Event professionals looking to advance their careers while sheltering in place due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns have a place to go to share ideas—and learn something along the way.

A year ago, Jillian Cardinal, a 2020 Rising Star Smart Women in Meetings Award winner and business-event specialist at JPdL in Montreal, Canada, decided to post a note on LinkedIn, saying she wanted to read Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life and discuss it with friends in the industry.

“I wanted to keep the conversation and relationships growing between physical events. As the world is evolving and so much is digital, I wanted to find a way to marry the human with the viral connection,” Cardinal said. “Plus, I am a lover of the written word and hearing people’s ideas, as I am insatiably curious. What better way than to discuss, debate and ideate over books?”

She started posting questions on the appointed day. “Where/when do you feel most engaged and energized?” “How do you build your way forward?” And the popular: “How did you feel when you read the statement, ‘The biggest re-frame is that your life can’t be perfectly planned, that there isn’t just one solution to your life, and that’s a good thing?’”

Many books and platforms later—she still recruits on LinkedIn, but has used GoodReads.com, has an email newsletter, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and now hosts Zoom chats with a core group of industry learners—she is still asking the provocative questions as the organizer of  The Eventprofs Book Club.

Now, however, she has also begun featuring special guests to lead the conversations. First up were Sandy Biback, a 2019 Smart Women in Meetings award winner, representing Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking and Tania Ferlin, senior manager at Compass Group Canada to talk about the memoir Out of the Shadows by Timea Nagy and Shannon Moroney. The discussion included links to resources, where planners could get tips on being part of the solution for ending human sex-trafficking in venues.

That was followed by Let the Story Do the Work by Esther Choy and a virtual visit from Reena Kansal, chief operating officer and story facilitator at Leadership Story Lab, who had participants practice turning their sales pitches into emotional stories to engage listeners.

Even the most pedestrian anecdote can be transformed into an engaging story that captures the listener’s attention, changes minds and inspires action if the traditional arc of storytelling—a three-act-formula and surprising hook, for example—are applied, Kansal counselled. The takeaway: People forget facts, but they never forget a good story.

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Cardinal now describes the virtual gathering as “book club meets webinar meets workshop.”

Eventprofs Book Club Reads

  • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work Through Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brene Brown
  • This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
  • Out of the Shadows by Timea Nagy and Shannon Moroney
  • Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success by Esther Choy

Upcoming reads

  • The Non-Obvious Guide to Event Planning (for Kick-Ass Gatherings That Inspire People) by Andrea Driessen, with a discussion on Thursday, April 29 at 5 p.m. EST
  • The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett, with a discussion on Thursday, June 4 at 5 p.m. EST

Sandy Biback and Timea Nagy will host another discussion of Out of the Shadows on July 15.