Meetings Canada


Member Voices: Experiences are the Expected

This summer I attended the CanSPEP conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and when I think back on my days in the red sand there are a few moments that stand out as exceptional. The funny thing is they were the simple moments that became the memorable details.

After a morning of learning in a typical conference room-style setting we were whisked away on a bus to where our afternoon of learning would continue. What none of us expected was the tour guide that joined us for the ride. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. Our tour guide not only showed us the sites as we made our way to our destination but he also brought PEI to life for us.

Booking a bus is a simple logistical plan to be managed—pick up time, drop off time, get the people on the bus and off the bus. But instead this typical transportation moment became a memory for the attendees. Taking the time to turn typical mundane details into experiences is what makes an event stand out.

Photo © Julia O’Grady

There is so much opportunity and desire for event planners to do more than create an inspiring agenda full of qualified speakers. Attendees are looking for us to intrigue their senses and inspire them beyond often what a banquet room or Powerpoint presentation can do.

Taking attendees out of the boardroom and into spaces not typically used for meetings or conferences is becoming the norm,  and event planners are jumping at the opportunity to bring those moments to life by creating experiences that their attendees will talk about for years to come.

A popular food and beverage experience that is happening right now in the industry is rooftop cocktail parties. Taking your event into an open-air environment at a vantage point of city lights that is not often seen is getting rave reviews.

Team building has also changed. No longer are the days of awkward falling backwards into the arms of your colleague. Now event planners are encouraged to create unusual and exciting experience opportunities for their clients’ teams. Scaling the side of a mountain together would no longer be considered an unusual option for a company’s next team-building outing.

Photo © Julia O’Grady

Being in PEI, I expected to eat lobster and would have been surprised if it hadn’t been on the menu at the conference. What I did not expect was eating lobster, fresh out of the ocean, cooked seaside while I mingled on the beach in my bare feet. I can’t remember the number of times I said “wow” and “I can’t believe this is happening.”  As an event planner, those words are magic to our ears.

Photo © Julia O’Grady

Planners are having to do more than manage logistics. Carefully thought-out creative experiences are becoming the norm; every detail matters. Every detail can be a moment that changes the game on your event.

Give your attendees a moment they want to share. In a world of social media the best compliment is when your attendees can’t wait to tell everyone where they are and what they are doing.


CanSPEP member Julia O’Grady is the president and owner of ITM Events, a corporate experience-building company. She can be reached at 613.223.5933;  The Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP) is a dynamic, diverse and innovative society of independent event professionals with a leading national voice in the event industry. It is the only association in Canada that offers an exclusive membership to independent event planner entrepreneurs. Formed in 1996, CanSPEP provides forums in which members exchange ideas, develop skills through educational programs and create a public awareness around the profession of event planners. 

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