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Beyond the BEO Podcast: Intentional Event Design with Malak Sidky

Digital and hybrid events are here to stay, so how do we engage our attendees, regardless of where they are? Join me as I chat with Malak Sidky, founder and president of Health Care Event Planning. We chat about ways to include attendees that may not be on-site.

50 over 50 Campaign

Did you know there are less than 60 days left in this year. Its time time to celebrate you!

The 50 over 50 Campaign is still on and going strong.

Will you choose to be one of the 50 Stars?

Remember when we said that the 50 over 50 campaign will have a night of celebration? Well it’s happening! That’s right everyone. The details of the exclusive event are still in flow and let me tell you, they are tantalizing. We are planning an in-person event for May 2022. To make sure its done right, I’ve hired Malak Sidky as the event planner (check her out!). We are not backing away from this and its full steam ahead.

We just need YOU!

We have 30 spots left to fill. All shoots will be photographed by the end of March 2022. We are now booking for January and February. (Pssst, we have a few spots left in November). First come, first serve!

We are open with full safety precautions in place. Book your session and get ready to feel like you are walking on cloud nine during your shoot. Then circle May in your calendar as the event of 2022 that you’ll have to look forward to. We need this kind of celebration especially now.

Dust off that evening gown girlfriend, you’re gonna need it!

Learn more and apply here.

Mind, Body & Soul Wellness Retreat – Curated with Intention

Planning a virtual retreat during a pandemic requires intentional event design. All events do, in fact.  We wanted to ensure that this event brought about positive change to the delegates as we are not immune to stress during COVID and can truly benefit from meaningful content being delivered to us. Equally important was the composition of the attendees; learning within a supportive community is so much more effective.

Roadmap for success:

So I spent lots of time researching the best-in-class experts and asked them to either speak at the event or facilitate a session.  Next, I examined the flow of the event. I needed a high energy, passionate speaker to kick off the day. Enter Zoe Dafniotis, Physical Education teacher, Fitness Professional and TRX instructor. She spent a few minutes outlining the core principles to a short but highly structured workout routine, where plank is king. Then we got physical and tried her 6 exercises repeated 6 times. Zoe’s session was a huge hit; one could sense the energy shift, and engagement was over the top!

The next sessions had to build on and complement the learnings. Annie Gaudreault, Founder VEEV, is a nutritionist and wellness coach extraordinaire. She debunked many myths about aging. Delegates learned that your lifestyle is a far more important wellness indicator than genes. I mean if Annie, who has some “nasty genes” in her family tree is able to run marathons, it certainly gives hope to us all!

Diane Crawford, Founder, The Voyage Inc. led us through a journey where she explored Confidence – Develop your Superpower. Using polls by probing the audience with questions was effective. Delegates were provided with a road map on how to build their confidence throughout their lives.

Delighting the Audience

In the months leading up to the retreat, I wanted to ensure a memorable experience for all delegates. I know that “breaking bread with someone” is an effective way to connect. So I decided that we would all eat together during this event and would split the group up into small breakout rooms so people could have a chance to know each other better. I purposefully sought out a caterer in the GTA who would create a healthy menu and could guarantee that the meal would arrive at people’s doorsteps. I partnered with Encore Catering; they have an excellent reputation and I have personally taste tested their delicious food. Delegate feedback was excellent; the meal arrived with a personalized menu card that had their name on it. This imparted a sense that they were special, as indeed they are. Aligning with a brand like Encore Catering that understands the importance of delighting the audience is integral to event success.

Engagement is King

Our social media campaign included wellness topics, profiled speakers and facilitators via short interviews and highlighted the benefits of attending. One of the first things we did was to partner with Trish Beesley, graphic designer and photographer. She designed wellness affirmation statements and accompanying imagery which were provided to early bird registrants. These beautiful, peaceful and inspirational wallpaper designs could be uploaded into iPhone or Android, providing a lasting benefit to delegates.

In the planning process, our events team tested out many engagement tactics and decided on 2 major ones. First off, we would curate a Pre-Show. During that time when delegates are logging on, we had them participate in a gamification word search powered by Engamio. Our sponsor, Samantha King, CEO of Fempire Builders, was keen to partner with us. “I love word searches and the competitive aspect of gamification, coupled with a Call to Action that showcased my company made it a perfect choice for me” Samantha stated.

Later in the day, we had immersive experiences like a much needed yoga class with Laura Brailsford. Another hit was a sound healing session facilitated by Nicole Manes, co-founder Sound Response Wellness. A sound bath has many benefits and is a wonderful wellness modality to reduce stress. Nicole uses her own voice as well as sound bowls, tuning forks and chimes allowing you to meditate and find peace. Feedback from her session was stellar.

Vendor spotlights were interspersed throughout the day. We learned about skin care from Helen Snell, Arbonne and her session got everyone inspired to suggest a DIY facial at the next retreat! We benefited from Jodie Rogers’ fireside chat about the healing properties of doTERRA essential oils. Jenny Hall did a ENJO product demonstration which was very convincing. The ENJO fibers in the cleaning cloths can actually remove butter/grease from a plate simply by adding water. No nasty cleaning chemicals needed!

Another premiere vendor, Teresa Isabel Dias, Founder, MenopausED, was also a big hit. Teresa is a pharmacist and menopause guru. Did you know that 20% of women going through menopause have such a hard time coping that they quit their jobs?  Her take on menopause being a possible glass ceiling had delegates talking up a storm. It is high time that we destigmatize menopause!

These examples showcase the vendors but the methods varied from product demos, to fireside chats, all the while offering compelling education. And the audience asked many questions, which shows how involved they were.

To recap the learning we were exposed to throughout the day, we utilized MyQuiz and created 12 wellness questions. Delegates were told that the person with the highest number of correct answers in the fastest time would win a prize; so competition was fierce! Contests are a great way to engage your audience.

Don’t Forget the Endnote

We really have to pay attention to the last session of the day. Having someone strong to close the event is paramount; too many times we focus on the keynote speaker and not the endnote. But the closing session is the last memory of the event.  So who better to close the day than Elvira V. Hopper, Founder, Live Your Vibe Transformation? She is an inspirational speaker in a class of her own. Elvira’s story is so compelling and people really resonate with her message that living out of alignment and not fully self-expressed can lead to tragedy. Elvira is a talented singer and crooned throughout her session so that we were educated and entertained at the same time. Who could ask for more?

Mind, Body and Soul Wellness Retreat – A Virtual Transformation

Back in Spring 2020, I realized that my signature retreat, which was projected to take place in the Fall, would need to be reimagined. With so many of my client events being postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, I was loath to do the same for my own event, which I had hosted for the past 3 years. Hence began a new plan that would take several months to emerge.

By enrolling in PCMA’s Digital Event Strategist on-line course, I was able to create a digital strategy for the event and ultimately weave in unique experiential aspects that were integral to the success of a virtual retreat. Here are some of the winning tactics that I chose to implement:

1. Design appropriate content for the digital event. Topics were aligned to the theme of wellness and self-care and embraced various aspects from mindset & rhythmic reframing to sound nutrition. Fourteen sessions were created for the day-long event with an average duration of 25 minutes each. Digital experts agree that shorter sessions are key for successful virtual events.

2. Reach out to potential sponsors as early in the planning cycle as possible. Since many companies were adversely affected by the pandemic, this became even more crucial.

3. Partner with exhibitors who could round out the programming and/or donate products to the delegate event kit. Programming elements included an essential oil demonstration, making a smoothie, and a sound healing session.

4. Choose a trusted supplier for the assembly and shipping of the event kit. Angela Koshman from pcnametag was very collaborative throughout the process. She ensured that all the products were safely packed in the kit (a wine glass was one of the offerings), the labelling included all the exhibitor and sponsor logos, and that the event kits were delivered to the delegates’ homes, which were all across Canada! The event kit, which was made possible through the generosity of exhibitors, consisted of meaningful items for a wellness retreat such as protein shakes, herbal supplements, essential oils, a malal bracelet, and coupons for discounted or free services.

5. Promote the event early and often. I showcased select speakers and exhibitors via Zoom interviews that were recorded and then posted those interviews on LinkedIn and Instagram. The original footage was given to Chris Noble from Noble Productions. Chris ensured that the Health Care Event Planning branding was incorporated, added music, and a call to action for each video. I believe that a professionally branded product was testament to the commitment for excellence in the design and promotion of the retreat.

6. Ask your suppliers, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers to share the videos and other event posts on their social media networks.

7. Include innovative elements to the virtual event. It was fortunate that Agata Jakuszko from Draw the Words sponsored the graphic recording for the retreat. She graphically represented the major takeaways from each session. It was very entertaining to check in with her throughout the retreat to see her unique digital drawings and added another engaging element to the day.

8. Ensure that your speakers are comfortable in a digital setting. Rehearsals were an integral part of this process. This included sound & connectivity checks, lighting adjustments and camera angle tips.

9. Choose to prerecord certain sessions. Because of possible internet connectivity delays, I chose to prerecord a video of a singing performance which enhanced the quality of the session.

10. Delegate the production aspect to professional event planners* who can assist with dry runs, script finalization, creating & launching polls, monitoring the chat box, and adding website information about each speaker/facilitator right after their session. This will free you up to run the show while ensuring the smooth functioning of the event.

At this point, I am unsure whether next year, the retreat will be offered in a live or hybrid format. However, these tips will continue to serve me well in the planning and execution of experiential events.

*Thanks to Nichol Turner, DES; Nickel Concepts Event Management and Sharda Sukdeo, BA, CMP; Eventures – event professionals extraordinaire!


“Working in partnership with pcnametag to deliver an engaging virtual conference for CanSPEP was wonderful. The virtual event kit is a superb way to generate buzz about the event and transform it to an elevated experience! Delegates reported being excited to receive something in the mail. When they opened their kits, they found lots of fun items, some of which they were only allowed to use later in the week. This was captivating indeed!”

– Malak Sidky, Vice President, Partnerships, CanSPEP

Hilton Downtown Toronto Pays it Forward

In these challenging times of COVID-19, there are ways to extend kindness and compassion.

A unique partnership between the a hospital Foundation and a few downtown hotels including The Hilton Downtown Toronto, was struck in order to assist several customer groups. One customer group are essential health care workers that are either too tired to go home and just need a safe place to relax and recharge after a long shift or have immunocompromised family members that they are afraid of infecting.

Another group was identified which consisted of people living in women’s shelters, that due to the crowded conditions, were at risk of contracting COVID-19. The hotels agreed to open their doors to this clientele and the rates charged were just sufficient to defray their costs to have a skeleton crew be on site.

This is an amazing collaboration which allows the Hilton Downtown Toronto to operate since most hotels are still closed, while at the same time, helps keep health care workers and other vulnerable populations safe.

The link to register for the discounted rates at the Hilton Downtown Toronto is:

Cleanliness is of paramount importance these days and Hilton has developed a global program that will introduce a new standard of hotel cleanliness and disinfection: Hilton Cleanstay with Lysol protection. Travelers and hotel guests are expecting a higher level of cleanliness than ever before so this is a great comfort to those guests that are staying at the hotel.

Stay Safe!

Sustainable Approaches to Combat Burnout & Stress

In various surveys, event planners rate their jobs as highly stressful. Typically, it rates as within the top 5 of all time stressful careers. So what is it about the industry that makes our roles so stressful?

At the recent 8thAnnual Global Pharmaceutical and Medical Meetings Summit in Boston, I co-hosted a roundtable discussion about this topic. The delegates were split into 3 groups. The first group was asked to identify their top stressors in their jobs; group 2 was asked to list challenges that are out of their control and group 3 was asked to brainstorm tactics to mitigate stress.

What emerged was very interesting. Planners cited the following key stressors, most of which are out of their control:

  • Mergers & acquisitions
  • Strikes or union labour disputes
  • Ineffective timely communication from clients that lead to delays in decision making
  • Last minute unreasonable planning requests from their clients
  • Champagne expectations on beer budgets
  • Unpredictable severe weather emergencies (e.g. flood, fire) or infectious diseases that impact attrition rates

So what’s a planner to do to decrease the stress levels associated with these challenges?

Tactics varied, but the essence of it was to implement a risk management plan, replete with emergency preparedness mitigation strategies enabling planners to embrace the challenges and lower their stress level.

We have planned multiple events over the years and we fully understand the planning cycle. Hence, we can anticipate that there will be times when we need to pivot and change the agenda for example. We also recognize that there are tools that we should use to help reduce our stress levels such as establishing and monitoring our critical path and sharing this with our client at regular intervals. These checkpoints are key and need to be established early on. They are especially useful when the client communication is sparse.

To reduce your employees’ stress level, make sure you share your challenges. There is no need to take on all the stress. Your colleagues and/or employees can assist you in identifying solutions when a program budget gets slashed for example, yet you are still expected to deliver a high-quality product.  As a risk mitigation strategy, you should have a comprehensive database of vendors at various price points. This will enable you to quickly identify solutions.

As things heat up ~6 weeks pre-event, there are so many stress relieving tactics that may be effective to event planners. These include:

  • Eat well and ensure you get sufficient sleep
  • Disconnect from tech and distance yourself from work every evening. Working 18 hours days in the weeks leading up to the event can lead to burnout. Realize that you will be less effective if you are exhausted.
  • Take a yoga class or partake in any exercise such as going for a walk outdoors. This changes your mindset and has been proven to be invigorating
  • Engage in daily meditation – you cannot learn this at the last minute
  • Listen to music
  • Talk to a trusted friend or colleague about your feelings

On-site, we need to have a checklist with all the important phone numbers of our client representative, keynote speakers, vendors, and banquet manager so that if we need to shift suddenly, we can proactively communicate the change or escalate the decision if we need to evacuate for example. We do not need to be the on-site superhero and solve all the problems ourselves; we need to preassign roles to our staff and volunteers.

Changes are inevitable in any meeting or event; it is incumbent upon us to embrace these changes by being prepared to pivot and not sweating the small stuff!

Thanks everyone who participated at this session and to my co-facilitator Brenda Miller!


Senior’s Expo 50+ Features Delmanor Retirement Home

Ronnie’s Home Care Services is proud to present Senior’s Expo 50+ taking place at Eagles Nest Golf Club on September 25th. This high-calibre event features educational seminars and a niche array of vendors catering to seniors. Our sponsors include: Remax, RBC, Vaughan Chiropractic, Ward Funeral Home and D’Air Dance Collective. Our profiled vendor is Delmanor Retirement Home who have provided the following information about their homes:

Retirement is the time to reward yourself with the lifestyle you’ve worked hard to achieve. Delmanor understands that. Residents at every Delmanor community embrace the opportunity to learn and discover all their new lifestyle has to offer.At Delmanor, you can enjoy a spectacular turn-key lifestyle that doesn’t come with a chore list, only a calendar of events to keep you active. You choose the service package that suits you, from independent to assisted living. This is your opportunity to try new things, and to enjoy the company of good friends, enhanced by the Delmanor Living Well™ program which promotes an active mind, body, and spirit.Enjoy a variety of menu choices including vegetarian options prepared by Red Seal Chefs. Delmanor sources the freshest ingredients from local farmers and can also cater to special diets.

As a proud member of the Tridel group of companies, Delmanor is dedicated to providing service that focuses on individual preferences. Team members are selected for their passion and commitment to delivering exceptional service.With five convenient locations across the GTA and the addition of Delmanor Aurora opening in late 2021 — Delmanor welcomes those who love life and expect the best.For more information, please visit

Come visit the Delmanor booth at SE50+. To become a vendor or to purchase tickets, go to

Business Women’s Network of York Region 5th Annual Awards Gala

On April 11, the Business Women’s Network of York Region hosted their 5th Annual Awards Gala at The Venetian. Each year they highlight successful business women in York Region in seven categories and one deserving recipient is awarded Business Woman of the Year.

Click here to read the full article in Snapd Vaughan.

Photo by Mike Aceto.

Guest Lecturer at Centennial College

I was delighted to be a guest speaker in Alison Fryer’s class yesterday morning. Alison teaches in the Event Management Program at Centennial College. These students are poised to graduate in April and were naturally curious about the possibilities of owning and operating an event planning business. I spoke to them about the advantages of being an entrepreneur and how I started Health Care Event Planning over 20 years ago. I encouraged them to find a niche within the industry such as incentive travel, corporate events or weddings and demonstrated that by having a specific focus, it resulted in being seen as a specialist or expert in the field which yielded a competitive advantage.

I went on to discuss the importance of balancing servicing clients and continuing to prospect former and new clients so as to ensure a continuous sales funnel. Allocating time to prospecting is essential to continued growth of the business. This is relevant even if you do not have your own business as many event planners working in hotels or convention bureaus are on the sales side of the business.

I urged the students to seek industry connections via LinkedIn or Facebook groups, to practice their elevator speech and to join event planning associations such as CanSPEP, PCMA or MPAHT.