Friday, June 3, 2016
When Richard Desjardins, Manager of Eng. Wood Product Manufacturing at FPInnovations at the time, submitted Québec City’s application to host the World Conference on Timber Engineering (WCTE) in 2014, he wanted to show all his colleagues—from Vienna to Seoul, what we Quebeckers are capable of!
As president of WCTE 2014, which was to be held at the Québec City Convention Centre from August 10 to 14, 2014, Mr. Desjardins had one tremendous challenge in front of him: impress over 900 delegates from 42 countries around the world—and respect an impressive budget of $800 000. No small feat!
The World Conference on Timber Engineering is the most prestigious international event in timber engineering, engineered wood products and design of timber structures, which is held biennially in different parts of the world and attracts researchers, engineers and architects, code consultants and building officials, contractors and project managers, fabricators and suppliers from all continents.
"Our event partners and suppliers did everything they could to make planning the conference as easy and seamless as possible."
A breath of fresh air
“For 25 years, the WCTE conference was held in more traditional locations that were natural fits for the forestry industry,” he explained, referring to the ‘usual suspects’ of Vancouver, Japan, New Zealand, Austria, Germany and northern Italy. “There was a huge gap in the east coast North American representation of the forest sector. We decided to take centre stage and suggest Québec City for the 2014 conference.”
Why Québec City? Sure, it’s a beautiful city. But for Richard Desjardins, there were three main reasons to submit Québec City for the conference. The first: the need to remind delegates of the fundamental role the wood industry plays in the global economy, especially since Québec City was founded over 400 years ago.
“We also wanted to show attendees where we work on a daily basis as well as the close collaboration between host partners—the Université Laval (Faculty of Forestry), different levels of government, and the people working in the industry,” Mr. Desjardins said. And the third reason? “We wanted to welcome delegates in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site that was the cradle of French civilization in North America. We didn’t want to hold the conference is some mundane and boring industrial park,” he added.
A high-calibre, international event
Delegates who attend the WCTE are most interested in the quality of the scientific research and information presented at the conference. However, according to Mr. Desjardins, an event’s location can have significant impact on the true number of attendees who participate. “At the end of the 2012 conference, we revealed that the next event would take place in Québec City in 2014.
Representatives from Québec City Tourism presented the destination and immediately notice the buzz around the location.” All of a sudden, the registrations, which at first hovered around 400 to 500 people, skyrocketed to 900. “Of course, the Forest Product Society was holding its annual meeting in Québec City at the same time. But I firmly believe that we raised the bar threefold,” laughed Mr. Desjardins, who was somewhat concerned for the event planners of the conference in Vienna (2016) and Seoul (2018).
The WOW factor
And what did the delegates think after all? “They absolutely adore our Latin temperament and the fact that Québec City is immersed in French culture. They were all impressed by just how safe the city is. But what completely blew them away was the quality of the food and flawless organization by the Québec City Convention Centre,” he added. “Our event partners and suppliers did everything they could to make planning the conference as easy and seamless as possible. We were able to concentrate more on the conference’s subject matter, promoting the event, and ensuring everything surrounding the event went smoothly.” For Richard Desjardins, Québec City is, without a doubt, in the major leagues when it comes to playing host to major international events.