Site Canada is one of the largest and most successful chapters in the Site community. Year to date, the Chapter has experienced a 30 percent growth in membership with a record 121 members that comprise 60 percent buyers and 40 percent suppliers. An impressive two-thirds of the members are actively involved in Chapter volunteer activities. The Chapter is very committed to corporate social responsibility and professional development. Over the past eight years, Site Canada has raised $62,000 to donate to its charity of choice, Childhood Cancer Foundation, and has donated more than $41,000 in cash scholarships for members to attend Site Conferences and Site Canada special events and education.
At its Summer Social “Rock the Night” on 19 June, Site Canada debuted Gain InSite – a new, innovative loyalty program for Site Canada members. The program encourages and recognizes Site members for conducting business with other Site members. In the following interview, Pam Graham, President of Site Canada and Senior Advisor at MCI-Toronto, shares what has contributed to the Chapter’s growth and success over the past three years and unveils the Gain InSite program.
Site Source: To what do you attribute the successful growth of the Site Canada Chapter?
Pam Graham: In 2010, I joined the Site Canada Board and took on the responsibility and challenge of increasing attendance at our Site Chapter meetings. When I started, we typically attracted around 20 attendees to our Chapter meetings. In three years, attendance has increased nearly four-fold and our meetings now average 70+ members and guests. We have achieved this by offering high-quality programming and ensuring that each event satisfies the criteria of a memorable, incentive-quality experience that members cannot realize anywhere else. For example, one of our recent meetings included an airside tour of the Toronto airport where we were able to meet with airport management and learn about airport operations, passenger movement and observed the luggage handling control room. Another example was a behind-the-scenes tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. Site members were able to meet and talk with the curators and hold the artifacts.
As we have gained momentum, and participation at our Chapter events has increased, we have strived to make the events even more compelling and exclusive. To recognize and provide an added benefit to Site members, we have widened the gap between member and non-member event pricing. For events where we have limited capacity, Site members receive priority access. We have also established a policy where non-members can only attend two Chapter events a year, which is a catalyst for them to join Site.
Site Source: Site Canada serves a very large geographic region, with over 6 time zones. How are you able to effectively engage with Site members and prospective members from coast to coast?
Pam: This is a challenge and each year we try to ensure that our strategy includes tactics for engaging members across the region. For example, we have held member receptions in Vancouver and Montreal. Last year we held a webinar that attracted members from all over Canada. Toronto is a vital market for both buyers and suppliers and has a large and dynamic community of Site members. We are experiencing growth in Montreal and are working on tactics to engage more members in the other Canadian provinces and territories.
Site Source: What are some of the strategies Site Canada is implementing to sustain and grow membership?
Pam: We have an excellent Board of Directors – all leaders in the travel and hospitality industry. Each year Site Canada reviews and updates its three-year strategic plan, based on the Site four pillars, to engage members. The Board has been very committed and disciplined about establishing and following the action items outlined in the plan. At the conclusion of our three-year plan in 2010 we had 163 action items and all of them were checked off! One of our goals is to create a leadership succession plan that includes attracting more young industry professionals into our membership. We are proud to share that we have increased the number of Site Young Leaders from three in 2010 to 11 in 2013.
Over the past three years, Site Canada has also benefitted greatly from a “sister” relationship with Site Florida. We appreciate an active exchange of ideas and have partnered with Site Florida on several events. At the end of 2013, we will be exploring a new relationship with another Site Global Chapter, perhaps in Europe or one of the emerging markets. It’s another box to check in our strategic plan.
Site Source: Site Canada has just announced Gain InSite, a new loyalty program for members. Can you share more about the genesis of this program?
Pam: Our primary initiative for 2013 is the Gain InSite program that we unveiled to members at our Summer Social event 19 June. The program started with a member questionnaire asking them if they feel they are getting value out of their Site membership. This helped us establish a baseline. Gain InSite is designed to promote loyalty between Site members and produce measurable business activity and proof of ROI. Local advertising company The Brainstorm Group donated the design of program logo. We reached out to potential sponsors and Meetings & Incentive Travel Magazine signed on to be the Inaugural Sponsor and cover most of the expenses of the program development and launch. The concept of a token exchange includes the transfer of custom designed “tokens” between Site Members that do business with each other. By the end of the year, we will be able to document results and showcase the success of Gain InSite so that other Site Chapters will consider embracing the program model worldwide. I am very proud of what the Site Canada Board and our Gain InSite committee, led by Cathy O’Connor, a past Site Canada President, and Liz Akey, have accomplished and hope to leave this program as my legacy.
Site Source: How have you built such a successful career in the meetings and events industry?
Pam: I went to the University of Waterloo and earned a degree in Recreation and Environmental Planning. However, after working at an environmental planning firm for a couple of years, I realized that I was ahead of my time. My firm produced meaningful, environmental recommendations. Unlike today, 30 years ago the world was not ready to embrace sound environmental practices, so I decided to seek another career path. My passion was to organize events, so I became an independent meeting planner managing international scientific meetings, events and tours. I formed Congress Canada in 1979 and expanded the business to handle both inbound and outbound meetings and incentives. In January of this year I sold Congress Canada to MCI and assumed a new role as Senior Advisor, MCI-Toronto, primarily focused on inbound business. MCI is an aggressive, international company headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in 23 countries and 2,100 employees worldwide. I am pleased to have sold Congress Canada to what I consider to be the world leader in our industry.