Have you ever wondered what exactly goes on behind the scenes at the Shaw Conference Centre (SCC)? In the coming weeks, we’ll be giving you a glimpse into the daily lives of different staff members in a series of blog posts. This week, our Client Service Manager Manfred Kalk will be featured. As a Client Service Manager who has been with SCC for 15 years, he works as the link between a client’s vision and the centre’s resources. Manfred coordinates banquets, meetings, weddings, conventions, and trade shows. He is also a member of the Green Meetings Industry Council, an organization dedicated to achieving sustainability in the meeting and events industry.
Note: We’re proud to congratulate Manfred Kalk on his new role as Associate Director, Alumni & Events at the University of Alberta School of Business.
What’s a typical day like for you?
The first thing I do is get through my personal stuff so I can focus on work. I have five kids at home, so I have to make sure they are up and off to school before I even think about emails. When I get to work, if I do have clients in the building, I go and check in with them before our internal meeting at 9 a.m. This is something we do every morning with the team to go over what is happening and see what issues are pertinent. Every day is different, which is part of the beauty of my job.
You have worked with the SCC for 15 years. Can you tell me a bit about your career with them?
My background is actually as a Chef — I started in the kitchen. I began working at SCC when I was looking for an apprenticeship gig at NAIT for my first year. I saw a posting for a seasonal Christmas job with Chef Simon Smotkowicz’s name on it, so I threw my hat in the ring and tried to get the job. He hired me! [laughing] I actually didn’t even realize he hired me because he had such a strong French accent. I ended up finishing my two years as an apprentice under Chef Simon and soon after became a Sous-Chef.
After six years, there was a Client Service Manager position that opened up, and now here I am nine years later. The transition was interesting.. I think I was chosen because I like hosting guests, and that my passion for cooking stemmed from my interest in hospitality as an overarching theme. I had an obvious desire to reconnect with that, to help host and create that environment where people feel welcome. I could convey that (through the CSM position) and that is what helped me make the transition.
What is the most difficult request that you have had to handle in your career at the SCC?
Zoo animals! People asking, “Can I bring in a horse for our wedding?” That is a no. No riding horses in the building.
What is the largest meeting you have helped a client organize at the SCC?
Well that is difficult to quantify. The largest event in the building was for 7,200 people for Break Forth, a Christian faith group. The Festival of Trees sees 10,000 people walk through the doors each day. But the biggest meeting where everyone needed to sit and talk? That was The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was open, so there was no registration, and approximately 6,000 people participated. The largest event in sheer volume? Red Bull Crashed Ice, but you know, that was on the roof and everything, so I don’t know if that counts…
Christmas is coming. Are there a lot of Christmas parties happening this year at SCC? What sort of things do companies do to keep them interesting?
Oh yeah, lots of Christmas parties here. I personally have 14 Christmas parties that I’m in charge of. Then there are four people in the same role as I am, so we probably have over 50 Christmas parties! Christmas parties are still so traditional, so you don’t see many changes year after year..
When do you have to put your foot down with clients?
I always describe my job as managing client expectations, and I view my role as facilitating their wish list, their dreams. So I don’t know if it is so much putting my foot down as guiding them to the right decision.
What do you enjoy most about your day-to-day activities as a Client Service Manager at SCC?
The variety of tasks is really the best. There are no two days that are the same, and no two events that are the same. I love the variety of people I talk to, events that I get to see, and the variety of requests that I get to filter through. I think that is the most interesting thing.
If you weren’t a Client Service Manager, what position at SCC would you want?
I don’t know if I would want another job. I love the idea of representing Edmonton and representing the building, so sales would be the only other thing I would consider.
You and the SCC are very active in promoting Sustainable Meetings and events. How much waste does SCC produce annually?
We create somewhere in the ballpark of 125,000 kg of waste that ends up in the landfill. That is both operationally as a building and client driven waste. We divert (compost, recycle) 97,000 kg of waste, which is about 42% of total waste, so that is good. Learn more about our Sustainable Meetings here.
What recommendations do you have for companies that want to make their meetings more sustainable?
The simplest thing: ask for stuff. Ask for compost bins, energy efficient plugs, or to turn off the lights when you leave. Make sure that you make this a stipulation in your contract. I think using the event as a platform to drive that message home at an organizational level is a great idea. Don’t just make it a one-day thing. Make it a habit.
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