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What happens when you go out on a limb… And create a whole NEW event?

By on July 21, 2014

 The following is a staff interview with Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist at Greenfield Services Inc., a business development and market research firm dedicated to the meetings industry and professional/trade associations.


We hear you’re planning a new event aimed at the non-profit/association sector.  Tell us more.

The event is called The Engaging Associations Summit.  It’ll be held in Ottawa July 24-25 at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

It was created out of the need we heard amongst association executives for a forum to discuss the challenges they are encountering about member engagement, the impact on revenues, and even the very survival of their organizations.  We told us they want to learn from their peers, not just listen to professional speakers or consultants.  We’ll have a number of association expert speakers, but the emphasis will be on dialogue about “road-tested” solutions, not just lectures and theory.

Our research also told us people don’t have a lot of time to be out of the office – so the event is just a day and a half.  Yes it’s in the summer, but that’s usually when things slow down a bit a people can afford to take a bit of time to think strategically.


What’s going to be so different about the event?

For starters it’s not a “usual” venue – it’s in an exhibit room at a museum!  We’re working with two outstanding partners in Lou Lou Lounge Furniture Rentals and AV Canada, to create a fresh environment with three distinct meeting formats – The Business Exchange, The Creative Lounge, and The Café – that we hope will maximize interaction and the overall learning experience.

With the help of our co-organizers, SmarterShift and sensov event marketing, we’re also going out of our way to create content and means to engage participants before, during and after the event, especially with social media.


What challenges have you encountered thus far?

Well naturally creating something new is bound to create waves at times.  Some think we’re trying to compete with established events or organization, which is not our objective at all.  MPI, CSAE, PCMA… all the industry associations need to share here, because the future of associations is at stake!  We’re very fortunate that Sherrif Karamat, CAE, MBA, the Chief Operating Officer of PCMA (the Professional Convention Management Association) is going to be one of our speakers.

And when you’re trying to do things differently, you have to sweat every little detail, from: if we have hors d’oeuvres passed around at the reception, doesn’t that interrupt the flow of a conversation?  Isn’t better to have stations? All the way to: how can we ensure that every single attendee gets the maximum value for their registration?

Then there’s the pressure of organizing an event for people who organize events and go to tons of conferences!


Anything else you’d like to share?

Interested association executives can check out for more information, but I’d really like to plug our Young Professionals Scholarship program… Association executives under age 30 can apply to attend for free, sponsored by Travel Alberta!  We think this is going to be a great way to engage all generations in a great conversation about how associations can grow and prosper now and in the future.


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