Since we rolled up our mats in February we asked for, and have been reviewing feedback from the 2017 conference.
The Victoria Yoga Conference was created to build a heart-centered community, centered on the practice of yoga, both on and off the mat. As you witnessed it is about far more than yoga – we have created a community of wellness and connection. We are focused on promoting local teachers and businesses from Western Canada.
As the creator of VYC, one of the values that I subscribe to and strongly believe in is transparency. Over 25% of you provided feedback to us after the conference and we are grateful for all the ideas shared in the ‘what we could do better’ as they are an opportunity to improve the experience for 2018 and beyond.
If 2017 was your first year with us you may not realize that it was the first year that we used the University of Victoria as our venue. After five years at the Victoria Conference Centre, it was like year one all over again in many ways – getting to know a new space and how it will all flow (or in some cases not, as we found out). Our successes included record numbers in attendance, an early, off-site registration at MEC with an exclusive shopping discount for registrants, a 700 person event at the McPherson Theatre (previous year opening night was capped at 350 people). We added Stand-up-Paddleboard yoga with the help of our sponsor Pacifica Paddleboards, bus transportation from the host hotel and a third day for families, an artist in the Wellness Market, an expanded volunteer program and a Distinguished Teacher Award (and some other stuff too!) Things we ‘missed on’ were not recognizing the Coast Salish people on opening night, not providing enough directional signage onsite, temperature of the rooms, too many photos, food arrangements, and a few other things.
Another one of my personal values is being inclusive and I’ve been having conversations with individuals in the community to understand how to ensure that people know that this event is for everyone and hand in hand with that, that everyone feels welcome.
As I mentioned earlier, I recognize that on opening night of 2017, a big miss for us was not recognizing the Coast Salish people’s on whose land we gather to connect, learn and grow. We are grateful to be gathering on the traditional territory of the WS’ANEC (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation, and apologize for our oversight last year. We have spent a year doing our research, reaching out to our local First Nations neighbours, and making more connections. This year, we are committed to including more indigenous speakers and programming.
There are more conversations and plans coming and I am as excited for the 2018 event as I was for the very first year – if not more so. I will continue to meet with community members to check some ideas out, and create more opportunities for connection and contribution so that myself and my team can make this conference even better than the last five!
For now though, here is some feedback we received from you, our 2017 attendees, volunteers and exhibitors, and some information you might not know, or might want to know…
Venue – we are going to be at the University of Victoria February 2018. We know some of you liked the Victoria Conference Centre better, and we love it too (for corporate conferences)! However, one thing you might not know is that an urn of boiling water to supply our free tea station attendees enjoy all weekend long came at a cost of $280 plus tax and gratuity and we went through eight urns in 2016? $2400 gives 80 people clean water through charity: water, so in 2017 we’ve donated that money – and, you still got your tea! If you drove your car to the VCC the parking was $16 a day compared to $3 for the Saturday and free on Sunday at the University of Victoria. At VCC, pretty much none of the rooms had natural light and you were mostly practicing on carpet. Those are just a couple of things. We hear you that you miss the community feeling from being in one building and we’ve got some plans to bring you together more in 2018.
On-site food – every year we get suggestions to have food vendors in the Wellness Market. It’s not that simple! We would like nothing more than this, and in fact every year try to find ways to ‘bend the rules’ and bring in some of the suppliers and restaurants that we know and love in our beautiful city. We have been successful in the areas where the property does not make or sell the items (like cold-pressed juice from GoodLife Juice). We know that a few of you liked the bagged lunches but for us, and some people with food sensitivities, they just didn’t work. For 2018 you will be able to participate in a vegan/vegetarian buffet style lunch. And…we will have cold-pressed juice for sale again!
Coffee (we feel this is important as it’s own category even though it’s technically ‘food’). Prior to the 2017 conference, we interviewed an amazing local coffee vendor last year and couldn’t bring him on site (see above). There was decent coffee at the university, we’ll make sure you know where to find it! Remember too that we always have complimentary tea from Earth’s Herbal for you to enjoy.
Getting to the Conference – We had buses from the host hotel – we trusted they would pick up and drop off where we asked them to – they didn’t. In 2018 we will have a dedicated volunteer assigned to be on the bus with you and make sure it goes where it is supposed to! We’ll also have a place where you can connect with other attendees to carpool (locally or even to get to Victoria to begin with!).
Scheduling – Some of you felt you didn’t have enough time between classes. Did you know that many yoga conferences and events limit the number of sessions you can attend. We don’t – we trust you to manage your time and schedule so that it works for you – this year we’ve created some staggered workshops that are shorter and longer in length to help you have a bit more free time, if you choose. There will be an opening circle on Saturday and a closing circle on Sunday. In 2016, our Illumination Lounge was separate from the conference, and open to the general public. This year we are integrating it into the programming.
Also somewhat related to scheduling, a couple of people commented on price. It costs many, many thousands of dollars to put on an event of this scope and it’s possible that people are not aware of all the costs associated with something of this size. We never want anyone to be left out and so we create opportunities for scholarships and ways to earn a conference registration by volunteering.
I’ve compared other pricing of conferences – when you purchase a full access pass with VYC you can access 7.5 hours of classes per day x 2, plus a two hour evening speaker on Friday night – so a total of 17 hours (and a choice of six different things for each of those hours) – at the regular price that works out to $16.20/hour of learning. Compare this to other conferences – $19 to $46/USD per hour (so, $24 – $58 CDN), with hotel rates ranging from $280 and up – in USD! (p.s. our host hotel was $129/night Canadian).
And…too full classes – we are a growing conference and we allocated the rooms based on the registrations – then, guess what happens, people change their mind and go to a different class… well, in 2018 our volunteers will take attendance, regardless of class size to ensure that the people who signed up are in the room and if there is still space others may join in.
Temperature, noise and cleanliness – we do our best with noise transference – it happens no matter where we are, or how much we plan, but…we switched some rooms for 2018 and we are not using the Village Green again for a practice area. The rooms will be warmer and they will be clean!
Signage – we’re making a map and more signs – way more signs. Enough said.
More volunteers – we are creating opportunities that begin earlier in the year, such as a scholarship and awards committee, keeping our Ambassador program, and creating more pre-conference and on-site opportunities.
Photography – While we had just a few comments about having photographers present in the rooms, I personally attended a retreat this past April where there was a photographer in the room and it was super uncomfortable, especially if you were trying something new or having ‘a moment’. We’ll have a great photo booth again this year, and we’ll have a photographer or two roaming around to catch candid photos in the halls and Wellness Market, but there will be no photographers in the classes or the pools.
Community connection – For 2018 we’ve already created a forum where you can suggest a meetup outside of the conference (Saturday night specifically) and also find a connection for a ride/carpooling or perhaps event accommodation! You will be able to connect with other attendees, and we’ve got areas for our Ambassadors and Volunteers to stay connected too! The best part – this online community will continue to grow and become a resource centre as well, with reading lists, suggested things to watch…the sky is the limit!
Our team is excited for 2018 and hope you are as well. Please join us February 9 – 11, 2018.