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Spotlight on Meetings and Conventions

Give your industry a jolt with a first-time event

Credit: PEPS

It takes gumption and gusto to organize an industry’s first-ever event that covers a specific topic. The challenge is not only to bring together compelling content and guest speakers but also build the event’s credibility with influencers, potential attendees and sponsors as well as find innovative ways to boost registration levels.

Guylaine Demers

The team Québec City Business Destination was intrigued when we met with Guylaine Demers, Ph.D and Director of Université Laval’s Bachelor’s Degree program in Sports Intervention. As a highly esteemed Canadian expert on women and sports, she spearheaded and helped organize one of the industry’s first ever conferences on women and girls in sports, Conversation 2015, which was held in June 2015 in Québec City and welcomed over 200 delegates from around the world. Here’s her story on how she pulled off a successful event, with Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club, despite being a novice planner.

Conversation 2015 in Québec City

“The idea to hold a conference came to me as I was co-authoring a book on the 50 years of women and sports in Canada. As I was doing my research, I was astounded to realize that not much had changed since the 1970s. Women and girls still very much face discrimination and intimidation in sports,” explained Ms. Demers. “I shared my concerns with former Canadian Olympic athletes, Penny Werthner, now Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, and Marion Lay, now President at Think Sport Ltd. In Vancouver. The three of us were actively involved for years in addressing the challenges faced by girls and women in sport and physical activity. We just knew we had to do something.”

And the idea for Conversation 2015 was born.

“We wanted to create an event that would truly foster a conversation between delegates in order to find real solutions to the issues women and girls face in sports,” said Ms. Demers. “It was quite a challenge as none of us had experience in planning a large-scale event and we had to build the conference from the ground up.” Thanks to the help of the Québec City Ambassadors’ Club, which assists different industries in organizing major international events and conferences in Québec City, Ms. Demers and her colleagues were able to flawlessly plan the event. In addition, major organizations, such as the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, the Council of Europe, came on board as partners of the event.

Conversation 2015 : Femmes et sport à Québec

From June 9 - 12, Québec City played host to Conversation 2015. Hundreds of women and men from as far away as Japan, Finland, England, Turks & Caicos and the United States attended the conference to exchange on how to better the experience of girls and women in the Canadian sport system. “I was amazed at how popular the event was and how quickly stakeholders in the industry were galvanized to participate in the discussion,” said Ms. Demers. The event was so popular that a second edition is planned in 2018.

And the ripple effect of Conversation 2015 continued way after the end of the event. Conference speaker Ms. Marja Ruotanen, Director of Human Dignity and Equality at the Council of Europe’s Directorate General of Democracy, invited Ms. Demers in December 2015 to Strasbourg to give a talk on homophobia in sports. Then, in March 2016, she participated in a panel on discrimination organized during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

What are Ms. Demers’ suggestions for initiating an entirely new event in your industry. “I think there are two main factors that contributed to our success,” she said. “First, leave things to professionals. Surround yourself with event experts who can help you with your strategy, planning and logistics. And second, never underestimate the power of marketing both the event and its location. You’ll be amazed at how your promotional efforts will greatly increase your event’s overall success.”

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