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IACC’s Americas Connect explores radical changes in the meetings industry

The 38th edition of the IACC Americas Connect conference took place last week (10 – 11 April) at Vantage Venues and The Globe and Mail Centre, Toronto, with more than 230 delegates attending over the two days.

Over 20 meeting planners from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia joined the two-day conference - themed ‘Radical Innovation – Change Everything!’ – to participate in a full schedule of education, networking and discovery.  

The conference delivered a 100% new speaker line-up and put a ban on PowerPoint presentations with slides that included more than one-word. The mission for the event was to turn the stereotypical conference on its head and shake things up to create an environment where delegates could think differently.  

The tone for the event was set by opening keynote speaker Pablos Holman, former computer hacker turned inventor and innovator, who delivered a session that encouraged attendees to be the disruptors of the events industry in the next five-years with their innovative venues, services and solutions to some of the industry’s biggest problems.  

Toronto’s meeting planning community also joined a lively debate on culinary trends. The panel of experts, including Mariela McIlwraith of Events Industry Council, Tracy Stuckrath of Thrive Meetings, Alan Booth of Deloitte University and Brian Stapleton of Aramark Conferencing, led a discussion on how the industry can best embrace the fast pace of change, covering topics from allergens and dietary preferences, to new foods, managing wastage and sustainable practices.  

This year, for the first time, IACC directly involved the meeting planner and university student communities. Students from Ryerson University and Seneca College attended to gain experience in the industry.  

In a fast-paced competition focused on innovations, IACC members and suppliers were invited to deliver a four-minute-long elevator pitch for their innovation to a panel of global senior press judges. IACC announced Janice Cardinale and Richard Emmanuel of The Idea Hunter as the winner of the competition at the IACC Opening Awards Ceremony. Delegates were also treated to a mystery culinary tour around the city, where they visited three number of venues which all approach food and beverage differently.  

Nancy Lindemer, IACC Americas President commented: “We felt it was time that Connect returned to Canada after 15 years in the US. Our members in the region embraced the opportunity in a truly incredible way, and the ideas and creativity from the team tasked with designing this year’s event was immense.”  

The Global Copper Skillet competition took place on day two of the event where the Americas, European and Australian finalists competed for the title of Global Copper Skillet Champion. Celebrity chef Michael Smith, regular on the Food Network Canada, presented a workshop and joined the line-up of judges for the Copper Skillet final. Sebastian Layen of Deloitte University | Benchmark, a Global Hospitality Company was named Senior Chef Champion and Niclas Jansson of Sigtunahöjden was named Junior Chef Champion.  

Chef Michael Smith commented after the competition “I am truly impressed with the creativity from all of the chefs today. The ability to think on your feet and execute a dish from what’s on hand is what we do every day but once that clock starts ticking you never know what can happen!”  

The winning dishes from the chefs were - Sebastian Layen, Senior Chef Champion – Crusted Canadian bison medallion, fig and maple syrup gastrique, roasted fig, artichoke and root vegetables barigoule.  

Niclas Jansson, Junior Chef Champion – Beef with brown buttered tempeh, roasted cauliflower, stewed cauliflower with apple and maple syrup, vinegar and lemon poached asparagus, onion, red wine, maple syrup and browned butter.  

IACC’s next annual European conference ‘Knowledge Festival’ will be taking place in Brussels on 4 – 6 October 2019.

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