“Remembering the Past . . .Envisioning the Future.”
As a start-up event planner, the theme of the 2016 CanSPEP Annual Conference couldn’t have been more enticing. My business, Bash Divas, is young enough that I haven’t been exposed to the wealth of opportunities, networking, and experience that CanSPEP offers and that’s why I applied for the scholarship to attend this annual gathering, held March 3-5, in Windsor, Ontario. The chance to meet industry experts and the innovators of event planning face-to-face was too valuable to pass up. The conference represented new tools, tips, and relationships – all of it in a single place, pushing me beyond my comfort zone.
The reality was better than I imagined.
The energy, generosity, curiosity and friendliness of everyone at the conference were incredible. Hundreds of event professionals from all backgrounds and experience levels were willing to share, connect and encourage each other. I was lucky enough to meet one of them within five minutes of my shuttle ride on the first day of the event. Rose Timmerman-Gitzi helped guide me through my first conference experience from start to finish. I wouldn’t have received the scholarship without the help and encouragement of Candice Schierling and Heidi Walker, who acted as my guardian angel and made me feel so welcome. Meagan Rocket made sure I was fully prepared prior to even arriving. Anne Marie Obdam took so much time to answer questions and offer tips. And, of course, Joy Fox, the founder of this priceless organization, reflects her first name to a tee.
But the benefits of attending the CanSPEP conference didn’t stop there. New leads and opportunities were everywhere. More than 10 event planners want to meet with me in the coming weeks. Heather Reid suggested I contact her as soon as possible, while Bettyanne Sherrer showed me off to her contacts like she was my personal mentor.
Natalie Teichmann, Dagmar Gross, Debbie Arato, Michael Marmur, Farida Esmail—the list of professionals who were willing to help and advise is far too long for me to include here, but I’m thankful to each and every one of them for being available to a relative newcomer like myself. Many were there, like me, to learn something new. Others were taking well-deserved time away from the busy life of an event planner while still bettering themselves and their businesses. Still, others used the conference to meet, in-person, long-time friends and colleagues in an environment filled with fun and learning. All the members I met represented the attitude of CanSPEP, “The first step in helping our industry grow is to do it together.”
In addition to the fantastic hosts and attendees, the conference offered varied and unique forums. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed all the sessions. The topics combined education with stimulating presentations, providing lessons in a fun, entertaining environment. The result? Invaluable knowledge plus aching muscles in my face and stomach from laughing so hard.
Photo: Bettyanne Sherrer opens the 2016 CanSPEP Annual Conference. Credit: Samuel Engelking Photography
Event planning regularly ranks among the most stressful careers. There’s no doubt we work hard and often, but the CanSPEP conference showed just how good we are at having fun, too. The food was top-notch and the evenings of dining and conversation were exciting, pleasing and a great way to feel a part of the amazing CanSPEP family. The entertainment and activities led to countless memories I’ll keep forever.
This conference was without question, well-organized, featuring superior speakers, quality vendors and suppliers, and was in the best location of any I’ve attended. Caesars Windsor, The Canadian Club Brand Centre, the Bull & Barrel, and St. Clair Centre for the Arts were among the wonderful venues.
None of this – the speakers, the entertainment, the settings, the fun – would have been possible without the excellent staff of CanSPEP. Their professionalism and attention to detail was on display from the first moment to the last.
As a start-up event planner, I’m privileged to be in contact with other professionals for whom I would be honored to work, or even volunteer. I’ve gathered knowledge and wisdom to apply to my planning practices and help grow my business. None of this would have happened had I not been granted the scholarship to attend the 2016 CanSPEP Annual Conference. I hope this opportunity continues for, and is taken advantage of by, other planners in the future.
I cannot thank you all enough for the wonderful experience I had at the conference. Everyone involved in organizing and executing this event should be commended.