Global Roundup with ILEA Canada Leader, Dustin Westling, CSEP
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) is a global organization, representing the voice of creative events professional worldwide.
The ILEA Global Roundup taps into leaders from our global chapters who lend their knowledge and expertise on a range of different topics impacting the creative events business.
Dustin Westling, CSEP, managing partner of OneWest Event Design & Logistics, is the ILEA Canada Chair. He shared an inside perspective into Canada’s events industry.
ILEA: What are some specific challenges event planners encounter in your area? How do they overcome these challenges?
Westling: It’s no secret that the past several years have been tough ones for Western Canada’s economy, following a sharp drop in the price of oil. With this hit came layoffs, restructuring and a shift in both actual and perceived spending. While we’re thrilled to being seeing and feeling a renewed energy and optimism all around Calgary and Western Canada right now, there remains a certain amount of sensitivity toward the image of opulent spending.
To overcome this challenge, we focus on value, optics and ROI. Repurposing décor items in new and innovative ways over the course of a multi-day event or creating structures that serve a dual purpose can help to maximize a client’s budget, while still making a major visual impact. Innovative ideas for highly sharable environments can help clients to see the ROI of real-time engagement and excitement.
ILEA: What are some trends you’re noticing with live events in your region?
Westling: The zeitgeist shift toward a more blended work-life experience is definitely something we’re seeing affect our local events industry. The old ‘business or pleasure’ question doesn’t have the definitive answer it used to have thanks to a new preference for “bleisure” (how’s that for an awkward portmanteau?) travel, and in our corner of the world this preference is seen through a huge spike in the popularity of mountain locations around both Calgary and Vancouver for conferences and incentive groups. Business travelers want a lot more than to sit in a conference room, and luckily for us, our natural backyards deliver in a big way.
ILEA: For an event planner not from Canada, what are some things to be aware of/take into account when putting on a live event there?
Westling: First of all, welcome to Canada! We really are as nice as the stereotype says, and you’re going to love it here. There are the obvious requirements and paperwork that you’ll have to take care of if you’re bringing an event to our fine country, and this is a great resource for that type of information. Aside from that, something to remember is the sheer diversity of Canada. From the Maritimes to the Canadian Shield, to the prairies, Rockies and the beautiful and vast north, Canada is vastly differently region to region, both geographically and culturally. While we all proudly fly the maple leaf and share common values, we’re all proudly different as well. Do your homework, learn about the region you’ll be visiting and the people who live there and respect the things that make them unique. We guarantee it will be worth your time. Canada has so much to offer, no matter where your wheels are touching down; our advice is to soak it up.
ILEA: Are there any specific events in your area we should be aware of? Do you have any photos?
Westling: If you’re going to talk events in Western Canada, it’s basically a sin and a crime to not mention Calgary Stampede. Stampede is lauded worldwide as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” and for good reason. Each July, Calgary’s population swells, and the 10-day event literally takes over the city. For local event profs, Stampede season is basically Christmas in July – think 51 simultaneous events in 10 days.
Another notable Calgary event is Beakerhead, an annual 5-day intersection of arts, sciences and engineering. “Delightfully bizarre” engineered installations and artworks are showcased around the city alongside over 60 events, and the commitment to inclusion, innovation and the integration of seemingly disparate disciplines makes it a one-of-a-kind experience.
In Vancouver, the Honda Celebration of Light is not to be missed. Over 1.3 million people flock to this event each year to sample local food and take in live music before the evening eventually culminates in a mind-boggling fireworks show over the waters of beautiful English Bay. At 27 years and counting, this is recognized as the longest-running off-shore fireworks festival in the world, and it just gets bigger and better every year.
ILEA: What are the biggest factors influencing the way events are being planned in your part of the world?
Westling: The biggest factors influencing us are also influencing other event profs around the globe. We all live in a fast-paced, technology-driven world, and that has an impact on guest engagement – expectations are high, and attention spans are short. Live-tweeting, Facebook Live, and social media in general have created a whole new benchmark for engagement and ROI that includes photo opportunities, share-ability, and like-generation. Technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence are also growing in popularity and setting bigger and bigger expectations. We have to continually work harder and do better in order to capture and keep attention and create something that’s both immediate and shareable, but also memorable and lasting. It’s a challenge – but we’re up to it.
ILEA: Do you think artificial intelligence will ever have a role in this industry?
Westling: Yes. Most of us are already using AI daily in our personal lives with Siri, Alexa and Ask Google. Website chatbots are another way that we all interact with AI regularly. As the technology continues to be developed, improved and integrated into everyday life, we can definitely see the opportunity for AI to make its way to conferences and trade shows for uses like data collection, surveys and fielding questions. We’re always up for embracing new ideas and finding ways to make the guest experience bigger and better than ever – so we say bring it on.
Dustin Westling, CSEP, is the owner of Calgary-based OneWest Event Design & Logistics. A self-described ‘Senior Millennial,’ Dustin brings his tongue-in-cheek humor and engaged energy to his role as commander-in-chief of OneWest, where he leads a team of talented event profs to collaborate with clients and partners on over 300 innovative and award-winning projects each year.
Dustin’s breadth of experience in roles at hotels, convention centers, and public attractions gave him an inside knowledge of special events that ultimately laid the foundation for building a one-of-a-kind events company. He successfully achieved a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) designation, and is consistently recognized as an industry leader. A curator of talent and creativity, Dustin is passionate about driving the events industry forward, and currently serves as Affiliate Chair for ILEA Canada (formerly President of the ILEA Calgary chapter).