Canadian Western Bank National Leadership Conference

The mission, should we choose to accept it (which we did of course), was to guide a highly functioning but busy team to launch day for their national leadership conference. The dates were set, the theme chosen and some of the session topics approved. The ED team was tasked with managing the project timeline, the committee and developing engaging, creative digital content as well as custom packages to be delivered across the country. Oh, and the launch date (aka conference start) was only 4 weeks away.

The conference name was Fueling the Future and with the graphic design focused on space, rocket ships and astronauts our team put on our flight suits and worked long days in mission control. There is so much we could tell you about this event, and are happy to chat more sometime, but for today we’ll keep it to 3 things.

  1. Conference Packages
You’ve got to have some sustenance! And who doesn’t love cookies?!?

Creating a personal, interactive and engaging experience was key for CWB. The social aspect of this conference in past years when it was allowed in person was the highlight for many as they would only see colleagues from across the country at this one time.

When considering what to send attendees, we knew they would be expecting the traditional printed conference program, maybe a branded water bottle and a hotel branded pen and we definitely were NOT going to be doing that! Come on, who really wants another branded pen…

Some light hearted fun included in the package!

In keeping with the space theme, we created 3 separate packages for attendees to open at specific times which were written onto the package labels. When guests opened their package, they first saw a welcome to crew members message from Chris Fowler, CWB President & CEO and Mission Control (aka Tech Support) contact information.

Package 1: Pre-Flight Check

Package 2: Day 1- Ignite: We have Lift Off

Package 3: Day 2- Accelerate: Reaching Light Speed

2. Digital Assets & Production

Some of the digital assets created, in partnership with the talented crew at invert720 Productions, were a countdown video to start each conference day and a blast-off video to start sessions. Attendees were surprised from the moment the program started and knew this wasn’t just going to be another ‘Teams meeting’.

Still from the countdown video

We used invert720’s studio space where the designed LED wall matched the other design aspects of the digital event and the printed packages people received to bring a cohesive experience to guests.

Sr. AVP Kate Lister in front of the branded LED wall

Another impactful piece developed was a video compilation of CWB staff answering the same few questions. These questions related to the session topics and were used as intros to the sessions. The response from staff was great and we had many submitted videos for every question.

3. Guest Communications

We helped integrate the theme in written communications to guests leading up to the event. The attendees enjoyed the unique mission control messages they were receiving and it created anticipation and curiosity. Here are a couple examples:

  • Every successful astronaut needs to prepare for their mission. Usually this involves years of physical, mental and emotional training to be in the best-pre-flight shape for the stress of space travel. We’re not asking you to do this much pre-launch work; however; you will be receiving a few crucial items that contribute to the success of each astronaut. Click this link and provide your current, accurate, complete SHIPPING address to receive your pre-launch package in time.
  • Before each flight, many astronauts pre-record messages or write notes to friends and family to read while they are in space. We would like you to do the same! As part of your mental training for your upcoming mission aboard the CWB Rocketship, Mission Control would like you to choose 3 questions from the following list and record your answers on your smart phone. Then submit your recordings to Mission Control to create a special video.
  • This is your final system check before blast off. The deadline to register for the Fueling the Future Leadership Conference (mission!) is imminent. The ship’s systems have been double and triple checked; the fuel cells engaged and the team is moving towards the launch pad….will you be among them? If you haven’t registered, now is your last chance to complete the pre-flight information to receive crucial mission sensitive information. IF YOU DO NOT register before the deadline #TeamTeal will launch without you. You will be left, helmet in hand, staring wistfully into the stars imagining the fun your fellow astronauts will have had WITHOUT YOU!

Things we learnt that you might want to consider in planning your next event:

  1. Sending creative themed packages is great but keep in mind that you might not have all of your employee’s home addresses. Or if you do, it might be from 10+ years ago when they started with you and you will want to confirm shipping addresses as part of the registration process. This can take extra time but is worth it up front to ensure accuracy in your shipping.
  2. As with an in-person event, the guest experience starts BEFORE the event starts and it’s a great way to build anticipation and help tie your theme together from beginning to end
  3. Packaging 350 boxes, each with 3 different packages inside of them takes a lot of time and man power!
  4. Virtual events provide different opportunities for people to attend. Maybe in the past, your in-person event was only for a certain level (ex: Senior Leadership & Executive) and that was partially due to budget in flying people to one location. Now, you can consider having Managers and up and coming leaders join in virtually. This is great, but does add to the complexity of getting your invite list ready and approved.
  5. A space themed event is OUT OF THIS WORLD!

A&H Steel 50th Anniversary

A business’s 50th anniversary is a milestone worth pulling the red carpet out for! For A&H Steel, their 50th Anniversary celebration went virtual and was able to reach a number of people that would not have been able to attend an in-person celebration. Although moving to a virtual event wasn’t what the client originally had dreamed about, in the end it achieved all of their goals in recognizing the original founders, connecting current and past staff, clients and suppliers and looking forward to the next 50 years.  Read on to see what I think some of the benefits of a virtual event are.

The ED team had the pleasure of working with Glenise Harvey and the A&H family for their new building grand opening back in 2016. When Glenise reached out about needing help to celebrate this milestone we said YES immediately!

TO HYBRID OR NOT TO HYBRID, THAT WAS THE QUESTION.

When we first started the planning, we could have had an in-person event for 50 people and streamed the event virtually- that is a hybrid event. After lengthy discussion, it was decided to do the event virtually only. How could they choose which 50 people got to attend in person? Hybrid events are more expensive because you are doing 2 events instead of 1. What if the restrictions changed between now and then? At the end of the day, it was the right decision for the client, their guests and the circumstances we were in.

I could write a book about each event, it’s always so hard to pick only a couple things to note. Once again, here are just a few highlights of mine:

  1. THE EVENT DESIGN

Creating a theme and design that captures the character of the organization, their values and is unique to them is one of my favorite parts. We chose a classic chalk effect design and focused on A&H’s Raising the Bar tagline. They’ve been Raising the Bar for 50 Years in the Edmonton area!

A number of invitations were printed and mailed to some of the original staff and the rest were sent electronically. In addition to having a digital invite, we also had the invite animated into a short video. Yes! The bar was literally raised in the invitation! Call me a dork but these are the kind of things I get excited about.

We also wanted to capture the impact that A&H has had and is still having on the community and the industry. We created an infographic for them based on a number of stats about their organization and interesting things to know about the industry. This piece was intentionally designed to not reflect the event only, as this is a piece that A&H Steel can use for the next year or more to come. This can easily be included on their website, or put in proposals and much more.

  1. KEYNOTE SPEAKER

A core value of A&H’s is Happiness and it is inspired from the author Jennifer Moss’s book on Unlocking Happiness at Work. As a way to give back to the guests, in an especially challenging year, A&H chose to have Jennifer Moss present a keynote address to provide tangible tips and tools for people and to also inspire them on how to choose happiness and choose joy even when we are facing challenges.

The keynote was very well received by attendees and many guests joined her in the Meet the Speaker networking room following the main program where they could continue the conversation and A&H gave away a number of books.

  1. VIDEO MESSAGES

We wanted to capture elements of the past and present through different speakers and videos. Photos from over the years were collected and compiled with a heartfelt recorded message from one of the original founders. The comments were steadily coming in on the chat about people recognizing each other in the old photos.

Moving to the present, we worked with invert720 Productions to arrange a video shoot with the current owners. The end result was authentic, informative, engaging and, of course, entertaining! It hit the mark on event day when people became emotional at different parts and enjoyed the humour and banter between Glenise & Craig.

Lastly, as a way to engage the staff and tie into the Happiness theme, we asked staff to submit a video of them completing the sentence: Happiness is…..

We were overwhelmed with the number of responses and had to have a short version for the event and a full version that was shared afterwards.

BENEFITS OF A VIRTUAL EVENT

  1. Your invite and attendee list can be infinite
  2. Your stakeholders that live in different provinces can still attend online. For A&H, this meant their BC team could be a part of the celebration
  3. If people cannot attend due to a date or time conflict, they can still watch the recorded event after
  4. In creating different media assets for the virtual event, you have content that can be reused on your website, for social media, newsletters, annual reports, etc.

Surprise, Epiphanies!

It’s into our third week of the Stock vs. Reality Challenge and let me tell you, I was NOT expecting an epiphany to come out of this challenge for me. I was expecting a few ‘real life’ action shots, some laughs at our collective reality and maybe learning to use the camera timer on my phone; but not an epiphany.

But isn’t that when epiphanies show up? When we’re least expecting them? Like when some out of town relative who is rarely seen or heard from drops by for a visit (pre-pandemic of course!) and I feel the need to whip up a fancy lunch and serve the ‘good’ pop. So what have been my epiphanies with this challenge so far?

  1. I don’t want to share my reality… at least not without an explanation. For each of the last two weeks I feel a dread in the pit of my stomach when it’s time to share my ‘reality’ theme picture. My reality needs words and explanation damnit! The first image I wanted to explain why my office was in such a bare-walled state of disarray. The second image was even worse! Why is my workout picture doing squats at my desk? My reality needs to be explained and justified because I’m afraid of being judged. Heck I JUDGE my own reality! But here’s the epiphany – letting go of my need to explain the image, has helped me let go of my fear of being judged. In marketing we often want to control how the message is received as well as when, where and how the message is delivered. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to control the receiver’s response to the message. In the stock vs. reality case – some people will inevitably judge our sweaty, red faced post-workout pics, or our messy, stand up in the kitchen dinner but that’s not for us to control. This challenge has been a reminder that letting go of the fight to control or explain is good for me.  
  1. Sharing our reality takes courage  – and there are a lot of brave souls who’ve joined us on this adventure. Being who I really am is an ongoing struggle and I am committed to continuing to show up to the battleground daily. The battleground is where I choose to  be conscious of when I’m preparing myself for judgement or wearing my armour as Brene Brown calls it. What does this have to do with marketing or events? In order to truly see, appreciate and execute the needs and desires of our clients, I need to see my own self, my own reality,my own vulnerability, my own needs. By knowing how I feel about something, I’m better able to translate my client’s reality and articulate their vision. 

Moving into this week’s meal image challenge I again brace for judgement, but with a new understanding of the reasons behind that fear. Meals with a toddler….what needs to be explained? Ha. I look forward to seeing your submissions on our social channels too and thanks for playing along. 

Prize Announcement – Outdoor Mini Photo Session for 6!

You may have been wondering what’s in it for you to play along with our challenge? Well we have partnered with a fabulous local photographer, Linda Purnell, to provide an outdoor mini session for up to 6 people in the Edmonton area. Check her work out on Instagram and get ready to post this week’s image! 

Prize Fine Print: Winner will be announced May 3, 2021 on the ED social media channels. Photo session must be booked directly with Linda and used by April 31, 2022.  Any location within 15 km radius of Edmonton, must be outdoors. Up to 6 people.  At least 10 processed image files supplied (high and low res of each). No Cash Value. Winner will have 1 week to reply and confirm with ED Marketing and provide their contact information, otherwise a new winner will be drawn.

All Weather Windows Sales Awards Gala

We get it, special events are nice to have, not the need to have and are typically the first thing to get cut when challenging times face an organization. In the hierarchy of business needs, events wouldn’t even make the top 10 for most organizations.

It’s because of this reality that we appreciate organizations like All Weather Windows that still take the time to host an annual Awards Gala for their sales team. This year’s awards gala was done virtually and although people said they wished they could have been together in person, many people commented that they were proud and happy to see the organization still host the event!

The All Weather Windows team has been doing this annual event for a long time and is a highly functioning and efficient team. With only 3 weeks from ED joining the team to event day, we assisted with the virtual world insights on how to produce an awards gala. What’s the best part of an awards gala? The live reaction of the winner of course! There are many ways to capture the reaction and what was best for this team and their event was to have fake meetings scheduled with the winners that the leadership then hijacked and shared the big news. Those meetings were recorded and highlight reels were created to share during the awards program.

This event was 100% pre-recorded and produced in advance of the event, which pushed the planning and timeline up even more. The in-studio recordings were done 1 week in advance and the rest of the content came together just in time to preview the entire show the day before. Having the event fully pre-recorded was partially a decision based on health and safety of their staff during COVID and also it allowed the MC and other speakers to fully engage with attendees in the chat and networking rooms during the event.

I had the opportunity to move around the networking rooms before and after the awards presentations and the energy around meeting new team members, seeing colleagues from across the country and celebrating the award winners was an honour to see. The team is committed, resilient and as their mantra has been, they are ‘All In’!  Congratulations to all of the winners.

Stock vs. Reality

While working on ED’s website, our team had an enthusiastic discussion about whether or not to use stock photos or ‘custom’ photos on the site. I mean we all have a phone with a camera, how hard could it be to take a few ‘true to life’ photos for the website? Can’t be that hard. 

Turns out it’s not that hard (HA!), but we liked stock images better – mostly. 

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Who doesn’t have 2 large bowls of fruit in their kitchen? Tell me, where’s the dirty dishes in the sink? The mess on the counters? The screaming kids yelling that they want apple juice, not orange juice? This does not look like my house at all!

Stock images have been used in marketing materials since the 1920’s and are mostly fictionalized versions of real or ‘real-ish’ situations meant to circumvent paying a photographer to build or create a true-life shoot to capture an actual situation. Instead of paying a photographer thousands of dollars to build that specific product shot or commercial office tableau, we marketers often choose to pay a few dollars per picture that captures ‘close enough to reality’ to work in a particular design. The irony is that often there is very little ‘reality’ in stock photography. A quick search of ‘parenting’ on popular stock photography sites will show the stark contrast between the reality that parents know to be true and the clean, mess-less, highly staged, slightly unfocused stock photos of calm, polished parents and their pristine children. 

BUT the conversation around stock vs. reality inspired a powerful discussion about the reality of our lives; the messy, beautiful, productive, loving chaos in which we live and work. We had a good laugh around the idea of a stock vs. reality photo series on our blog and social media. When the laughter died, in true Erin-stir-the-pot style, I said let’s do it. The silence on the Google meeting was stark. *cough* “Um. You want me to take a picture of my ACTUAL desk?”

The vulnerability of showing our true spaces and faces is terrifying. We are a team of very different, highly accomplished, driven women. We each wear approximately 100 hats EACH, on any given day. That’s a lot of hats, and they’re everywhere, well at least mine are. Why in the world do I want to bare my shit show of a soul to everyone!?

Here’s the deal though, we’re bad asses. No really. I didn’t say we’re perfect. I didn’t say we’re not business blouses on the top, fuzzy pants and animal slippers on the bottom. I said we’re bad asses. We are dedicated, driven, passionate and REAL. The REAL in us is what we love about each other and what we want our clients to see and appreciate in us. 

Are you ready to get real with us?

April Stock vs. Reality Challenge

Each week in April, we’re going to share a stock photo on social media. It might be work or life related –  ‘home office’,  ‘bosses’, ‘healthy lifestyles’. Each Tuesday we’ll share the stock photo and pair it with a shot of our reality and we invite you to join us. At the end of the month we’re going to do a draw for a prize from the names of those who participated. More details on the prize to follow shortly!

Rules of Engagement:

  • Be nice. Reality is ducking vulnerable. Don’t be jerks. If your reality is being a jerk just keep scrolling
  • Share 1 reality photo for each week’s stock photo as a comment or tag (Instagram) on the social media post for that week. Social media posts will be on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. 
  • 1 entry allowed per person per weekly photo shared. But if you share your photo on all 3 social media platforms, you can get 3 entries!
  • Contest closes April 30th, 2021. The winner will be announced on May 3, 2021 by random draw. 
  • Disclaimer: your submitted photos will not be saved, used or shared by us for any reason. This contest is not sponsored or administered by any of the social media channels. Sharing the post is not required for an entry. (But we’d certainly appreciate if you do share!)

As usual I’m kicking myself a bit for my big mouth, but I’m committed to the outcome. There’s enough ‘stock’ in this world. Let’s get real.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
Why are some stock photos so weird?

The Fath Group – 2020 Years of Service Awards

WRITTEN BY KELSEY WILLIAMS | JANUARY 2021

A long-standing career with the same organization has become rare and the average length of time someone stays is 4-5 years. We’ve had the pleasure of working with The Fath Group for close to 10 years and we have always admired their support and appreciation of their staff.

Annually they host a Years of Service Awards event and every year they have people being recognized for 25, 30, and 35 years! This is a high impact and important event for the team, their culture and the staff being recognized.

There are a number of simple touches that make this event special. The invitations are personalized with staff names and award recipients receive a unique stamp on their invite showing that they are an honoured guest this year. At the event, award recipients are recognized one by one by the owners of the company and are presented with a plaque and gift certificate based on their number of years of service. Recognition starts at 10 years and goes up in 5 year increments. Photos are taken with management and the owners and everyone gets in on the cheering and congratulations for their fellow colleagues. 

You would think that working with people for this many years you would know everything about them, but we try and have a little fun with an interactive trivia game during the program where guests use their phone to vote on which award recipient matches the trivia fact. The best trivia facts are the most obscure things that their colleagues might never know about them and it makes for great conversation starters at the tables during the meal.

Although this event is a short 1.5-hour luncheon, the focus is on the guests of honour and sharing in their success. Not all events need to be grand productions with large budgets and lengthy programs.  Find what is of most value to your employees and recognize them in a way that is meaningful to them. That’s a successful event.

Canadian Western Bank HR & Corporate Communications

Surprise Appreciation Event 2021

Theme: Yearbook 2020

Many people say there are few surprises in life but we are happy to share that the majority of the Canadian Western Bank HR & Corporate Communications team was truly surprised when they joined what they thought was their regular weekly team meeting.

As you can imagine, working in HR & Communications during a pandemic was especially challenging. This CWB team worked tirelessly to make sure everyone was supported and had what they needed to succeed. With the emphasis always being on taking care of other people, the leadership team wanted to ensure their staff knew how vital their work is and how much the organization appreciates them.

A surprise event is always a nice change from doing the typical invite list, invitations and RSVP reminders and all of the pre-event guest work. Instead, we went into stealth mode and were only able to correspond with select people that knew about the planning of the event and had to make sure all of our communications emphasized that it was a SURPRISE, SO DON’T RUIN IT!

We developed a Yearbook 2020 theme for their appreciation event to commemorate the past year and the challenges they overcame but also to graduate and mentally ‘move on’ to the next chapter. The short 1-hour virtual program consisted of a commencement address, a year in review and yearbook messages from the CEO, Executive, and numerous colleagues across the organization that benefited from the team’s work.

As you would find in a yearbook, the MC shared about some of the social clubs within the group, for example the Pets Club who always had their pets in view on Teams calls and the Travel Club who was struggling to find new stories this year. Using online live polling, the Most Likely To winners were also crowned in areas such as most likely to hug a teammate when COVID is over and most likely to use a GIF during a Teams call.  To add to the fun, the MC was a great sport and wore a gown and cap and used the custom-made Teams background we supplied to make it look like he was on a graduation stage. We even used their corporate values as the symbols on the banners of the stage!

Although graduation and a yearbook are more of an annual occurrence, recognition and appreciation is best shared regularly amongst the team and the entire organization. Going forward, staff were challenged to add a calendar reminder every Friday to send an email or two of appreciation to a colleague. Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” – Scott Adams

Shoes for the Shoemaker’s Wife…. Finally!

There’s an old proverb that can be traced back to the mid-1500s ‘the cobblers wife/children have no shoes’. It is referenced in some variation in German, French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese and it even transcends industries – the cobbler and his family are shoeless because they focus all their efforts, product and knowledge onto their customers and, in a more modern version, the plumber’s house has a dripping tap. I feel many an entrepreneur can relate to these sayings, the ED team included.


The proverb aptly describes what has been happening in ED’s digital life for at least the last 7 years if not longer. The shoemaker’s wife has long been poorly shod in the digital world – our ED website was a great investment…in 2010 and has been in dire need of updating and attention for at least the last 8 years. In the proverb, the shoemaker’s wife spends her days surrounded by beautiful, well-crafted shoes, meant for other’s feet. The ED team has always been hard at work on behalf of others and we rarely make the time and space to work on our own ‘shoes’ (aka brand). We have worn the outdated shoes of the cobbler’s wife long enough!


Like was the case for many in the event world, the pandemic put a heartbreaking hard stop to all our work in the Spring of 2020. The ED team stumbled along like everyone else stubbing our toes in the dark as we tried to comprehend the incomprehensible. For a bunch of planners, it was torture (and very hard on our toes!)

Standard issue pandemic foot wear


After a few laps around the pandemic dance floor, we found the joy of a slower pace; bike rides and family time, close-to-home stay-cations and five star take-out. Through the summer we consulted on the important projects of a few brave clients but we were still wearing our worn out shoes, standing on the sidelines at the dance.


As September came, the leaves turned and began to fall, we found our bearings in the world of virtual events and have again begun to thrive. We found our groove – and the old, worn out ‘digital’ shoes just could not keep up anymore.


We are so excited to introduce you to our new, beautiful, shoes…I mean website!


Thanks to a lot of hard work of the incredible Kelsey and Jen we have a brand new website that, in this humble ‘shoemaker’s’ opinion, beautifully captures our passion and work with our amazing clients. We invite you to have a look around, let us know what you think and we can’t wait to dance the night away with you again soon.

The shoes I can’t wait to wear after the winter and pandemic!


Also connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram – yes, those shoes also got some much needed attention.

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