How to Plan a Conference for 250 Changemakers

The Windsor 180 Summit was held at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts on June 19th, 2015.


By Dan Brown

I can easily say that Windsor180 has been the biggest accomplishment I’ve ever been a part of. Between  our volunteer committee and WEtech, we worked for months to bring you the best Windsor180 Week and Summit we could muster. Being the first of its kind, we had a lot of the same questions and uncertainties as you, but in the end, these ingredients bubbled up.


1. Set the Tone

Keep in mind the kind of atmosphere you want to provide the attendees to enable the right mindset.

We arrived for Friday morning with more lanyards, tote bags, and coffee mugs than imaginable. Soon enough, sequins hit the table and windows were markered. When the DJ finally geared up, we were ready to rock.

Wherever possible, we infused young talent. Our poster, lighting, photographs, website, logo, video, and DJ all happened by paying local young people for their work.

“If you want something you’ve never had,then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” Don’t be afraid to make the space your own.


2. Hold Structured Conversation


99.519% of events are networking, and we heard loud and clear that you wanted more time during the Coffee Circle conversations. Maybe we all don’t hate networking after all. Maybe what we hate is the approach. Providing a structured networking session removes that step.

People will say that having conversations is just talking and not taking action, but it is action, so long as you have conversations that matter, and follow-up.

Unexpectedly, the underlying dialogue at Windsor180 was about meaning in life and the work that we do. Whether it was Workforce WindsorEssex’s debate on chasing the labour trends or chasing your dreams, Leadership Windsor/Essex’s presentation on doing socially innovative work, or Hackforge’s workshop on your authentic digital brand, we hear that meaningful work is your priority.


3. Focus on Ideas


Change starts with ideas, and they don’t even have to be new! Old ideas can have new impact if they’re repurposed and shared with the people with the power to make a change.

In the end, it’s not flashiness that the participants will remember. What they’ll remember are the lessons, skills, and people transforming our community.

We have the resources. What we need is resourcefulness.

Sharing your idea is the first step.


Continue the Conversation

If you missed the Windsor180 Summit, have a look at our Facebook album. If you attended, share your feedback on the Survey Monkey. And always, continue the conversation online with #Windsor180.


Windsor180 was made possible by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, Ontario Centres of Excellence, EPICentre, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Motor City Community Credit Union, University of Windsor Alumni Association, and St. Clair College Alumni Association.

DanBrown (2)Dan Brown coordinates YKNOT Windsor-Essex, a communication and engagement project for Generation Y, hosted by WEtech and funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, with the vision of drawing young talent to our region.