Taking on the Virtual World

A temp job typing (cultural reference, google if you’re under 40) the media guide for the agency managing the Canada Cup hockey tournament in ’87 turned out to be the beginning of a career that’s carried Trish Knox to the top of the Canadian Event Industry. 

We’ve known Trish by her reputation for years, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2020 when we were looking for a digital event platform to host the 2020 virtual awards that we really got to know each other. 

Those early days of the pandemic were particularly challenging because reality was setting in, and we really didn’t know if digital was an alternative that could offer an experience people would find valuable. 

We were reviewing several platforms, but we kept coming back to the TK Platform because it was designed in a way that felt familiar; it was easy to onboard and technologically advanced enough to be effective without being gimmicky.

Essentially their platform was more complete, and for a good reason. Trish made the early decision to act before most of us had really thought through the implication of what we were facing. Trish recalls an email she sent on March 5 that got the ball rolling and the focus turned to virtual, which translated into the project that turned into the TK Events industry-leading event platform.

That early decision and the success of their digital events, including the 2020 Canadian Awards, lay the foundation for a tremendous year for the TK team producing a record number of events, adding 19 new staff, and opening up an office in London UK.

That’s a lot of new faces, new responsibilities, and new stressors to take on in one year, never mind in the middle of a pandemic.

So I asked her how she’s managed all this growth and what business advice she would offer:

The way our business operates very personally; built my work life around balancing being a young mom, so we’ve always offered a flexible work style. The demands on our time are enormous, and | always wanted to provide the kind of flexible environment | was looking for as a young mom.  So my best advice would be to keep your pulse on what employees need from their work culture and find ways to keep them connected, even when remote. It’s complicated to consider work/life balance in this pandemic year – there wasn’t any! As for growth, above all, we look for fit within our organization when we\’re adding to the team. Additionally, from an event perspective, | think you have to develop a sense of the big picture; take yourself out of the weeds and imagine the whole event from start to finish and what kind of experience you want to create.

There are a lot of conversations happening right now about the professional future of the event industry. Some suggest without barriers to entry, such as education or professional designation, we’ll never change the culture or be respected as an industry.

What is your opinion?

I think the role of event manager needs to be elevated in an organization. It still astounds me the perception that the job is about ordering sticky buns and giveaways; or that we can call a hotel and book space for a 1000 people conference – 3000 bedrooms and a massive amount of event space as if it’s just sitting there waiting for us to grab it. Or that event decisions can be made without input from the event lead, and someone will say – oh, by the way, we decided this in a meeting (without you). 

The event lead should have a place at the boardroom table from the start, shaping the content and agenda and providing insights to the venue sourcing and timing/contract aspects to keep in mind to get the best value for a company’s budgets.

I could talk about this forever; I’ve spent years having direct conversations with CEOs and leaders at all levels, and I’ve always found they are open to input and insights. It is a mission of mine to elevate the event role!

You’re 100% right about having a seat at the table, and I honestly think we’ll start to see more and more of that as these companies realize the value of events to engage with their clients, staff, or markets.

This past year has been challenging, and success does not protect you from lockdowns or the stress of being separated from loved ones. I know what success looks like to me has evolved, how has this past year affected you personally? 

I think this past year has put a hyper-focus on working with the right people that fit with our organization and that our business dealings whether clients or suppliers – always come from a place of respect. It’s about having shared values. 

My priorities have changed or sure; time with our families has been the number one positive from this year. We did a team social at Christmas and I asked everyone the one thing they were thankful for and the chance to slow down and reconnect with family and not take those we love for granted was the number one sentiment.

We’re a year Into the digital events experiment, and I think It’s safe to say what started out as an alternative to In-person, has evolved Into a huge opportunity. Yet some people still say the moment we can meet In person again, digital events will disappear. 

You’re at the top of the digital event Industry; what are your thoughts on the future of digital events and what can we expect? 

I think we’re only at the beginning of what technology can do for us with events; creating combined experiences, delivering insightful data with how audiences are connecting is exciting. We’re changing the event industry, expanding the kinds of experiences, and only just beginning to appreciate the opportunities available when you remove social, geographical barriers to event access.  

We have a clear vision for the future of combined in-person and virtual experiences and the application of hybrid events on behalf of our clients.

So what’s Next?

Making our hybrid vision be the new normal!