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Insider Events – CANSEC 2017


Article written by Lesley Jane Musker, Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries

Basic details of the event:

Title: CANSEC 2017 – produced by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI)
Date: MAY 31-JUNE 1 2017
City, Country: Ottawa, Canada
Host Venue: EY Centre (EYC)
Organizing Team: CANSEC is produced by CADSI – every member of our organization plays a critical role in assembling this production. The Event Operations team at CADSI is comprised of:  Theresa Ellwood, Lesley Jane Musker and Francis Callanan
Number of Attendees: 11,000+

Specific Event Questions: 

Who was the target audience?

CANSEC has been held annually in Ottawa since 1998 by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries and showcases leading-edge technology, products and services for land-based, naval aerospace and joint forces military units. The audience is comprised of members of the Department of National Defence (DND), procurement departments, federal Canadian and foreign governments, ambassadors, VIPs, Generals and top military officials. Attendance at all CANSEC events is restricted to CADSI members, and government personnel only.

What was the main objective of your event?

CANSEC is a two-day event with over 150,000 square feet of sold out trade show space and close to 400 companies exhibiting. This allows exhibitors to get face to face with their clients, from top ranking military officials to the front line/end users of the products they sell. The key objective of CANSEC is matched with our corporate members’ needs in networking, brand exposure and uncovering new business opportunities. This annual platform also encompasses over 750 scheduled B2B/G meetings, ticketed meal events that dish out 3,500+ covers, concession sales, high level keynote addresses, significant sponsorship deliverables, and hundreds of business meetings held in private suites. This event is the largest and most important defence industry event in Canada.

What was unique/different about this particular event for you/your organization?

CANSEC 2017 had a very positive ‘buzz’ this year – there was an increased level of excitement on all fronts – from the exhibitors, the attendees, and especially the CADSI team. It set the tone for the show moving forward, as we have the operation spinning like a well-oiled machine, it’s now just a matter of fine tuning small areas, which is a phenomenal position to be in with such a massive event.

What was the biggest obstacle you/your team had to overcome?

Mother Nature could have played nicer. The wind and rain storms picked up – we had to act fast, create a contingency plan considering enormous tents with metal rods, helicopters, and multi-million dollar army machinery and how it would withstand gusting winds. It’s not ‘that’ the wind is blowing, it’s ‘what’ the wind is blowing! Thankfully no incidents to report and mother nature calmed down prior to the show opening.

What was your biggest triumph?

On our 20th anniversary this year, we were successful in attracting the Minister of Defence to deliver an important keynote address, and the invitation was accepted by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to participate in the unveiling of our “100 Years of Innovation” wall display at CANSEC. Additionally, we reached record levels in our meal ticket sales, and our general registration peaked at over 11,000!

Did you do anything new or innovative? If so, how did it go?

In order to achieve our record breaking registration levels, we arranged for pre-registration locations at several DND facilities across Ottawa and Gatineau 3-4 weeks prior to event day(s).

What challenges did you have putting the features together?

Pre-registration initiatives took a lot of background work leading up to the event. In dealing with high security buildings and many levels of approvals and coordination needed, this was in the works ages before the show opened. A worthwhile investment to get maximum participation from our DND delegates, and we will continue on with this practice moving forward.

What were some things that you improved on this year over last year?
CADSI had made significant efforts at the end of the 2016 show to solicit feedback from our sub-committees and member exhibitors to identify areas needing improvement. In this exercise, we learned that F&B (food & beverage) quality was a priority, so by planning and coordinating food tastings earlier in winter and working directly with the F&B team and the Executive Chef at EYC, this allowed us to explore, make more informed choices, and set higher expectations and standards. 2017 did see an improvement in culinary quality, and we are looking to continuous advancement and progress with our F&B offerings year over year. We had also focused on modestly re-configuring the floor plan to maximize the space and better use the existing footprint. This created a better guest experience and resulted in a longer average length of stay for delegates as a whole. We also introduced a “first-time exhibitor survival kit” – a welcome package for those firms new to the exhibit floor. The linens, centrepieces, AV and foyer spaces were all upgraded with new décor products, offering a more professional and visually appealing experience for our attendees. Our new ‘pre-badged’ line allowed for those who were already signed up to skip the long registration line and head straight onto the show floor.

Article compiled by Jill Garner, Sheraton Ottawa Hotel

Article edited by Cynthia Beaudin, Canada Foundation for Innovation