Soo, with some blog technical difficulties, and the chaos of the new site launch (heck yessssss, new site – this is not a drill), I am a bit behind the 8 ball.
And then the world threw a wrench into all of our lives, and our lives came to a halt. So, with some down time (*insert sad face here*) there is no excuse to get caught up on content for you guys. And on that note, let’s throw it back to a simpler time. A time where we could converge with our friends, meet new people, and really, just people.
#throwbackthursday — GO WEST
Meeting and event planners converged in Edmonton, AB once again in January, and thankfully, we missed the insane cold snap. Arlene and Brent and the entire team at Timewise put so much love into 2020, and it definitely showed. Association break outs for networking and a warm welcome reception on the first day; main stage and breakout sessions with those that were on the main stage on day 2; the experiential hall and more main stage educational events, followed by a casual closing reception.
All in 2.5 wonderful days!
I flew into Edmonton on Sunday January 19th to make sure that I was there in time to take advantage of everything that was being offered, over the course of the 2.5 days. I was still a bit bummed about being down and out for 2019, so I was here ready to partake in anything and everything.
On opening night, there were so many things happening. First, I headed to the Edmonton Convention Centre (ECC) to grab my badge and lanyard. At the Courtyard Marriott Downtown, we had MPI hosting a networking event for members and guests. After that, there was an ILEA networking event, once again open to members and event guests, which was held at the Doubletree by Hilton Edmonton Downtown. The private planner reception in the lobby bar of the Westin Edmonton – albeit I did stay in my room and get a little work done before the opening reception.
We all hopped in buses and headed over to the welcome reception, which was hosted by Chateau Lacombe and feasted on nibbles and cocktails, catching up with old friends, and meeting new friends. All of the networking receptions and opening reception, were well thought out, and showcased what GO WEST is really all about; connecting and learning. Food stations spread out so all are not crammed into one area, with a bar in the middle and high top tables spread throughout the room.
Time to get a little more work done, and then it was time to rest up as there was a jam packed Monday, right around the corner!
Day 2 – Let the learning begin!
Up and at’er bright and early (not really that early) to snag great seats, of your choosing, of course – bean bag, table, chair only or bleacher style seating – for the Main Stage learning sessions. We heard David Adler speaking about event organization; Lara McCulloch talk about becoming the only choice for your prospects; Miguel Neves on social media in events; Brent Barootes talk to us about sponsorships; Alex Plaxen chatting video content; Lisa Marks and Dustin Westling demonstrating value through process transparency; Dahlia El Gazzar chatting with us about event tech trends for 2020.
Full of knowledge, it was time to power up with some lunch, which is was hosted by Deerfoot Inn & Casino and instead of your standard conference lunch, we were greeted at the door with a card that had three coupons on it – one for a drink, one for a meal, and one for a dessert. The food stations were local food trucks – how wicked cool is that?! Picnic tables were setup throughout the space, making way for people to easily sit and chat with people they know, or people they didn’t quite know, or know at all – great lunch network opportunity.
The afternoon was full of breakout sessions, which were essentially smaller and more intimate groups with those from the main stage. So many cool breakout rooms, such as:
- The Darkroom
- The Classroom
- The Suite
- The Oasis
- The Playground
- The Gym
All of the breakout rooms were designed by FMAV and OneWest Event Design and they definitely nailed reinventing the breakout room! Check out this great video done by FMAV where Anthony Vade talks about their co-creation in breaking the breakout rooms.
Learnin’ done; socializing time!
Our brains are now full of knowledge so now it’s time to socialize and mingle; whether you want to chat business or pleasure, there’s no better place than the speakeasy! The Monday evening social event which was an area in the ECC which Arlene and Brent transformed a space into a speakeasy, where not a detail was missed. Scattered food stations (to keep people moving around, not being stagnant or creating pockets of volume) with wine pairings (spot on with the pairings might I add) and a bar in the middle. Whether you want to stand or sit, there’s a spot for you here. The atmosphere was so warm and inviting, and people were buzzin’! OK, and can we talk about the dessert bar? You could bang on the bark for your own piece, candy, doughnuts, churros and toppings, oh my! I just relived that sugar high, just by thinking about it. But that’s good …my sugar high carried me through to the next event …
Not ready to shut the party down? No problem! We headed on over to Craft Beer Market to join in on the MPI rendezvous. While this carries an additional ticket purchase, this is put back into the MPI community. The MPI Foundation fuels the growth and advancement of it’s members by providing development and career opportunities through grants and scholarships. Learn more about the MPI foundation here and more about becoming and MPI member here. Craft beer market made sure that the appies and the beers were flowing, and everyone was mingling and partaking in the silent auction. You always think you’re not going to stay late, and then BAM! It’s past your bed time. Oh well!
Every rendezvous event is open to anyone and everyone so if you’re ever at an event that has an MPI Rendezvous, make sure to snag a ticket; always a fun time!
Hold onto your hats, because we’re going to hit the ground running! The last day is always kicked off with the experiential hall, as opposed to the main stage. Now, the experiential hall never seems to disappoint, and this year was no exception.
From the life size Monopoly, to Jenga, to specialty cocktails and everything in between, interactions were high, which is exactly what Arlene and Brent want – interactions that help build relationships, or retain relationships. There’s no room for a standard booth at this event!
We started off our planning with wanting to offer a cocktail – something simple, easy, and blue – which we did, but close to the event, our cocktail evolved …but not the cocktail itself. We partnered with Indigo Circus on an interactive cocktail skirt! Safire was the perfect addition to our booth – she matched our fun personality and was a hit among attendees. And the cocktail itself? ‘Twas delicious – tasted like we all should’ve been on a beach soaking up the sun! Be sure to follow them on Instagram and reach out to them if you think you had an upcoming opportunity to work together. I would definitely work with them again – hands down!
Throughout the experiential hall were food stations, coffee stations, workshops, and hands on design stations. Chocolate workshops, a craft workshop, breakout learning in the GES learning lounge and you could even find Leeanne Calderwood and Alex Plaxen sharing their knowledge over at the PCMA Canada West booth.
Main Stage Afternoon
After 4 exhilarating hours at the experiential hall, back to the main stage at 1:30. Choose your seating preference, and settle in for some more keynotes that on this day consisted of: Dan Berger chatting predictions for the next decade; Panos Moutafis chatting facial analysis; Carina Bauer chatting sustainability; Errol Ahearn showing us various locations and how they used design for engagement; Claire Smith talking to us about engagement and having an audience based approach to help build your community; and David Merrell was back this year to top off the main stage where he chatted with us about industry trends. The speakers at GO WEST never cease to disappoint – knowledge is ever flowing and sparks creativity. They are always willing to mingle with attendees and have deeper conversations at the various network events throughout the conference.
Social Wrap Up
If you weren’t running to catch a flight, there was one last opportunity to speak with industry leaders, friends, prospects, or people you still hadn’t met, but wanted to. Nibbles and cocktails were provided, and you could tell that a lot of people used this as their farewell GO WEST 2020. It was a no pressure kind of closing reception – which is definitely my kind of gig – and still felt warm and inviting, even as people said their good byes.
Another year done.
And bam! Just as quick as the conference started, it was over. Arlene, Brent and the entire Timewise team did such an amazing job putting GO WEST 2020 together, and you can definitely tell that they pour their heart and soul into putting this event on for us every year.
We here at MyBadges, are huge supporters of GO WEST and we are so happy to see them succeed at putting on such an amazing event for event professionals. I’m sure they’re already hard at work with the creative juices flowing for GO WEST 2021, and we will definitely be back.
Were you at GO WEST 2020? Repeat attendee or first time? What was your favourite part of this event? And trust me, you don’t have to say that it was our cocktail 😉 If you weren’t there, we hope to see you at the next event. Stay tuned to GO WEST for updates on the next event. We have our fingers and toes crossed that we are all able to converge next year.
Stay safe and healthy!