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March 2024 Presidents Message

By: Karen Norris, CMP (She/Her) | Apr 8, 2024

Is it just me or is 2024 flying by? This is probably because we had our chapter holiday party in November and then when January hit, it was all Meet Week planning and, of course, February saw the numerous events that Meet Week brings. It’s a jarring start to the year after a good month off but one that we Event Professionals thrive on since we rarely like to be sedentary- for both our bodies and minds.

What a Meet Week this year was! For those unaware, Meet Week is one week in February where all the meeting, event, and tourism professionals gather in Ottawa for a week’s worth of networking, education, and sales visits. The week culminates with our chapter’s annual Charity Auction and Dinner where we raise money for four local charities in Ottawa as well as the MPI Foundation. This year’s year event brought in over 600 guests and raised $33,765 for Moisson Outaouais, The Ottawa Food Bank, Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre, and Ottawa Network for Education’s School Breakfast Program. I am proud, on so many levels, of our presence in Meet Week this year. Firstly, years ago “Meet Week” didn’t exist- it was just CSAE’s Tete a Tete tradeshow and MPI Ottawa’s Charity Auction and Dinner. Over the years, all business event groups: PCMA, CSAE, and MPI Ottawa with Destination Direct Canada, recognized the value of collaboration instead of competition, and now all the groups work together to build education sessions, sales meetings, and networking events around each other in that one week. Our Education Committee hosted a mind-blowing “AI in the Afternoon” session with keynote speaker Anh Nguyen. All the attendees I spoke with said it was one of the best education sessions they had ever been to. Everyone walked away with a new appreciation for how AI can provide event professionals with additional time in our days, allowing us to be more strategic in the designing of our events.

Secondly, the generosity of our guests that I saw at our Charity Auction and Dinner was so heartwarming. Food scarcity is at an all-time high right now and these charities desperately needed additional help this year. I hosted the Executive Directors of the four charities at my table and it was incredible to see firsthand their experience being at the event as our chapter’s guests. Every time a live auction item was officially “sold”, they leaned over to me and told me the exact number of people they could feed for the money raised for that one auction item. Their passion and dedication to their jobs, which were entirely about helping others, was inspiring.

"Joy can only be real if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness." - Leo Tolstoy

I hope our chapter continues to support those less fortunate in our communities and we continue to foster joy amongst our members and our committee volunteers.

Related to the success we found in collaborating with others, Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) is April 11th. This event proudly started in Ottawa and has since been adopted globally. The focus of this day needs to be stressed — it is the largest advocacy day of the year for our industry. We must move outside our own echo chamber to promote the value of community building and the economic impact our events bring to communities and the country. We are all well aware of the importance of the meeting and events industry, it’s the non-event professionals who need to see our value and be our allies and our ambassadors, helping us spread the word. The louder our collective voice, the more provincial and federal government support we will see. 

Meetings Mean Business Canada has put together a toolkit for GMID promotion that can be found at this link. Now, I encourage you to start promoting the value of GMID on your socials and wherever else you have a soapbox to amplify our industry’s message: speeches you are giving on panels, team meetings with your colleagues outside the events department, your family or your city councillor if they have open office hours (mine does!).

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s (TIAC) ‘National Tourism Week’ is April 15-19. It was recently announced by TIAC that business events represent 40% of all tourism spending in Canada! They partnered with Meetings Mean Business Canada for a Facts Sheet that has critical data points that can be used by anyone to promote the value of business events and tourism for our country.

Our hard-working Education Committee has put together a fantastic education session for GMID this year focussing on health and wellness with our demanding careers. Following on the heels of an earlier education session on environmental sustainability, this session entitled “Soldiering on with Self Awareness” with Tonia Jahshan, an award-winning entrepreneur and mental health advocate, will focus on self-sustainability. Registration is still open, reserve your seat now.

If you cannot make our education session in-person, MPI Global is hosting their annual 12-hour-long educational broadcast which is free for all MPI members. Register HERE and watch the advocacy efforts your sister chapters are doing all around the globe.

Earlier this month, I was reading a newsletter I subscribe to by Sahil Bloom an entrepreneur, investor, and creator. He was sharing a recent conversation he had over a drink with Gary Vaynerchuk one of America’s most successful businessmen. When discussing the key to professional longevity especially when your competitors are fading away, Gary replied with one line “You gotta love the dirt”. Sahil further broke it down for his readers as he pondered the line on his drive home. He said “The dirt is where you start. It's where you're built. It's where you find your initial success. The dirt is the things that don't scale: It's talking to customers, spending time in the weeds, engaging with your employees and colleagues, testing, and learning. The dirt is where you find the early gold. We all start in the dirt on the journey to success, but few are willing to remain there. Few fall in love with the dirt.”

With Spring upon us, the winter snow will soon melt away once again revealing the rich soil underneath. The soil calls to be nurtured to bring us beautiful flowers, nourishing food, and a myriad of other items providing sustenance for life in general. No matter how high you climb in your career, remember the dirt. You are never too big or successful for the ‘dirt’ of events. It’s where your growth happened, it’s where your creativity was born, and it’s where your character and passion were built. It’s dirty but it’s also beautiful and it feeds your soul.

I chose to write my President's Letters quarterly (versus monthly) and they coincide with the seasons. For me, this works as my creativity is often triggered by something. I get inspired by the start of each season for the unique magic that it brings.

Cynthia Headshot Article edited by Cynthia Beaudin, Canada Foundation for Innovation



Karen Norris, CMP (She/Her)
Director, Strategy, Programs and Services at The Canadian Dermatology Association

MPI Ottawa Chapter President 2023-2024


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