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MPI Ottawa Shares Ingredients for Success

Ingredients Article

By: Bruce Landry | Sep 29, 2020

What are the ingredients needed for a successful event? On June 25, MPI Ottawa Chapter’s virtual event proved to be a true recipe for success!

The appetizer filled us with smiles and joy, as outgoing president Allison Collins, Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel, passed the torch to new chapter president, Nancy Bradshaw, CMP, Tourism Saskatoon.

Then we were served the main course by Lira Buschman, CMP, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, who deftly moderated a panel discussion with four speakers representing different segments of the meetings industry.

Screenshot-38.31David Roberts, Regional Vice President, Canada's Western Mountain Region & General Manager, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, kicked off the panel by summarizing key changes that hotels and their partners are implementing to bring a sense of comfort back to travel and meetings.

He explained that new protocols can be expected in food and beverage service, traffic control, and meeting flow. To reduce the potential spread of germs, the goal is to keep attendees seated in the same spot as much as possible. Buffet and congested areas, such as cash bars, have been put away for the moment; this means guests will mostly receive table service. Revised floor plans have reduced maximum capacities with tables and chairs spaced farther apart. Roberts stressed the importance of open conversation to keep both planners and venues happy.

To ensure attendee safety, there has been some reduction in the greening of events with the re-introduction of single-use containers and utensils along with more “to-go” packaging, but Roberts sees a slow return to addressing the sustainable development goals by encouraging attendees to bring their own bottles or thermoses and use beverage refill stations, as a start.

Screenshot-45.18Next, we had the pleasure of hearing from Madeleine Bart, VP, Marketing & Creative, Encore Canada, on adaptation and innovation in the provision of audiovisual services.

Encore has developed MeetSAFE, a set of guidelines to ensure teams deliver events safely in the changing landscape for live, virtual and hybrid meetings. It focuses on room layout, traffic flow, technology enhancements and cleaning. The company also offers speaker coaching without live attendees to play-off and dry-run rehearsal tools.

Bart reminded planners to ask venues about the available Internet connection, not just in the plenary but in the breakouts and throughout the venue. In the age of COVID-19, her motto is: “clean is the new green!”

Screenshot-51.29The third panelist was Patrick Guay, Account Executive, Canadian Association Market, Québec City Business Destination, showcasing the benefits of agility in our current environment.


Guay shared Quebec City Business Destination’s active approach during the initial lockdown, shifting its focus to current client support instead of seeking new sales. Resiliency continued to be displayed with an innovative three-day virtual educational tour of the city, combining live and taped video sessions. By creating lifestyle-based fun content with a focus on safety, Guay’s team leveraged the strengths of Québec City for the benefit of its residents and visitors!

Screenshot-56.00The icing on the panel cake was Ashley Craven, CMP, Manager, Conferences and Events, Corporate Partnerships, Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists & Part-Time Professor, Algonquin College. She discussed the impact of the coronavirus on event managers but stressed that by collaborating with clients and suppliers, successful events are still very achievable.

Craven said that many planners are known for their “anything is possible” attitude, but as in-person or hybrid meetings are getting shifted to 100% virtual ones with little lead time, it can be very challenging. So, it is important to identify budgets, agendas, audiovisual requirements and logistical elements for every scenario as far in advance as possible. Request for proposals (RFPs) need to go beyond the traditional to include the capacity to switch to a hybrid or virtual model, which always requires reliable Internet service. So far this year, most venues were very flexible in allowing groups to cancel without penalties and Craven proposed planners apply those savings towards enhancing the attendee experience next time.

Craven suggested that MPI members work together to find solutions. Ask “what are other planners doing and what are other planners asking you to do?” We can sponge off each other!

Screenshot-1.22.46Following the engaging panel, Chef Frank Dodd from Trius Winery gave a cooking demonstration of a mouth-watering BBQ chicken and tofu satay.

Chef’s focus on farm to table cuisine highlights local artisans and vendors in Niagara, and sends an inspiring message as we all look for ways to support each other and showcase our event destinations.

Screenshot-1.38.53After our tastebuds were activated with the satay recipe, Sommelier Cory D’Amico conducted a professional tasting of in-kind partner Peller Estates’ sauvignon blanc and gamay noir.

He explained that while Canada is lucky to have four seasons, Peller Estates uses its micro-geographic area to produce a more aromatic sauvignon blanc and acidic, fruity gamay noir. Don’t let the tour guides in toques deter you, he joked. If visiting in the winter, the wine’s still amazing!

As a member of the organizing committee and emcee, I was impressed by the optimism and resilience that resounded from both our speakers and the attendees. Our industry’s ability to bring people together is needed now more than ever and we can be a powerful influence to unite people around the world. As former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, said: “To serve, connect, and unite, such is the thread of my life.”

As a young black man evolving my career, I was all nerves and fear at my first attempt emceeing—nervous of not grasping the topics, afraid to be seen as a token placement, but mainly just wanting to be seen and to represent myself and Colleges and Institutes Canada to the best of my ability. It is difficult to express the self-pride and sense of accomplishment that I feel, but my Instagram post shortly after the event caught the emotion well:

Insta-Left Insta-Centre Insta-Right

bruce landry Article written by Bruce Landry, Colleges and Institutes Canada

Article edited by Melanie Hudson, National Association of Federal Retirees

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bruce landry
Bruce Landry


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