The Gathering 2016

Last week, I had the lovely opportunity of checking out The Gathering. Never having attended before, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, and it was right in our backyard. Here is a round-up of my experience:

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 Venue

You can never go wrong with a Fairmont hotel, especially one that’s in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The organization at the Fairmont Banff Springs was also incredible with their online check-in which ensured you had keys in hand upon arrival to the valet. No lines FTW.

Pro tip: The hotel will direct you to your room from the valet but don’t be fooled, you still need to sign into the conference. Don’t go to your room and register as this is done in the main building, and your room + conference rooms are not. Unless you’re trying to hit 10,000 steps a day, don’t leave the main building until you have all conference materials.

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Speakers

The roster of speakers were top notch. Top global companies were represented including Converse, Airbnb, UFC, LA Kings, Molson Canadian, Vice, Lululemon, etc. As all conferences, there were ones I personally thought were AH-MAZING and some that were not-so-great, but the good significantly outweighed the bad. My personal favourites were Molson Canadian, Converse and Lululemon. I also heard that Airbnb and Vice were top notch so was incredibly sad we missed them.

In true Molson-style going BIG with everything they do, they surprised the audience by bringing the first Stanley Cup, which has only left the Hall of Fame one another time.

Pro tip: Common theme was that the more popular (some may say better) presenters were in the big room. If you’re torn between two presenters during the same time slot, I recommend to go big.

Food

Unlike typical conferences, food at this conference was almost non-existent. Mistakenly, I did not eat lunch before the first day which started at 1 p.m., and was restricted to trying to silence my growling stomach with Red Bull (which was plentiful) and gum (as it was the only thing in my purse). I assumed that this is how models do it, but then ate my weight for dinner so that was short-lived.

I’ll note that The Gathering made up for the imaginary food with an epic lunch spread the next day. The buffet lunch had something for everyone and was delicious.

Pro tip: Bring snacks. If you plan to bring snacks with noisy wrappers, try to eat them during the 10-15 min breaks in between presenters. There is nothing more annoying than trying to listen to a speaker while someone struggles with their wrapper as if it’s Fort Knox (you know who you are…)

Swag

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The swag was a bit underwhelming, but swag usually is unless you’re really into an array of fancy flyers and items you think you need for 5 mins. If you’re into the freebies, the real ROI is in the endless supply of free Red Bull in various flavours available everywhere at the conference. That stuff is like $3 a can so if you’re sad about the swag, you can drink Red Bull until you get wings.

Pro tip: The earlier you get there, the better your swag bag. I had colleagues who arrived before and after me– those before had a mini Cru Juice in addition to an iPhone case and magazine, those that came after only got a phone case (as in just the case, not even the bag).

Overall, I highly recommend The Gathering. If the line up is anywhere as good as it was this year (and  I’m sure it will be), I’ll definitely attend in 2017!

xo, maria 

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