Switching careers to follow your passion is an amazing feeling and can be a daunting measure, especially at the beginning of a global pandemic. That level of adversary didn’t stop Elodie Lortal, Catering Coordinator, National Arts Centre, Canada, it empowered her. By taking the Digital Event Strategist course, Elodie was able to learn quickly and adapt to the new normal. This is her story.
Tell us a little bit about what you do and what made you pursue DES in the first place.
For two years, I worked as a restaurant manager, but my heart was always for the events industry. At the beginning of 2020, I had the opportunity to become the meetings and events coordinator at the National Art Centre in Ottawa, Canada. It was wonderful and you can imagine how excited I was. And then, the pandemic happened.
Pursing the DES certification was a no brainer for me. I was transferring from the restaurant industry to the events industry, and I needed to learn quickly in order to adapt to the new normal. That’s why I became a member of PCMA at first, and then I discovered the webinars and eventually the DES certification. Most of my peers around me had already got their DES, so I said, well, it’s not a Nice to Have. It’s a Must Have.
Could you tell us a bit more about the National Arts Centre?
The National Arts Centre is a unique venue. We have five disciplines: Dance, English Theatre, French Theatre, Orchestra and the Indigenous Theatre which was newly established in 2019. We are a Crown Corporation, meaning that we are under the Canadian federal government’s umbrella promoting the Canadian arts. We’re located in downtown Ottawa on the Rideau Canal — a UNESCO heritage site — just across from the Parliament.
During the pandemic, our theatre, music and dance disciplines had partnerships with Facebook where some shows were livestreamed via Facebook to keep a connection with our audience. In terms of banquets and meetings, unfortunately, we lost all of our corporate and government business meetings. We’ve been focusing on weddings only and have been offering livestream options to those who can’t travel to attend in person.
I’m really excited to go back to the office in August. For me, the digital element has been great, but just like everyone in our industry, I enjoy the human contact and connection. To be able to have the flexibility to run both in-person and digital events is where I perform the best.
As we recover from the pandemic, digital events will stay. It’s now about how we re-incorporate the in-person elements into digital conferences, and this is where we become hybrid and this is why we need more Digital Event Strategists.
What key learnings from the DES course have you implemented in the event(s) you’ve worked on / are working on?
The DES course has certainly given me the confidence in planning virtual events. I’m on the supplier side, and now I know what to ask my clients in order for them to be successful.
What I particularly enjoy and I want to highlight is the Module 3: Content Strategy and Audience Engagement. In this module, we took a deep dive into how to design our meeting agenda and how to design content that facilitates interaction. We all know that the content is king, but how do you concretely create powerful content? Module 3 gave me a lot of information in that regard.
Another module that I personally enjoyed was Module 4: Technology and Production. Those two words scare most of the events professional. In this module, the Subject Matter Expert Will Curran taught me how to think like a TV producer. Elements like camera angles, Wi-Fi connection and more are key in the digital environment, but they don’t come natural for event planners who plan in-person events. We all say that we want to avoid Zoom fatigue, but how do you do that? You’ll get a sense on how to do that from Module 4.
It’s so helpful to be able to speak knowledgeably to your clients about these topics.
Exactly. It’s very helpful to be able to speak the same lingo. For me, to produce in-person events, you really have to have the CMP certification which is focused more on the in-person events. When you produce in-person events and work with your peers, it’s CMPs talking to CMPs.
And now DES is the one certification for digital events, and it’s oftentimes DES talking to DES people. You want to be on the same level, speaking the same language and using the same verbiage.
I also particularly enjoyed the Expert Hours on Thursdays. The Expert Hours give you the opportunity to virtually meet the experts who built the course and ask them live questions. Event professionals in my cohort along with the SMEs gave me insights from real-life examples. For me, that was the best.
If a friend or colleague is on the fence about taking DES, what would you say to nudge them?
Just do it. Coming from the supplier standpoint, it’s very important to understand your clients’ needs and to speak the same language as them. By having taken this course, and by knowing what my clients are looking for, I’m able to quickly build trust, and then it’s way easier down the road.
Continuing education is key in our industry. It’s always been and it’s even more important and more relevant these days. It’s what sets you apart from the competition. It’s always a competitive advantage to equip yourself with the latest knowledge that you can get.
In 2021, DES is THE tool to have in your toolbox if you want to remain competitive and ready to tackle 2022, which will be a very busy year.