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From Bronwyn Slade, Director, Global Business Development

Bronwyn at SITE Global Conference, Istanbul

Participating in the SITE Global Annual Conference is one of the most fulfilling ways for me to remain current with the constantly evolving incentive industry.

This year’s conference was in Istanbul, Türkiye, an enchanting destination at the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures. It was the perfect location for the “Building and Bridging Cultures” conference theme. Appreciating cultural nuances significantly enriches the attendee experience and invites new ways of looking at program elements in global business event design.

I loved experiencing transformational moments that ignited my passion and sparked genuine connections with my surroundings and fellow attendees. Complacency is the death of design and growth. This conference, while structured in a traditional format, introduced speakers and engagement that was outside the norm.

Cultural Anthropology – Impactful Openings

A thoughtful opening connects attendees with local culture, fosters respect for diverse perspectives and sets the tone for a successful business event.

Antioch Civilizations Choir

The Istanbul CVB and SITE Türkiye opened the conference with a moving performance by the Antioch Civilizations Choir. The choir suffered a significant loss of seven members due to the devastating earthquake in their region in 2023. As they sang their soulful songs, videos of the earthquake damage accompanied by photos of the choir members who died were projected onto screens. The choir expressed their honour and gratitude for the opportunity to sing for us. The performance was both haunting and powerful, leaving everyone in the audience to be moved to tears.

Talking Stick Ceremony
Photo Credits: Indigenous Corporate Training Inc

Our team continues building respectful relationships with our Indigenous partners. We believe working together can help advance “Truth and Reconciliation” with the First Nations people by acknowledging, honouring and sharing our true history. The First Nation “Talking Stick Ceremony” welcomes and immerses guests with genuine cultural relevancy. During the ceremony, whoever holds the stick is designated as having the right to speak. The Talking Stick is a powerful communication tool that teaches inclusivity, respect, patience and self-discipline.

Outside Our Comfort Zones – Transformational Incentives

Claus Raasted at SITE Global Conference

One of the most inspiring speakers for me was Claus Raasted, Director, The College of Extraordinary Experiences. He challenged us to go beyond our comfort zone where the magic happens.  Hire people outside our industry, encourage fresh perspectives from our young leaders, micro-test new program elements, and pitch unconventional theme concepts.

The more senses you engage, the more immersive the experience is. The College of Extraordinary Experiences boldly states “Our business is transformational”. Transformation is the essence of what an incentive experience should be.

Making S’mores
Photo Credit: Kasselman Creative
Sea Safari
Photo Credit: Kasselman Creative

Claus’ message of making incentives transformational aligns beautifully with our company ethos. Our challenge as dynamic leaders is to explore uncharted territory and design impactful programs that fill guests with unexpected, meaningful moments.

Unassuming moments can move people, whether it’s roasting marshmallows on a mountaintop as the alpenglow spreads or observing Pacific Ocean marine wonders on a sea safari eco-tour in Howe Sound.

“Elephant in the Room” – Global Industry Concerns

SITE Global Conference Poll Responses

During the general session, SITE conducted a poll among conference attendees. They asked us: “What one word represents your elephant in the room concern for 2024?” The responses from the global audience were quite similar. Geopolitics, budgets and safety are at the forefront of the minds of professional meeting planners.

Bow Lake, Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Paul Zizka

While not without issues, Canada has proven to be a safe and welcoming destination.  Recently, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection announced that Canada ranks #1 for safety. “Canada has a reputation for its diversity, inclusivity, and low crime rate.”

Known for our “open spaces, open hearts, and open minds,” British Columbia and Alberta offer unique, enriching places for memorable incentives and meetings. The inspiration of our mountain resort lodges and multicultural coastal cities beckons planners to dream big for their programs and events. Additionally, international meeting planners may also enjoy favourable exchange rates in Canada.

Thank you, SITE Global, for providing an exceptional learning environment that challenged me to think differently.

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