Takeaways From Montréal: 5 Days at AIESEC Canada’s National Congress 2017

Written by Jennifer Lui

Over the course of my university career, one organization that has always been a constant in my life is AIESEC, the world’s largest youth-run non-profit organization. During my five years of involvement, I have always appreciated the organization’s ambition to develop business and leadership skills in every young person, regardless of their area of academic pursuit.

In the past year, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with and lead a team of SFU students in organizing a 5-day national conference happening this May for AIESEC Canada. In order to gain a greater understanding of the logistics, dynamics, and execution of such a large-scale event, my team and I flew over to Montréal for New Years to shadow the national conference preceding ours: AIESEC Canada’s National Congress 2017.

Every year, National Congress brings together 300+ youth from 29 universities together for a 5-day conference that features skills-based workshops, strategic planning sessions, and a chance to connect with youth leaders from across the country. This past December, AIESEC SFU sent a delegation of 12 students, a quarter of which were Communications students.

While most of the students were attending sessions and participating in insightful conversations about the relevance of Canadian youth to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, I spent my time with the organizing team to learn some best practices in events management to bring back. Here are three of many takeaways:

1. Increasing Facetime with Delegates

During the conference, a few members of the organizing team made a visible effort to connect with the delegates casually. By making frequent small talk and breaking down the usual “wall” between delegates and organizers, more constructive feedback was received and it resulted in higher overall conference satisfaction.

2. Setting a Communications Hierarchy

This conference was executed by teams of facilitators, organizers, volunteers, executives, and partners… each with their own pre-existing set of communications protocol. At first, there was quite a bit of confusion due to these varying processes. Though they were resolved later, this emphasized the importance of hashing out new collective expectations with everyone to prevent future issues.

3. Developing Long-Term Relationships

Throughout the event, it was evident that the organizing team had built a strong working relationship with the conference venue, who had hosted another conference before. Not only did this aid in the smooth management of emergency situations, but it also strengthened the foundation for future AIESEC events to return.

Although these three takeaways were key learning points for myself, there was so much more that I gained. The conference was an incredible opportunity to meet university students that I wouldn’t have the chance otherwise to connect with, as well as to discuss planning strategies with the organizing team.

Now back in BC, my team and I are excited to implement these bringbacks and ensure that the national conference we are planning (AIESEC Canada’s National Leadership Development Conference) is delivered with the same—if not higher—level of excellence.