As I sit on my balcony writing this article about the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Canadian Region meeting, I just heard a team of rowers go by yelling, ”Stroke!” How appropriate. My mind immediately jumps back to our closing keynote speaker, three-time Olympic medalist Marnie McBean. Through an inspirational, very personal, and humorous keynote, McBean reminded us that we can achieve great things one step at a time. I was reminded why I volunteer and attend the FICP meetings each year—to learn, connect, and be inspired to do more.

Nearly 110 meeting planners and hospitality partners from across Canada and the U.S. gathered at the Marriott Gateway on the Falls in Niagara Falls, Ont., August 23–25 for the 2012 FICP Canadian Region Meeting. The hotel’s recent $15 million renovation was evident in the contemporary lobby space, and the view over the Falls was priceless.

The conference began with a give-back activity to support the local community. Project Share, an organization that provides support, housing, awareness, resources, and emergency assistance to residents of Niagara Falls who are living at or below the poverty line, collected monetary donations, food items, toys, and gifts for their holiday program. Just as attendees were preparing for the next several days, it was an opportune time for everyone to reflect and to give back.

Later that morning, Doug Keeley, author of The Mark of a Leader—Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People who have done Extraordinary Things, kicked off the education portion of the event with stories of leadership. One of Keeley’s key takeaways was that as leaders, we need to understand that humans operate on five levels: spirit, intellect, imagination, heart, and hand. We need to understand what captures the spirit and imagination, feed the mind, and inspire our teams to get involved.  

That afternoon, Anna Olson, a local Niagara celebrity chef, along with Marriott Gateway on the Falls Executive Chef Abraham Garcia, paired up to host a delicious lunch featuring local Niagara ingredients. Chef Olson educated the group on food and beverage trends and how to incorporate seasonal and local ingredients into meetings.

An education session from Trevor Roald, “mobile technology evangelist” at app-developer QuickMobile, provided greater understanding of how technology in the meetings and events space is evolving and how we can use mobile apps to connect, engage, and feed live information to our attendees. Roald not only provided us with an event hashtag, but actually supplied our very own meeting app

The final education session of the day from Dianna Booher, founder of Booher Consultants, provided practical examples of how to improve communication and executive presence. Attendees were reminded that great leaders facilitate discussion and are concise and comprehensive when communicating.

That evening, attendees were whisked off to the Sheraton on the Falls for a spectacular poolside party overlooking the Falls. Renowned Toronto Chef Massimo Capra provided an exceptional dinner reception while attendees mingled with colleagues. The evening was topped off with a dessert reception at R5’s martini and cocktail lounge at the Fallsview Casino. 

It was back to business the next day, with an entertaining and wickedly fun start from motivational speaker and comedian Jessica Holmes. Holmes kicked off the morning moderating a panel discussion on hotel trends. Next up were discussions on contract negotiations presented by Legal Counsel Ariana Haalboom of Sunlife Insurance, and risk management and RFPs with Sandy Biback from Imagination + Meeting Planners Inc. 

Later, attendees were treated to an unforgettable evening as Marriott Gateway on the Falls General Manager Gordon Chow and Chef Garcia hosted a superb winemaker’s dinner. Attendees were invited into the kitchen for a four-course dinner complemented by Peller Estate wines. The fresh ingredients, flavors, and perfectly prepared dishes were paired with delicious wines from the Niagara region. Chef Garcia and his entire team received an immediate standing ovation from the entire room. Afterward, attendees were treated to an exclusive party in the lobby bar, including dancing in front of the big bay windows overlooking the Falls and fireworks. Those who still had room enjoyed a beer-tasting paired with more delicacies from Chef Garcia’s team. 

Thank you to all the attendees and sponsors of this year’s event! We are all a part of FICP to connect, learn, and evolve and I’m proud to be a part of a group of people who constantly strive to be excellent meeting and industry professionals.