Eager to be equipped with knowledge and skills to produce virtual events for her organization, Shira Gordon became certified as a Digital Event Strategist (DES) with full support from her employer, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC). We recently checked in with Shira to hear how she’s been crafting engaging digital experiences with key learnings from the DES course, and her tips on getting employer buy-in on professional development.
Please share a bit about your background. How did you get into the events industry?
I’ve been in the events industry for the better part of 15 years. I started in marketing and sales for a natural health magazine, and started doing trade shows to promote the magazine, and then I realized, I love this. It’s all stemmed from there.
I went on to do event coordination for a film school and started to get more into a niche event producing with academic, medical industry conferences for third party planning companies. After a while, I veered off into office administration.
Now I’m doing a little bit of both — I produce membership events and I run office administration as well. I currently work for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC). Currently, I’m their Office Administrator and event planner. I do several of the region’s member events which include member training.
What inspired you to pursue the DES?
I heard about it for a few years, but it didn’t start making headway until COVID-19. I wanted to up my game and knowledge of digital events as I had some idea, but my primary focus has always been on in-person events. I wanted to have solid digital events experience and skills so that I could show my employer the transition to digital events with confidence.
I was supported by my employer; they encouraged me to take it and thought it was a good idea. A number of colleagues had already taken it, too, and they advised, “Go ahead. If you have the resources and the time, do it.”
Any advice on getting one’s employer to invest in DES certification?
It’s about educating them on what exactly the certification is and how it would benefit the organization, especially in a global pandemic. When we’re in an age where everything is digital or hybrid, it’s important for at least one or two people in an organization to know how digital events work.
We had so many upcoming in-person events that needed to be or were already converted to digital, I thought, why don’t I arm myself with all this information and confidently put on these events moving into the fall? My supervisors were totally on board. It’s about telling your employer what value they’ll get once you get this education as an event professional.
Since finishing up your certification, have you done digital events using what you learned from the DES course, and are you planning any soon?
Absolutely, 100%. I’ve produced a few webinars in the past few weeks and have a few coming up. We converted an event that was in-person — our Steward Council — into six digital sessions that spanned over two weeks ranging from 60 to 90 minutes. We are holding various kinds of education sessions, some of which are called caucuses that involves discussion with the participants and the host and one of the key decisions came about from something I learned in the DES course. An agenda for an in-person event is not the same as something digitally and because of that, we made the decision to flesh this out over the course of two weeks. We needed to be creative and think about what could keep people engaged without getting Zoomed out.
If a friend or colleague or co-worker was on the fence about taking the DES, what would you say to nudge them?
If you have the resources and the time, take it. I know that things are a bit slower for some people right now, why not take advantage of the extra time and reskill for the future? It provides you with the confidence, the knowledge and the skills that you need to take your digital events to the next level.
It’s fabulous that PCMA has this course and is constantly updating it, utilizing great people in the industry. I feel much more confident in doing my job after taking the DES course. Participating in the self-paced course worked the best for me. It allowed for me to go back into each module, review and prepare for the quizzes at the end. With the materials and the practice exams, I felt more than confident going into the certification exam. The whole process was easy and more than worth it. The team at PCMA was there whenever I had any questions.
The Digital Event Strategist Spotlight series features Digital Event Strategists and how they are making an impact in their work through digital and hybrid events.
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