On February 28, 2018, Jen, Stacey and Erika (hello!) made the trip to Hamilton, Ontario for the Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) annual conference.
It was our first time attending the FEO conference and in a nutshell – it was epic. We had a booth in the marketplace and found ourselves chatting with a fascinating array of vendors, including musicians, animal handlers, artists, fencing contractors and more! The nights were filled with live music, creative performances and a whole lot of fun.
Rolling home after the conference on a cloudy Saturday, we talked about what we learned from the conference.
1. HAVE A FUN BOOTH ACTIVATION
We borrowed Kina’s button maker and made an array of witty slogan buttons for our visitors. The idea? Delegates might find their “button buddy” in the crowd and have an instant ice breaker. The buttons were great conversation starters and guess what? Our logo was nowhere to be found! A brand is so much more than a logo – the spirit of the Haven Mavens is to help people connect and laugh.
2. HAMILTON IS A HAPPENING TOWN
It seems as though Hamilton is going through a bit of a renaissance. When the Mavens weren't busy conferencing, we were checking out local foodie hot spots. The art and music scene is also alive and bumping as was demonstrated at the welcome reception, hosted by Tourism Hamilton.
3. GO TO THE AFTERPARTY
Listen. I’m a homebody. I get it. Yet, I was texting my husband at 11:30pm telling him we were going out for the evening. What???
No matter how tired you might feel, the afterparty is where it’s at. This is where connections solidify into a shared experience. And you don’t want to miss out on that.
4. CANDY FOR THE CAR. SNACKS FOR THE BOOTH.
I especially appreciated that Jen stocked up at Bulk Barn before the road trip. Nothing makes a long drive go faster than fuzzy peaches and big feet. Or is that just me? Also, they make great fuel when gearing up for the afterparty.
It's also worth noting that working a booth is hungry work.
Jen, Stacey and I were all unable to break away and hit the lunch table during the conference and we were starving by 4:00 pm. We ducked out to Burrito Boyz for a satisfying snack but then missed out on dinner and cocktails. Next time, we’ll pack snacks for the booth to mitigate this problem!
5. MAKE FRIENDS
A conference is not the time to be shy. Get out there and introduce yourself to people! You never know who you’ll meet. Be honest and show genuine interest in the people you are talking to. We made such fantastic connections and now have a summer bucket list chock full of festivals and events. As well, Jen booked two musicians to perform at her wildly popular house concerts. Everybody wins!
6. SIT AT THE FUN TABLE
This is a tough one, because you’re taking your chances here. We experienced lots of conference kismet at FEO. We enjoyed the Thursday night showcase with delegates from the Ukrainian Festival, and at the Gala, we chatted the night away with delegates from the Hillside Festival and the Fergus Scottish Festival. Again, don’t be shy. The key is to start chatting and the fun will follow.
7. GO WITH THE FLOW
On Friday morning, we woke late after the first afterparty. After a restorative brunch at the John Street Diner, the Mavens were ready to work. We made a beeline for the hotel and fired up the laptops. Within minutes, the suite was buzzing with creative energy and we cranked out our social media posts and some new, exciting ideas.
8. BRING EXTRA BUSINESS CARDS
Is it just me, or is it every conference delegate’s worst nightmare to run out of business cards? Yet, it happens. So, pack extra. This also lets you be the hero when your newest contact discovers they are out of cards! If this happens, grab one of your cards and write their details on the back so you’ll be able to contact them when you’re back in the office.
9. FOLLOW UP & FOLLOW THROUGH
Across the aisle from our booth was an event promotions company that was interested in our button maker. I promised to follow up with information on where to buy it. First thing I did on Monday morning? Send a follow-up email with the info as promised.
As well, I made a stack of the cards we collected at the conference and emailed each new connection, one by one.
10. ONTARIO IS HOPPIN’
Ontario is home to hundreds of festivals and events to please every palate. Take a look at this year’s list of FEO’s top 100 to check out in 2018!