Many organizations have programs that recognize outstanding young professionals in their industry or profession — PCMA, for example, has an annual 20 in Their Twenties program to spotlight emerging talent. These recognition programs are valuable for helping industries take stock of their up-and-comers, to say nothing of the bragging rights they give to their recipients.
But how can event organizers go beyond shining the spotlight on promising young professionals to creating programs that not only are life-changing for them, but have deeper benefits for the sectors they serve? Two top conferences — TED and C2 Montréal — offer inspiration.
Each year, the TED Fellows program, which has just opened applications for its 2018 edition, seeks out “early-career visionary thinkers from around the world” whohave a creative approach to their work and benefit their local community “through innovative science, art, or entrepreneurship.” Each year, TED selects a class of 20 Fellows from a variety of disciplines based on their approach to tackling the world’s toughest problems, as well as on their “character, grit, and collaborative spirit.” We focused on the importance of that collaborative spirit in a story about the TED Fellows program in our August issue.
The class of Fellows receive coaching and mentoring, public-relations guidance for sharing their projects, and hands-on speaker training, as well as access to the Fellows who came before them — 400-plus individuals doing remarkable work in more than 90 countries. The class of Fellows selected this year gains admission to the TED2018 conference in Vancouver — themed “The Age of Amazement” — as well as to a Fellows-only pre-conference, and has the opportunity to deliver a coveted TED Talk at the conference.
The annual business event that has celebrated the intersection of creativity and commerce in Montréal each May since 2009 doesn’t have an official recognition or fellows program, but offers something in that vein. Acknowledging that registration to its conference is pricey, C2 offers a program for 50 small- to medium-sized Montreal-based companies via city-government funding. The “parkour” program, C2 President Richard St-Pierre told Convene, takes the companies that apply and are selected by a jury on a five-month journey for which they “don’t pay a dime.”
During that time, they learn how to pitch their businesses, present themselves, and find out if their marketing presentations are up to par, St-Pierre said. “Then we prepare them for C2 itself. We have them meet with specific people — even the concierge from the Ritz on how to interact with multicultural business people, all the way to a special program for those companies within C2 itself. There’s the official program, and then there are programs that are more, let’s call it private, not because they are secret, but because these programs cater to a specific audience.”
Individuals from the companies in the parkour program also have the opportunity to meet personally with keynote speakers. St-Pierre noted that when Hillary Clinton was a keynote speaker at C2 Montréal in 2015, she met one on one with each person from those 50 companies — “a highlight,” he said, “of their lives.”