Americas Connect 2019 – Event Highlights

After another epic Americas Connect, our CEO Mark Cooper gives us a rundown of what happened at the event and the highlights from each day. 

Day 1 – Learning and Networking 

IACC’s 38th annual Americas Connect conference kicked off today at Vantage Venues, Toronto, and I was delighted to welcome more than 200 attendees from our global chapters.

Proceedings opened with former computer hacker turned inventor and innovator, Pablos Holman, whose session ‘Innovate or Die Trying’ aimed to inspire attendees to think about their own venues and how they can become the disrupters of the future utilising their creative services and solutions.


At IACC, we want to help nurture the future talent of the meetings industry and this year we wanted to create a scholarship to honour one of IACC’s own family members. With the support from Free Flow Wines and Trinchero Family Estates, we created the Leslie Vanderzwet Scholarship. The recipient Merve Gizer who will use the scholarship to further her studies on the Hospitality Program at Seneca College.

The Workshops

I was left excited by our Global Innovations workshop, which saw eight inventors pitch their innovative and creative initiatives to a panel of seven judges in just four minutes – Paul Colston, Editor at Mash Media; Loren Edelstein, Vice President and Content Director at Northstar Meetings Group; Richard Luna, Editor at Meeting Professional International (MPI); Daniel Johnson Editor-in-Chief at Smart Meetings; Laura Bickle, Publisher at Ignite; and Lori Smith, Editor-in-Chief at The Incentivist.

Our final session of the day, Radical Thinking – Change Your Venue to be the Customers’ Stage, delivered by Dianne Devitt, taught attendees how to truly understand the objectives of a meeting and how to stage a conference into six-steps from pre-event through to post-event.

The Awards Ceremony

We finished our first night in Toronto at the IACC Opening Awards Ceremony & Dinner at The Globe and Mail Centre, which has stunning views across the city skyline and Lake Ontario. The awards are a fantastic way to recognise and celebrate our talented IACC members and their achievements over the last year.

This year’s winners were:

  • Michelle Vuong, Student at Ryerson University, Bank of Montreal Scholarship
  • Taylor Stewart, Student at New York University, IACC Doris Sklar Scholarship Award
  • Janice Cardinale and Richard Emmanuel of The Idea Hunter, IACC Innovation Award for The Social Roamer
  • Allen Morgan of Instructor at Fanshawe College, IACC Pyramid Award
  • Paul Dolce, Chief Operating Officer at Hospitality, IACC Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service

We’re looking forward to another day of sessions today and the Global Copper Skillet Competition where two talented chefs will be named as the Senior and Junior Copper Skillet Champions.

Day 2 – Food Glorious Food

Day two of IACC Americas Connect had a big focus on innovation within the culinary world, with sessions on sustainable menus, food risk and liability and a food and beverage trends panel.

We were joined by celebrity chef and Food Network Canada regular, Michael Smith who hosted his session ‘Everything I Know About Life, I Learned in the Kitchen’ which encouraged attendees to trust their gut instinct and embrace and learn from mistakes.

The Copper Skillet Competition

Michael also joined us for the International Copper Skillet Championship, which saw chefs from our Americas, Asian and European chapters compete to win the global champion title. This year, true to our theme of radical innovation, we decided to shake up the competition with a pantry of different food items including the introduction of plant proteins and Canadian staple, maple syrup.

Each year I am amazed by the creativity of our chefs. They must think on their feet and in just 45 minutes create two identical dishes using two different proteins and a vast selection of fresh produce – this is a real test of their knowledge of food pairings, flavours and execution.

Nicholas Jansson of Sigtunahöjden, Sweden was crowned the Junior Chef Champion and Sebastian Layen of Deloitte University | Benchmark, a Global Hospitality Company was crowned the Senior Chef Champion. Both displayed true creativity with their bison and beef dishes, which utilised the Canadian staple – Maple syrup.

After the competition, we hosted a panel session on food and beverage trends with Tracy Stuckrath, Mariela McIlwraith, Alan Booth, Brian Stapleton and Sue Hershkowitz-Coore. A small group also embarked on a mystery tour around the city and visited a number of venues and restaurants. The restaurants were chosen for their innovative dishes and creative approach to food and beverages.

An evening of fun

To conclude day two, we dined around Toronto’s historic Distillery District; a collection of Victorian warehouses which have been converted into a number of bars, cafés and restaurants. We finished the night with a cocktail reception and private dinner at the French restaurant, Cluny Bistro. We’ve had a fantastic time at IACC Americas Connect and look forward to our next event, IACC Europe Knowledge Festival in Brussels.

Day 3 – My Favourite Moments

Today we say goodbye to our stunning host city of Toronto and head back home after a fantastic two days of education and networking at IACC Americas Connect.

We have held over 27 educational sessions from world-class speakers and IACC members and this year we welcomed more than 230 attendees.

Some of my favourite moments included seeing how delegates embraced the views and advice of our keynote speaker Pablos Holman and took a step outside the box to think beyond our industry, taking this into the debates and discussions in the workshops.

I was thrilled by the delicious and inventive food and beverage we had on offer. Our host venues provided some fantastic options for us, which I can see went down very well with our attendees. It was great to have such a variety on offer.

And, how could I not mention the stunning Enchanted Forest themed awards that were put on at The Globe and Mail Centre. I’m sure you will agree that the evening was a real treat for the eyes with lots of fantastic entertainment from our dancers, the extraordinary food displays and also the incredible views of the Toronto city skyline.

A big thank you

I am so grateful to our Canadian members and our conference committee who truly embraced the theme of radical innovation and created an experience to remember for our attendees.

 I would also like to take this moment to thank our sponsors:

  • Aramark
  • Benchmark, A Global Hospitality Company
  • Convene
  • Dolce Hotels and Resorts by Wyndham
  • Flik Hospitality Group
  • Sodexo
  • Barco
  • The Idea Hunter
  • Vero
  • Nav Centre
  • PSAV
  • Avendra, Comprehensive Procurement Solutions
  • Cvent
  • EPIQ Vision, Intelligent Event Production
  • The Globe and Mail Centre
  • Vantage Venues
  • Event Retail Group
  • SICO
  • UCLA, Luskin Conference Center
  • BMO Financial Group
  • Free Flow Wines
  • Trinchero Family Estates

Thank you for being a part of IACC Americas Connect 2019 and we look forward to our next event, IACC European Knowledge Festival, which takes place in October in Brussels.

Roll on Americas Connect 2020!

Mark Cooper

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