Last weekend, I went back to school. Not literally. I attended CONNECTToronto'13, an alumni forum for York University's Schulich School of Business. At this annual reunion, senior executives and experts deliver highly targeted content and networking opportunities are maximized. This approach would work well for corporate meetings and association conferences.
1. Deliver Targeted Content
Of interest to event professionals, Kathleen Taylor, a Schulich MBA/JD graduate and former President and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, delivered this year's opening keynote. She stressed the importance of empowering front line employees to brainstorm and engage in experiments to enhance the customer experience.
There were 4 concurrent breakout sessions in the morning and 3 after lunch. Sessions included Commercial Real Estate - Is the Party Over or Has it Just Begun? and Fraud, Ethics, Finance. During The Coaches Corner, an interactive breakout, participants rotated at tables and received career tips from experts.
Benjamin Tal, Managing Director & Deputy Chief Economist, CIBC World Markets moderated The Economy - Report from the ‘Recovery Room’ in which a panel of senior economists from major Canadian banks discussed Canadian and global economic trends and implications for business owners and professionals from large organizations. The consensus was that 2014 will be a transition year towards a brighter economic outlook.
In Boy, Has Marketing Changed?, the impact of social media and online marketing was explored in-depth and all panelists agreed that face-to-face marketing events are still a key ingredient in the marketing mix. Panelists included:
- Dave Gardner, Schulich MBA graduate and Vice President - Marketing & Sales, Honda Canada
- Sophie Chesters, Country Marketing Manager, Canada, Google
- Lindsey Hamilton, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing, Samsung Electronics Canada
- Leslie Chester, Chief Marketing Officer, Nestle Canada Inc.
During the Closing Plenary, 3 Canadian CEOs of major corporations spoke candidly about their career paths and the obstacles they overcame to get to the executive suite. The key messages was that career paths and business growth are not linear or predictable.
2. Leverage Technology
To give Schulich alumni around the world access to the great content, the opening keynote, some breakouts and the closing plenary session were broadcast through live webcasts.
Participants were encouraged to share highlights using the hashtag #cnct13 and a Twitter fall was displayed on monitors.
3. Set-up to Maximize Networking
The venue set-up and spaces on the agenda allocated for networking made it easy to connect with other graduates of the Schulich MBA program. The day started with a full hour for registration, breakfast and informal networking. The morning and afternoon networking breaks were 30 minutes instead of the standard 15 minute time slots.
During the morning break, in a separate Alumni CONNECTions Cafe, attendees with common interests met in areas set up for Alumni Meet Ups. For example, there was an area for entrepreneurs and other areas where participants with interests in Finance, Technology, and Marketing could connect. Lunch was 1 1/2 hours and, during the last half hour, there was another opportunity for Meet Ups.
For a change of pace, participants could also attend a wine tasting showcasing Marchesi de Frescobaldi Wines of Tuscany, instead of one of the concurrent breakouts in the afternoon. CIBC Marketplace, which had been set-up in round of 8 for breakfast, lunch and breaks, was cleared for a stand-up reception.
For other Cvent Blog posts about campus events, also read Back to School: Best Kept Secret for Corporate Event Venues and Event Venues: University Football Venues.
Photo Credits: Event Planning, Executive Oasis International