When Convening Leaders 2019 in Pittsburgh ended, Jillian Cardinal didn’t want the conversations and mental stimulation to end. The solution for the Montréal-based business events strategist and self-described “insatiably curious bookaholic” was to create The Eventprofs Book Club. Now about a year old and featuring a recently relaunched website, the club unites planners and suppliers about every six weeks for discussion, collaboration, and what Cardinal calls “warm networking.”
Cardinal, who works for Canadian business events company JPdL where her job is to sell Montreal as a destination to North American corporate and association markets, said a seed for the book club idea was planted at Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center. But the impetus was her wish to extend her experience.
“I was meeting so many amazing people, which is what I adore in this industry,” she said, “and thought how I only get to see most of them at conferences, once, maybe twice, a year, which is not frequent enough.” She made a connection between that desire and PCMA’s “bookstore” in the convention center’s second-floor concourse, which was stocked with books recommended by industry leaders.
The first book she chose for group discussion came from that bookstore, Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, a pick of Claire Smith, CMP, vice president of sales and marketing at the Vancouver Convention Centre and former PCMA board chair. Titles that followed ranged from Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering to Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.
A Novel Experience
Trying to figure out “the ideal platform” for the group has been the trickiest element for Cardinal, especially as she tries to accommodate different time zones of participants. Discussions started with a LinkedIn group and have migrated to video meetings via Zoom.
The discussions take place currently at 5 p.m. Eastern time on a weeknight, and draw groups ranging in size from a handful to a dozen participants. She said she next hopes to organize face-to-face discussions at industry events in between the digital meetings.
Cardinal has led book group discussions, invited discussion leaders — Leanne Calderwood, CMP, vice president of global accounts at ConferenceDirect, led the Godin book discussion last September — and is shifting toward collaborations with authors. On April 29, for example, Andrea Driessen will lead the club in discussion of her The Non-Obvious Guide to Event Planning (for Kick-Ass Gatherings That Inspire People). When the group discusses The Creative Curve in June, author Allen Gannett will join in for a 30-minute Q&A session. On July 15, the club will turn to the difficult topic of human trafficking, discussing Out of the Shadows. Author Timea Nagy will lead the discussion about her memoir, cowritten by Shannon Moroney, and will be joined by Sandy Biback, founder of Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking.
The group, Cardinal said, is becoming more of a “webinar meets workshop meets book club,” where reading is strongly encouraged, but not mandatory. People, she said, often read to various points in the selected book. But with most of the choices tied in some way to the events industry, or to personal and professional development, participants can still take part, based on “experience and insight.”
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Cardinal, who thinks “you can never read too much,” is an American who moved to Montréal about four years ago. Forming a community “was paramount” for Cardinal to help her adjust to a new city and new industry.
“I see this group,” she said, “as friendship, inspiration, educational, mental stimulation, and warm networking. I hope that people will not only chat together but become buddies and work together in the future.” Or, perhaps an earlier iteration of The Eventsprof Book Club was even more to the point, describing the group as “industry professionals inspiring one another. No need to wait for the next conference!”
Cristi Kempf is executive editor of Convene.