Meeting Planner Profile: Maddy Marchildon

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Profile Particulars

Present: Redstone Agency Inc.
Past: Managing Matters Inc., University of Ottawa (Marketing Team, Faculty of Social Sciences)
Expertise: Association and not-for-profit management
Specialty: Board and committee management, volunteer and member engagement, CMS and website platforms, systems and processes management, change management

CMN: Tell us about yourself.

Maddy Marchildon: Since graduating from the University of Ottawa in 2010, I’ve worked with over 25 not-for-profit organizations located in Canada and internationally in industries ranging from arts, to education and to law, just to name a few. I’m a regular  contributor to corporatemeetingsnetwork.ca. I also sit on the Canadian Society of Association Executive’s Trillium Chapter Young Professionals Taskforce. I’m fluent in French, and enjoy writing in both national languages. I love to travel, attend festivals and be outdoors.

Tell us about your work.

A constant struggle in my line of work is trying to explain what I do! Since no two days are the same, and we never know when we will be learning about a new industry or organizational structure, the best I can do is this: I work for an agency that manages small not-for-profit organizations (generally, professional associations). We run their businesses from A-Z — everything from planning conferences, board and committee meetings, project planning, bookkeeping, strategic planning sessions — whatever they need. I lead the association management department, so I oversee the organizations for which we provide association management services, our departmental team, and also lead some of our client portfolios.

How did you get to where you are today?

It seems like most people sort of fall into association management, and my experience was no different. I got my first role as a client services coordinator through a bilingual job placement agency right out of university. I have been given many opportunities to learn, grow and ultimately apply my skills along the way, first in a coordinator role, then as a manager and eventually as a director. I have worked with so many great teams over the years, either within my organization, on a particular client, or with a board, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without their mentoring and support.

Why are you good at what you do?

Generally our boards and committees are comprised of the most passionate people in their industry. I can get behind their mission and goals, no matter the industry, because I am motivated by passionate people who are driving their organizations forward. I like a fast-paced work environment and new challenges. I’m extremely resourceful and know how to leverage my network. I’m also friendly and outgoing, and love a combination of interaction with stakeholders and working behind the scenes.

What are some of the challenges you face?

Lack of resources. In the not-for-profit world, we’re used to stretching small budgets and having to prioritize goals and objectives. This also sometimes means operating with fewer staff. I have had to get my feet wet in many different areas, take on roles outside of my job description, and get creative, but this has ultimately led to gaining more experience and learning new skills.

Is there anything you would change in our industry, given the chance?

Specifically in the not-for-profit meeting planning world, I’d say getting the word out about what a viable career option this is. It’s unique in that you gain a lot of experience in various different areas, and fast. Association management in particular is also an untapped market for young professionals in Canada, and involves gaining cross-industry experience, working with passionate individuals who love what they do, being valued for your expertise, making a difference and, last but not least, innovating and being creative. I believe in the Millennial generation and how valuable their contributions are to the workforce. By generating excitement from the young talent we work with, sharing our knowledge and experience, and helping to build a strong team of meeting and association management professionals, we can each actively contribute to succession planning in the age of Millennials.

What have been some of your biggest achievements?

The first major contract that I helped get awarded to Redstone was a huge achievement for me. Being a key player in the process from start to finish in terms of completing a proposal, going through a series of interviews, and working on negotiations for contract signing, to now having worked with them for a period of time and seeing how far we’ve taken the organization has been amazingly rewarding. Prior to that, I received two industry awards, the Donna Mary Shaw Award from the Canadian Society of Association Executives in 2014 and the Top 40 Under 40 Award from the Association Forum and USAE Weekly in 2015. Receiving validation from the industry has given me the confidence I need in order to continue to develop my abilities and help more organizations achieve their goals.

What do you like best about the meetings industry?

Generally what I love about the meetings industry is that it is so diverse. I meet people from all walks of life in this business, and no two meetings are the same. It makes every day different, and I’m always learning and taking in new experiences. I’m based out of Toronto, so I’d have to say that, while a lot of the work we do is remote, it is nice to have a central hub with a large population where we can do a lot of our business in person, as well as attend a number of industry events ourselves and meet other professionals. However, I love to travel, so I’d never say no to the opportunity to see a new city!

Who are some of your notable clients?

I work directly with the International Pension and Employee Benefits Association, the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services and the Professional Standards Board for the Planning Profession in Canada, for which I am the executive director.

How do you deal with the challenges of work-life balance?

I was several years into my career and suffering from major burnout before I fully understood the importance of having a work-life balance. I’ve since learned that when I feel too tired to think clearly, or simply experience a lull, it’s best to get up and do something else or temporarily switch off. Sitting at your desk being unproductive is a waste of your time and company time. I’m also lucky enough to work in a very open environment, so when I’m feeling overwhelmed I communicate with the co-owners of Redstone. We’re all human, and we look out for one another. I’ve also become much better at prioritizing, both in my work life as well as my personal life, so I always make sure there is time for the things that matter most to me. I use just one calendar for both my work and personal life, so I literally schedule things in like family gatherings, hangouts with friends and workouts.

What are some of your most memorable events and why?

One of my most memorable events was a multi-day conference, where the onsite team I was working with had come in just a few months ahead of the execution of the event to take over from the previous planning team. Planning was way behind schedule, and we didn’t have the onsite support required to execute such a large scale event. Our team of three managed to pull off an amazing conference by banding together. It was such a bonding experience for us to rally together and get the job done. We were running pillar to post for about seven days. It was the most challenging onsite experience I have ever had, but definitely one of the most rewarding as well. On the flip side, it also made me appreciate the value of our volunteers so much more!

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