My day of volunteering at Sponsorship Toronto

Last Tuesday and Wednesday my Event Marketing class had the chance to volunteer at the Sponsorship Toronto conference that took place at the Grand Hotel and Suites.  Sponsorship Toronto is a two-day conference in which professionals from the sponsorship community come together for an exchange of ideas and knowledge on the topic of sponsorship.  While this conference was relatively small compared to others I’ve volunteered at, it was a great event to be a part of. It was interesting to see how the conference was organized and executed, especially because there were multiple sessions running simultaneously.

Sponsorship Toronto  banner.  Photo credit: Cindy Atwood-Mcconnell

Sponsorship Toronto banner.
Photo Credit: Cindy Atwood-Mcconnell

I volunteered on the Wednesday morning as a Room Manager. As Room Manager, my partner Haiming and I were in change or ensuring that the presentations ran smoothly and on schedule. We were also in charge of the lighting and sound for the room during the morning workshops. I was primarily responsible for introducing the speakers, informing the conference attendees on when lunch was, what time the next sessions were at and what the speaker’s topics were on.

Haiming and I worked during the session “Harnessing the Internet: Creating Digital Value for Sponsors” with speakers Jane Hopgood and Regan Zuzarte. Jane Hopgood is the Senior Vice President of Arts & Communications and Regan Zuzarte is the President and founder of Triangles. Both Jane and Reagan were absolute pleasures to work with. They were both very relaxed and easy going, especially during times of technical difficulties with the presentations. I was expecting the presentations to run extremely smoothly, but they didn’t.

Sponsorship conference in session.  Photo Credit: Cindy Atwood-Mcconnell

Sponsorship conference in session.
Photo Credit: Cindy Atwood-Mcconnell

The number one thing to remember when working or running an event is, something can and will go wrong. In our case, we had things happen twice during the presentation. The first blip was the fact that a video on the slideshow wouldn’t play. Eventually I was able to make the video play. The second technical difficulty was the fact that the computer decided it was going to shut down and auto update itself halfway through the presentation. Jane and Reagan were absolute pros during these difficult few moments. Instead of sitting there with nothing to say, they dived right into questions from the audience. Once the computer rebooted and we were on track again once again, the speakers switched right back into their presentation as if nothing had happened. While it was a bit stressful dealing with these issues, it was great to see how problems can be handled in a calm manner.

Overall the Sponsorship Toronto was a great event to be a part of. It allowed me to see how smaller-scale conferences function and how to calmly deal with issues when they arise. No event is ever perfect and this conference proved that to me.

Ready…Set…Go – Volunteering at the Toronto Waterfront Scotiabank Marathon

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Toronto Waterfront Scotiabank Marathon. The marathon, which is now in its 13th year is an annual marathon held in Toronto. There are three difference races within the marathon: (5k), half marathon (21k) and the full marathon (42k). The race is considered to be a world-class event and meets the international standards as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

Every year, thousands of runners run in support of multiple charities. This year there were over 25,000 runners that helped  raise money for more than 180 local charities.[1]

While this is not the first marathon I’ve been to (I’ve done a few 5k and 10k runs) it’s certainly the biggest. It was super inspiring to get to see people running for great causes, for loved ones, to achieve personal goals and to break set records. It was also really great to see the 5k Wheelchair Run, where participants with physical disabilities are given the opportunity to take part in the race. It really was a race for everyone because you had the chance to see people of all abilities, shapes, sizes, ages participating.

Runners at Nathan Philips Square.  Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Runners at Nathan Philips Square.
Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

On race day I was positioned as an “escort” in the volunteer check in area. I arrived really early at City Hall around 5 a.m. (after a long journey of trying to figure out which roads weren’t closed off because of the marathon) to start my shift. I was responsible for gathering volunteers after they completed check-in and bringing them to the station they were set to work at (baggage check, finish line water station, etc.). I spent the majority of day on my feet walking back and forth between the volunteer check-in area and different stations.

Marathon starting gate.  Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Marathon starting gate.
Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Although I was constantly running around, I did take a few moments here and there to cheer on the runners and soak in the bustling energy at Nathan Philips Square. There was lots activity happening in front of City Hall that day. There were a variety of companies handing out samples and promoting their products and services (food and beverage companies, running groups, health clinics). There were also a number of charity booths set up.  Family, friends and supports stood beside the exit chute (where the runners came out after the race) eagerly waiting for the runners to finish. It was touching to see the amount of support and encouragement that participants got from their family and friends. I remember seeing a woman who was running in memory of her husband get the biggest hug from her parents as she came out of the chute. It’s moment like these that make marathons and volunteering in general worth it.

Overall my volunteer experience with Scotiabank Marathon was very positive. Towards the end of my shift, I remember group of marathoners who came by the volunteer check-in area just to say thanks to the volunteers for doing such a great job. It makes you realize how important volunteers are. An event like this cannot function without lots of helping hands. This year there were almost 3000 volunteers who helped to make this event possible. If I get the chance next year I would certainly love to volunteer again. Hopefully next time they put me on a slightly later shift so I don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. on race day!

Runners cooling down after the big race. Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Runners cooling down after the big race.
Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

[1] “Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon Photos.” Toronto Star. N.p., 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2013

Steam Whistle Brewery Tour

Last Monday our class had the chance to visit Steam Whistle Brewing located at the historic John Street Roundhouse, downtown Toronto. The roundhouse was built between 1929-31, but is no longer operational. It now stands as a historic landmark where people can visit the Toronto Railway Museum, take a ride on the miniature railway that loops around Roundhouse Park, or enjoy a picnic on a sunny day.

Steam Whistle Entrance  Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

The Steam Whistle Brewing Entrance.
Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

Steam Whistle Brewery, open 363 days of the year is a craft brewery, specializing in premium pilsner lager. The company brews, bottles and sells their product right on premise (although it can be found at most LCBOs and Beer Stores around Ontario and in other parts of Canada).

Steam Whistle was founded by three friends who were left unemployed after the brewery they worked at suddenly shut down. They decided to go into business together and named their brewing company “Three Fired Guys”. The name didn’t strike a cord with everyone so the changed the name to “Steam Whistle Brewing”. They chose the name because the steam whistle is an iconic symbol for the end of the day when you punch out of work, kick your feet up and have a cold one.

Fun fact: On every bottle of Steam Whistle there is an embossed stamp “3FG”. This inside joke pays homage to their company’s former name.

Iconic Steam Whistle bottle with 3FG stamp  Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

Iconic Steam Whistle bottle with 3FG stamp.
Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

The microbrewery offers tours daily; you get the chance to see the process of how their beer is made as well as tour the beautiful facilities. On our tour we had the chance to find out what ingredients go into making the beer (spring water from Caledon, hops from Germany, yeast and barley). We also had the chance to see how the pilsner was bottled. I even got the chance to pull the steam whistle that bellows daily, once an hour.

Bottling process  Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

Bottling process on premise.
Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

After the tour my class had a chance to tour the building, which is beautiful inside and out, with its exposed brick and originally wooden beams. It makes for a really unique event space for a variety of events. They host weddings, corporate events, private parties and charity fundraisers. They even hold concerts in the main hall from time to time!

Main hall with  original exposed beams,  Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

Main hall with original exposed beams.
Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

At the end of our tour Adam Weed, Senior Events Manager, talked to us about the types of events they hold, what makes Steam Whistle a unique venue and a bit more about the history of the company. Overall, it was a great tour. I learned a lot about the company, the beer and the venue. At the end of the tour we were treated to a beer tasting. This was definitively my favourite part of the day!

A nice cold one at the end of our tour.  Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose

A nice cold one at the end of our tour.
Photo Credit: Chantal Penrose