Strategic Review

The information below is archived from the 2013 Symposium

2013 Strategic Review of the Latornell Conservation Symposium

The Latornell Conservation Symposium is run by large committee made of up of a combination of Conservation Authorities, government agencies, and environmental nonprofit organizations. Co-hosts include Conservation Ontario and the University of Guelph.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Latornell Conservation Symposium, a strategic review was undertaken in order to ensure the next 20 years would be as successful as the first 20 years.

Since 1994, the Symposium has grown from 80 delegates, exhibitors, speakers, and sponsors to between 880 and 1,000 people. Co-hosts want to ensure that the event would continue to be a relevant, cost effective event that would meet the needs of its diverse audience.

Goal of the Symposium

The Latornell Conservation Symposium strives to create a lively and inclusive forum for practitioners, policy-makers, and many others working in Ontario’s watershed management sector to come together to network, share information, and learn from each other about the new tools and strategies being developed to tackle current and future challenges around natural resource management in Ontario.

Objectives

  • Engage knowledgeable and interesting speakers to provide insights into the trends, challenges and opportunities associated with natural resource management;
  • Provide information about leading-edge tools, techniques, and strategies to improve our understanding and management of natural resources;
  • Provide an educational forum which encourages networking, debate and discussion;
  • Foster, acknowledge and celebrate achievements in the fields of natural resource management, conservation and the environment; and
  • Conduct sessions and activities which meet the recognized objectives of Arthur D. Latornell to promote grassroots conservation efforts and Conservation Authorities as well as provide mentoring and/or educational opportunities for students studying conservation.

Strategic Review

A total of 142 people participated through an online survey conducted during and after last year’s event and two focus groups.

Evaluation tools

  • Online Survey
  • Two Focus Groups
  • Review of Delegate Statistics & Demographics
  • Review of Conference Trends

In 2013, the majority of similar events report a 20% decrease in attendance these days and are scrambling as to how to maintain their relevancy for their target audiences. In addition, conferences today struggle to meet the needs of two very distinct demographics who have very different learning approaches – the younger delegate (mid 20s to mid 30s) and the aging boomers (50 plus).

The strategic review revealed that the strength of the Latornell Conservation Symposium is that it knows its audience and focuses on developing a diverse program and event that meets their different needs. This formula has been very successful for the past 20 years and will continue to be important to maintain for the next 20 years.

Key Lessons Learned

– over the course of two and a half days, this event offers 49 sessions, 150 speakers, including some of the most well known keynote speakers, and lots of networking opportunities.
  • delegates take information from the Symposium back to their office to share with their colleagues;
  • they’ve often changed some aspect of their work as a result of something they’ve learned at the Symposium; and
  • over half have also started new collaborations as a result of networking at the event.
– the primary reason for delegates to come to the Symposium is learning so our program needs to continue to align with current challenges and issues facing participants. Organizers will continue to track issues, concerns and priorities of participants. There is also an appetite for, more in-depth workshops, webinars, and possibly live streaming for those beyond the conference doors. We need to explore how to incorporate some of those approaches.
– networking is the number two reason why people say they attend the Symposium. Offering different types of networking opportunities throughout the conference helps to build collaborations and relationships.
– people communicate and work differently today – they are always connected and use multiple types of technology and tools (webinars, podcasts, social media, etc.). Some of these same tools need to continue to be incorporated into the Latornell Conservation Symposium program. At the same time, research indicated that people still like the face to face experience and expect to have this.
– organizers heard that the cost of attending the Symposium needs to be within reach of tight budgets. As a result, organizers are going to look at tweaking the current structure of the Symposium and offer three full days in order to appeal to people who can only come for one day. The Symposium will enable better sharing of registrations as well as provide website resources, podcasts and possibly occasional live streaming of presentations.
– all conferences are finding that delegates at their conferences benefit significantly from having fun at these events. Research indicates that delegates create new connections and learn how to work together through social events. The Latornell Conservation Symposium should continue to offer a variety of events such as the current ones which include a Wine and Cheese night, hockey games, movie nights, yoga, hospitality suites, silent auction, and for the past two years – an amazing race. All are popular and should continue.
– continue to support young conservation professionals by providing them with opportunities to participate in the event as moderators, through the Student Poster Call, as presenters, through mentoring, and on the organizing committee.

Next Steps

Refreshed and updated the look of the event. The name of the event was shortened to the Latornell Conservation Symposium and a new logo was unveiled at the 2013 event.
A new mentoring program was implemented both onsite and throughout 2014 as a pilot project.
The event’s dates have moved to mid-week in order to provide three full days and enable easier one day registrations.
The structure of the program will be reviewed, tweaking sessions in order to incorporate more in-depth discussions and new technologies such as podcasts and live streaming.
The Steering Committee will continue to support the successful elements identified in the Strategic Review such as social events, Leadership Awards, Fundraising, and Student / Young Conservationist activities.

Resources

A number of Strategic Review presentations and resources are available on the Latornell website: