We are thrilled to shine the spotlight on Robin Paisley, the general manager of IncentiveWorks, Canada’s largest event for professionals who plan, organize or influence meetings and events, spearheaded by Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine:
Why did you choose your career and how did you break into the industry or land your current job?
Whereas many planners ‘fall into’ the industry during the course of their career, I did so in school. I started in a Hospitality and Tourism program. Mid-way through my schooling I was lucky enough to have a teacher named Ted Wykes who challenged us with a Convention Management course. I was immediately hooked on the concept of planning, logistics, strategy and the idea of being that key person who puts all the pieces together to build success.
What is your best advice for other event planners, based on your career experience so far?
Take every opportunity you can get. Be it education, introductions or business. I have been amazed at how many doors have opened for me as a result of being open to opportunity.
What advice do you have for speakers?
Engage. Get as deep and as personal with event attendees as your topic will allow. The more you can reach an audience on a personal level, the more likely they will be to not only absorb your topic, but act on it. Be willing to customize and adapt content for the audience. It is the key to getting deeper engagement.
What themes do you see arising in your industry when you book speakers today? Innovation? The importance of social media?
There is one theme I am seeing in meetings and events industry that I find rather fascinating. It is surrounding the future of meetings. What will face-to-face meetings look like in the future? Will there be more hybrid meetings? Will we see more local versus national or international meetings? How will technology play into content and delivery of meetings? The evolution of society as a whole, how they interact and want to interact will have a huge impact on our industry. How do we prepare for that next evolution?
Did you ever have a crazy challenge come up while planning an event? What was it and how did you deal with it?
Absolutely. I think every planner has at least a few in their career. In 2003, a major power outage hit the Northeast USA and Southern Ontario on what was the afternoon preceding our last business day in the office before our largest event of the year. Thousands of attendees and exhibitors would be coming into Toronto in the coming days to join us. Convinced the power outage was temporary, we worked until we ran out of daylight and pledged to return to the office the next day. However, the city was still virtually closed. All of our goods and gear to run the event were on the seventh floor of our office building. With over 150 boxes and crates to be moved, the stairs were not an option. We negotiated with our security team to assist us in using the emergency elevators to get the essential items out and then spent the day on the phone assuring everyone the event would run as scheduled. The power eventually came back and everything went as planned. However those last hours of getting out the door as they say, will be remembered by our team for a lifetime.
Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?
In 2009, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It was suggested that I contact the Geneva Centre for Autism. The team at Geneva was amazing to us. They really helped me to understand what an Asperger’s diagnosis meant. They provided resources, education, guidance and support to assist my family with establishing our new “way of living.” When my son was five years old, he and I decided to run the Scotiabank Marathon’s Charity Challenge to raise awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome. 2013 will be our fourth year running and we now have a race team that includes my daughter, boyfriend, sister and nephew too. It’s turned into a yearly tradition, and a way to give back to the team at Geneva that had such a positive impact on my family.
Desert island album?
Boston’s Boston album.
Best subject in school?
Last book you read?
I am in the middle of reading Scott Stratten’s The Book of Business Awesome
Last film you saw?
Perks of Being a Wallflower
After one of your big events is done, what do you do? Celebrate in style? Take a break to relax? Go straight to the next project?
After IncentiveWorks, which is my biggest event of the year, I go into hiding for two weeks. I shut off all devices and access to the outside world. I head out of town to the cottage and spend lazy days with my family. There’s nothing better than that!