Conference Planning: Not for the Weak

November 28, 2013

The days were still long and humid when I first sat down to plan out the idea of Canada’s first fashion and beauty conference in Toronto. My first call was to Anjali, our content and programming Director, who sat down and listened to me without judgement. I was scared. I tend to get these crazy ideas in my head, and recruit people who I think would be great.

Sometimes these ideas tend to be bigger than I first imagine. That was exactly the case with Spark Sessions. 

 

Spark sessions, fashion and beauty conference

The best way to break down the conference is by the numbers:

  • 4 Months of Planning
  • 8 Team Members
  • 2 Day Conference
  • 21 Speakers including 2 amazing Keynote Speakers
  • 15 Volunteers
  • 174 Attendees
  • 17 Total Sponsors
  • 8 Million Impressions
  • #1 Twitter Trend in Canada
  • #1 Twitter Trend in Toronto
  • 3000+ Tweets

 It took place at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto on Nov 16th and 17th.    At first glance, you would think that the numbers above tell the entire story, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The weekend was full of inspiration, learning, and bonding. While there are tons of blogging conferences that take place in Toronto, there isn’t one that focuses on fashion and beauty. And let’s face it, Toronto is ready for one.

 

Search #Sparksessions on Twitter and you will find tons of recaps. That is not what I wanted to do here. Sure, I attended the same conference as everyone else, but my experience was different than everyone else’s. I saw people so engrossed in what they were learning that they forgot to tweet or look on to Facebook. I saw new friendships being forged. I saw a room for of eager bloggers/content creators ask question after question from every panel.

There is something unnerving about hosting an event for 175 people who have blogs. One small misstep and it’s posted everywhere. Luckily, we were clear of any missteps. This was not by chance. We looked at every possible option and chose to go with the one that made sense for our audience. We held off publishing our agenda for as long as we could to make sure that our content aligned with the people who had purchased tickets. We researched every blog to get an understanding of their blogger levels.

Did we have hiccups? Of course. All pilot projects do. Are going to make sure that it doesn’t happen again? YES. One of the biggest things that we wanted to leave the audience was that while beauty and fashion blogging has a reputation of vanity, that’s not how we should be judged. We tried to infuse the conference with as much as of a charitable vibe as we could. We donated money to Red Cross on behalf of our Speakers (instead of a Speaker gift), our venue was a non profit space, and we donated whatever we could to the food bank.

Our goal was to subtly  remind our attendees that there are bigger things to worry about out there, but wanting to integrate both in their everyday lives is not that hard.

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What’s next? Well, we’re gathering feedback, scheduling our debrief, and planning our next year out.  It’s been decided that we will be doing another one, but everything else if up to the audience to decide.  

 

 

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