Archive for February, 2014

Top 10 Reasons Why we Love our Job

Posted on: February 24th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Martha Wallace, Residence & Conference Centre – Kitchener-Waterloo (located on Conestoga College Campus)
Susan MacKenzie, Wilfrid Laurier University Conference Services
Susanne Keppler, University of Waterloo – Conference Services

As we meet over lunch just after another snow-filled weekend, we decided as a group to come up with the top 10 reasons why we love our job in Canada; working within conference services at either a university or college campus.

Reason #1:
Friendly, Non-Competitive Relationships. We build relationships through CUCCOA and various organizations at different colleges/universities. CUCCOA plays a very important role in unifying this relationship and coordinating events throughout the year.

Reason #2:
Unique Facilities and Services. Each campus offers unique, specialized and leading-edge facilities and services. What hotel has a theatre, large gymnasium and restaurant all within the same location?

Reason #3:
Campus Culture.  There is a camaraderie that is formed with students, staff and faculty.  It is a young atmosphere with students always willing to provide a new perspective or modernized way. There is always something we don’t know and can learn from!

Reason #4:
Work that Matters.  We are part of something larger that makes a difference throughout the institutions, the community and the region. We are surrounded by living, connecting, learning and growing.  Student development works well in this environment, as we open doors for future employees by offering students placements, co-op and/or related work experience.

Reason #5:
A Flexible, Understanding and Cooperative Working Atmosphere. We have a strong team that cares about the vision and overall success of the operation. 

Reason #6:
No Two Days are the Same.  From quilting, academic, and religious groups, to a cycling tour, every day brings new opportunities to the business.

Reason #7:
PD is Encouraged. We are always developing new skills with courses available through our institutions and associations such as CUCCOA, MPI, etc. Current technology trends with Ecommerce, social media and online booking agencies are ongoing.

Reason #8:
Problem Solving and Thinking Outside the Box.  We do what we can to accommodate our clients with limited resources available. There are always challenges related to facilities, renovations and campus construction, staffing, etc. and each problem requires creative solutions to ensure guest satisfaction.

Reason #9:
Seasonal Operation.  The curtains open at the end of April and close at the beginning of September.  As campus resources are limited throughout the year there is less focus on coordinating during the academic season.

Reason #10:
Job Opportunities. There are always new opportunities both within our institution and our association communities that open up throughout the year. The skills that we develop as conference professionals are transferrable to departments both on and off campus.  Growth and expansion on college and university campuses will offer opportunities to experience new career challenges.

Martha Wallace, Residence & Conference Centre – Kitchener-Waterloo (located on Conestoga College Campus); Email:; Tel: 519-895-2272 x713
Susan MacKenzie, Wilfrid Laurier University Conference Services;; Tel: 519-884-0710 x3958
Susanne Keppler, University of Waterloo – Conference Services; Email:; Tel: 519-888-4567

Classroom Management & Conference Planning

Posted on: February 17th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Leah Wotherspoon, Special Events Assistant, Meetings & Special Events, University of Calgary

Managing non-academic classroom bookings on campus has its share of challenges at the best of times, but as the academic off-season approaches, preparation for the flurry of spring and summer activities is in full-swing.

A university has a wide variety of priorities, and sometimes these priorities end up competing with one another for the finite resources that the campus has to offer. Once the winter session ends, the conference season begins. It is important to try to strategize space utilization for the conference season in order to be able to not only provide the best possible experience for the conference organizers, but also to be able to prevent turning conference clients away and to honor agreements that are made well in advance.

One of the big challenges with managing space for conferences is that conference planning begins quite far ahead, but the academic schedules are not finalized until enrollment for the courses is closed. Even though there are few course offerings in the Spring and Summer, there is still a chance that academic class scheduling can throw a wrench in even the best conference planning.

This year, I am trying to plan ahead for the potential pitfalls of room booking, by coming up with multiple room configurations, in partnership with our conference planner, in order to try to avoid last minute scrambling caused by unanticipated academic schedule changes or even the necessary-but-dreaded room closures due to renovations or upgrades.

In all of this, communication, thinking ahead, and flexibility are all key to successfully managing the conference season, as well as the summer schools and summer camps that dominate campus during the spring and summer.
What are some of your strategies for managing space during conference season?

Leah Wotherspoon, Special Events Assistant, Meetings & Special Events, University of Calgary
Telephone: 403-220-6229

On-Line Reviews

Posted on: February 12th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: David Carroll, Sales Manager-RCC at Sheridan Brampton and Oakville, ON

In this day and age of web travel, an on-line review can be the difference of a group staying with you or the property down the street.

As we all know, sometimes the reviews may not be accurate, and/or over exaggerated…but regardless, a negative review should have the same priority and positive feedback that a good review would get.

With the big three, Trip Advisor, Expedia and, you must stay on top of them and always respond to each review.  If the review is negative, thank them for it and (if the review is correct) let them know you are constantly working to improve and give your office number to call.  Do the same with a positive review.  Reply, thank and welcome them back next season.  Another good idea is to have your guests write a review for you while they are in house for a contest or similar.  This way you can add to your rating scale on the sites and if something is wrong you can take care of it at the property level right away.

To be as open and honest as well as approachable is the best way to get through the property review process.  Let them know who you are and what you offer, don’t over promise what you may not be able to deliver and always blow them away with customer service. To give you an idea of just how well this can work, our Residence & Conference Centre in Oshawa received last year the award for the Highest Overall Customer Satisfaction Rating for 2012.

As Hotel rates are still very competitive with our rates in most demographics, we must add Value above discounts to win the game….and part of that Value is responses to every review you receive.

If you do not have your property registered to these sites, you should.  It can create awareness and business at no extra cost. 

Good luck this summer and here’s to great reviews!!

David Carroll, Sales Manager-RCC at Sheridan Brampton and Oakville, ON
Telephone: 905-815-4150 ext. 77653

January a Perfect Time to Devote to Business Development

Posted on: February 3rd, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Erin Walton, Manager, Conference and Event Services, MacEwan University

For some of you, January can be a quiet season in the office if you only have conference space during the summer months.  This is precious time you can be devoting to business development, service enhancement and diversification. 

Have you been thinking about adding Online Registration to your service model for years now?  Speaking from experience, it can be quite a successful way to grow your business.  We use a combination of Constant Contact and Cvent products to deliver online registration services to our clients. Here are some of the ways we have incorporated it here at MacEwan University:

*RSVP tracking – when collecting revenue isn’t required, we use Constant Contact (~$34 per month for unlimited events) to track rsvps.  Some events that take advantage of this service are Convocation Lunch & Dinner, Employee Christmas Party.  Internal clients love this because it makes it so easy to rsvp!  We also use Cvent for event rsvp’s that require more sophisticated programming (ie waitlists, multiple sessions etc).  For example, we provide the registration in all programs offered by the Centre for Advancement of Faculty Excellence throughout the year (approximately 65 annually).   We also use this system for MacEwan University’s Organizational Development Day. There are no fees associated with this event but multiple concurrent sessions where waitlists are required.

*Conference Registration – where internal or external clients need to register for a conference/event where fees apply, we use Cvent (~$5 per registration based on the volume we purchase).  It has been cleared through ITS in terms of Certificates of Compliance and the secure paypal account makes it easy to reconcile with Finance post-event.

*Accommodation Reservations – here at MacEwan University we don’t currently offer online room reservations for our overnight guests.  To facilitate this with our clients that want a one-stop shop for their conference needs, we are incorporating some questions into the online site to capture their accommodation needs, then contacting them directly to confirm their reservation.  It isn’t entirely automated, but it makes the client feel like it is.

So, if things are a little slower for your department at this time of year, why not consider adding online registration services to your service menu?  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities for application for both your internal and external clients.  We’ve even offered this service to clients that aren’t meeting on our campus – because it’s all web based and doesn’t require any software it can be done virtually from anywhere.   Since adding online registration to our service menu in 2007, we have registered over 9000 delegates at 72 events.  Cha-ching!


Erin Walton, Manager, Conference and Event Services, MacEwan University
Telephone: 780-497-5038

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