A New Way of Doing Conferences?

A New Way of Doing Conferences?

by Hailey Chan

This past May, The Institute for Performance and Learning’s chair in Manitoba, Marie Antaya, spotted an opportunity for fellow performance and learning colleagues to stand out at a conference outside of a trade show setting. At Work Matters, a QNET conference about meaningful work, she and six other members from the chapter led a series of discussions around the Health and Wellness Theme.

Antaya reached out to QNET because it was “strategic,” as many prospect members and her colleagues attend the conference, which is focused on developing leaders.

“The feedback was excellent…93.3% of those who responded to our survey said they’d recommend the session – which is really high,” says QNET’s executive director, Trish Wainikka. “Most conferences like ours are looking for skilled speakers and facilitators; that’s what the Institute brings to the table – people who can comfortably be in front of a crowd, engage people, create interaction and share information.”

Four were certified and two are working towards their CTDP designation, which recognizes skills essential to the field of training and development. Wainikka says it’s because of these skills that Institute members add value “for conferences from all sectors”.

QNET - Manitoba Chapter

(l-r) Julene Toews Dewis, Vanessa Breland, Marie Antaya, Susan Portelance, Alison Crozier, Helen Dyrkacz, Dawna Atamanchuk from the Institute’s Manitoba chapter who headed up the trading post session

“Many groups are so narrowly focused on their sector that they miss out on some of these opportunities,” she adds. This one in particular was centered on health and wellness. The trading post session was a style of session in which participants explored different ideas from table to table, which is a style that can be done on any topic. “A facilitator, particularly who is certified, has the ability to facilitate discussions on any topic that could come up,” Wainikka says.

“We joked that people like to hear themselves talk (and that’s part of it),” she says. “A good facilitator allows the views to come from the floor, people to share their ideas.” Antaya believes that more conferences need to move towards this, as her booth was flooded after an interactive keynote.

“We never get that. I think it’s because during the keynote, they got comfortable talking and engaging and it continued into the breaks,” she says. The keynote session was more of a training session than a keynote speech, which fit the tone and seamlessly merged into the trading post discussion on the psychological health standards.

“It’s a way for us as a learning and development community to contribute to really enhance the conference experience,” Antaya says.

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