. The response has included the development of the Exhibition Industry – Safe Reopening Guidelines document, with professional oversight from Infection Prevention and Control Canada. The guidelines have facilitated a number of meetings with MPPs, Departments of Economic Development, Work Place Safety groups and Public Health Officials.
Our entire sector has had to rethink how our exhibitions would go forward. The adjustments are reflected in the reopening guidelines, which are available here.
Spokesperson: Sue Mercer, vice-president marketing
An unanticipated benefit of the pandemic is that our virtual networking has brought members closer together—they are more connected to each other nationally than ever before.
We continue to react as quickly as possible to the changing educational needs of our members as well as proactively plan for the future. This includes weekly/monthly Lemonade Stand Webiner Sessions and the upcoming launch of CanSPEP U, incorporating 2 mandates:
TEACH A COURSE: Providing members with the opportunity to share their expertise, AND earn revenue.
TAKE A COURSE: Members (and industry) have the opportunity to learn from other members’ expertise.
Our new website launched on May 1, 2020 gives members an opportunity to identify in their member profile if they are open to collaborating with other members and our Members-Only Facebook Group continues to provide a private platform to ask questions, share knowledge, etc.
Spokesperson: Nancy Tudorache, regional vice-president, Canada
GBTA has always been about protecting and building the business travel industry, representing both the corporate buyers and suppliers. The pandemic has highlighted the need for an association to represent the suppliers and buyers, lobby government on their behalf and offer support.
We have run bi-weekly GBTA Canada, industry-wide town hall calls, featuring highlights on GBTA’s efforts, tools and resources to help support our industry through this crisis.
We hold bi-weekly, regional direct talk calls with Canadian travel buyers only, to understand their evolving situation as it relates to business travel within their respective companies, and how and when they will begin to prepare for travel recovery.
We have also ramped up communications with Canadian Government departments of: Global Affairs Canada, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Canadian Transportation Security Authority (CATSA), and created resource documents and relevant links.
We have partnered with key Canadian travel industry sector stakeholder groups, for increased sharing of information and coordinated efforts in helping to rebuild Canadian confidence in the travel ecosystem, for return-to-travel planning efforts.
Spokesperson: Nela Kovacovic, M.A., CSEP, CMP, chapter president
It is during crises like this one when you need your peers the most. We are very grateful for the community we built, not only on our regional level, but also internationally, with a number of resources helping event professionals and supporting each other.
We were able to host our June members’ appreciation event as a drive-in hybrid event. We had to have all permits and safety measures in place. We invited guests in their cars to a parking lot with a big LED screen. Some of the event elements were executed onsite and some of them were done virtually in the studio. All the guests were in their cars, listening through their FM radio. Our partner, FMAV, helped us deliver this complex hybrid event in a very professional way, showcasing that we can still host “in-person” events—we just have to be more creative and precautious with health and safety measures in place.
Spokesperson: Kimberley Beaune, CSEP, CMP, chapter president
We know that with so much uncertainty in our industry, investing in a membership is a big ask, so for everyone who has made that financial investment, we are thankful, and will do our best to demonstrate value and our appreciation for that investment.
For those that can't commit at the moment, we still want them to be part of our ILEA community. ILEA HQ has been putting out amazing content on the ILEA Hub COVID-19 Resources and the Real Talk Real Time conversations that ILEA Chapters across Canada collaborated on. The Canadian Chapters have created robust facebook groups (#yvreventprofs , #yyceventprofs & #yyzeventprofs ) that are open to the industry. We have been leading a weekly Wine On Wednesdays Virtual Meet Up on #yyzeventprofs since April. This content was available to members and non-members alike because we are passionate about supporting the live events industry. We will continue to provide education, networking, information and resources to the industry at large and help friends and colleagues to navigate the future.
Spokespeople: Disa-marie Cameron, vice-president, communications and Erin Bellwood, director, marketing
Along with a sense of connection, we also wanted to provide our members with relevant and timely education. We reacted by expanding our virtual education offerings and adding an additional event to our calendar with a quick turnaround time. The pricing structure was revised in order to ensure this education was more accessible during this difficult time in the industry.
As of April 1, we have been hosting a weekly complimentary #CoffeeTalk series. This avenue offers a great way to deal with the coronavirus physical distancing measures that are currently causing so many industry professionals to feel socially isolated. All members are invited to participate in an informal Zoom meeting to share their experiences and evolving practices. The purpose has been to engage with each other and, if nothing else, give a break from self isolation to see friendly familiar faces. We have been engaging with our 2019-2020 sponsors for hosting and they have been providing content relevant to the industry climate that is rapidly changing from week to week.
Our #CoffeeTalk series, moderated by us, has seen attendance grow from 16 members in week one to a solid 40 to 60 members turning out from week to week. If members show up with their true self and a willingness to contribute, they will leave with a sense of community and hope for a strong, albeit different, outlook for our industry. Our summer program featured bi-weekly calls and ramps up again for the fall.
Spokesperson: Anita Carlyle, director of education
Our mandate of local senior education and networking has not changed, but our focus has shifted when it comes to our education sessions to ensure they are relevant in today’s environment.
We have also made our virtual sessions complimentary to help everyone participate and to help member retention.
During our last monthly session, we launched a special Showcare platform that will remain active. If you register for our sessions you can continue to connect with other participants and share your knowledge, question and concerns or re-watch past sessions.
Our last session was on how to safely return to meetings—incorporating air, hotel, AV, transportation and tours. We invited our members to share their safety and protocol documents. It is a great resource for all our new and prospective members that we will build on in coming months.
Spokesperson: Gabrielle Spanton, president
Our board is finalizing the calendar of events for the balance of 2020. We are excited by the lineup of speakers and education. Liz Holtby, director SITE Canada Education Day, has assembled an awesome team of volunteers who are creating an outstanding virtual Education Day October 28. Save the date, registration will open soon.
Our members seem to really enjoy our casual Zoom conversations. These are great for networking as each session provides a topic that enables free flowing dialogue. We will continue offering these and look forward to members participation.
Although we have adjusted to current state by developing a virtual platform of events, we will continue to advocate the power and value of live face to face incentive programs and meetings and events. We enthusiastically look forward to when we can all meet in person again.
SITE Canada is in the midst of working towards its Sustainability Certification. Our board is learning a great deal on how we may continue to support sustainability in spite of the challenges COVID-19 has created.
Editor’s note: These quotes are excerpted from a larger story to be published in the Fall issue of Ignite.
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