As I looked around the now-empty auditorium with just the audio tech finishing off his packing up, I felt a little emotional.
Maybe it was still the adrenalin in my system, or the euphoria generated by the goodbye hugs and farewells from new friends who I knew I’d be in touch with again soon.
Or maybe it was the satisfaction of a job well done…you know…that feeling you get when despite all the odds, something you worked at long and hard came together successfully.
That’s how it was at the end of the Vacation Rental Success Summit.
How it all started
So let’s just pan back to January and a get-together with my son and business partner, Mike.
We’d been talking about creating a conference for owners, by owners, for a long time – years in fact..
I had watched the evolution of The Podcast Movement – a conference that started with a couple hundred people taking a leap of faith to support something that had never been done before (and will attract over 1000 people this year). Mike attended an entrepreneur conference that used a workshop style approach to deliver content, and I’d been to numerous VRMA events and Home Away Summits.
We knew we could create something that took the best from every event we’d been to, and avoided the stuff we didn’t feel was valuable.
We had to combine great learning with lots of networking time, in a comfortable space, in a good location, with appealing speakers and attract motivated and enthusiastic attendees.
And we knew if we didn’t get the ball rolling we never would.
So the date was set – the end of April and the venue chosen.
And that’s when the fight started.
That’s no joke because I was all for the conventional thing. It went something like this:
“Conferences takes place in hotels, Mike”
“Near an airport”
“With shops and restaurants nearby”
“Not in ‘a dedicated learning environment’, because that won’t attract anyone”
Given the short lead time – we only had 10 weeks – the choice was limited. It came down to a Hilton Hotel (my conventional choice) or The BMO Institute for Learning.
Mike along with our event planner, Erica, were raving about the place.
“You need to see it”
“The food is incredible”
“They have ‘nourishment' hubs that are fully stocked all day”
“We will have it exclusivly weekend”
I was still reluctant but since Mike had already put a deposit down, I had to see it – if only to prove myself right.
Boy, was I wrong.
I was sold with the caramel chocolate pie at lunch – from a selection of half a dozen equally delicious desserts.
With the full-sized indoor pool and fitness centre
With the on-site accommodations – small but supremely comfortable rooms
…and with the amazing staff.
…and the social centre
As one delegate put it on the evaluation form:
“My only complaint was that I am several pounds heavier – the food was just too good”
I loved it. From the light-filled networking areas to the outdoor patios, and breakout rooms, it was perfect.
So it began.
Putting on something like this is hard. It involves a ton of work, a lot of money, sleepless nights and a commitment to getting it right from the start.
We didn’t want to cut corners and shave off expense but the investment was high.
So we needed some sponsors.
At the outset we said we wanted to be independent so our speakers could feel free to share their views without adhering to the corporate nonsense that goes on at other VR events. We were not going to be beholden to any one sponsor who might define what we could or could not do. On the other hand we had to get the sponsorship that would allow us to make the event special.
Thankfully, our leading sponsor, Canada Stays, along with our other sponsors, Ross Robertson Insurance, Reel Tours 360, Vacation Rental Supplies, My Booking Pal made no demands and were hugely supportive.
Support came from many other directions too.
My friend Matt Landau was our cheerleader, chief chivvier, and motivator and I can’t thank him enough for his unfailing belief in what we were doing. Thanks also go to Conrad O’Connell at 91 Digital, Seb Grosjean, Amy Hinote at VRMIntel and so many others for promoting and advertising the event. We love you all!
We wanted to bring a range of speakers and selected those that would provide a variety of topics and content. With the short notice, a few we’d hoped to attract were not able to attend. So a shout out to Alan Egan, Mercedes Brennan and Thibault Masson – thank you for your support and we hope you can make it next year!
From digital marketing, to photography; planning for the next house purchase to planning for disasters, there was a workshop for everyone, and the keynote speakers spoke at a more general level on the topics that resonated with the entire audience.
And the feedback was amazing!
Some said the best part of the event was meeting all the people they were friends with online, and that the opportunity to do that was what brought them to Toronto.
Mike and I have taken part in and learned from many online seminars and summits with great educational content, but there’s always something missing.
It’s the value you get only when you are face-to-face with other enthusiastic and motivated business owners. As one attendee said,
‘We went in for dinner at 6pm and at nine the four of us were still sitting at the table talking about processes. I came away with a notebook full of ideas and plans’.
At any time during the weekend, I’d see knots of people in animated discussion – at the round tables after a session, gathering around the never-ending food hub, at the long tables in the dining room and in the bar later on in the evening.
And that made it all worthwhile!
So, will we do it again?
You bet we will.
If you were there and want to share your experience, we’d love to hear from you.
And if you weren’t, we’ll be releasing the replays of every session in a few weeks. You’ll be able to see all 18 hours of workshops and keynotes and get the feel of the event itself, because our video team didn’t miss a thing!
And if you are not on our mailing list and would like to get the details of VRSS17 as soon as they are released….and the opportunity to purchase super early-bird tickets – Sign up now