Dec. 17, 2020Print | PDF
From October 11 – 16, 2020, the Lazaridis International Case Competition student club in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Students’ Union hosted its third annual Lazaridis International Case Conference (LazICC).
Bringing together business schools from around the globe, LazICC provides students and faculty supervisors with an opportunity to solve challenging business cases, rub elbows with sponsors at networking events, and unwind with some friendly competition during social activities. This year, 64 delegates from 16 post-secondary institutions tuned in to learn, network, and compete in a series of social events as well as 5-hour and 24-hour case events.
Originally envisioned as an in-person conference, LazICC organizers had to quickly change their plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through hours of extensive research, trial-and-error, and learning different time zones by heart, they were able to pull off a successful virtual event of significant international scope and breadth.
We sat down with LazICC organizers Brett Bertrand, current Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student and Matthew Donovan, recent graduate of the double degree BBA/BMath program with the University of Waterloo, to talk about their challenges – and successes – of moving an in-person event to an online competition and conference.
Lazaridis: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Matthew: I graduated this year (2020) from the BBA/BMath double degree program. Right now I work as a Portfolio Manager at Sun Life Financial.
Brett: I’m a third-year BBA student thinking of concentrating in marketing or entrepreneurship. I’ve completed two co-op terms at PepsiCo and will be going back in January.
Lazaridis: How did you first get involved with LazICC?
Matthew: Prior to LazICC, I was involved with Laurier's JDCC and International Case Competition team, representing Laurier at home and overseas. I was thankful for the opportunity Laurier had provided me, and I wanted to give back. In addition to our podium finishes abroad, hosting a top-calibre event here at home helps to grow the Laurier brand. Initially, my role within LazICC was as a case writer, but that evolved to supporting the competition with time-keeping and ultimately acting as Organizing Director for this year's event.
Brett: In my first year at Laurier, I was part of The Link (a club within the Lazaridis Students’ Society) and a few friends I met there were involved with LazICC and encouraged me to apply. In 2019, I worked on the corporate team and this year I stepped into the role of Vice-President of Corporate Relations. In 2021, I’ll be the Organizing Director.
Lazaridis: What was the process like to plan an international conference that was fully online?
Matthew: We identified very quickly that the event needed to continue in an online format. With that in mind, we identified many components where we weren’t willing to compromise: the competition itself, the social aspects – which are such a huge part – and the education piece. We also needed to ensure the sponsors and the case company still felt valued. It was a significant challenge for the LazICC organizing team, but the team was able to work together to pull off an incredibly successful event. We ultimately went back to first principles and built everything up from there, ensuring we could still deliver, at the same quality as in previous years, all of the aspects mentioned above.
Brett: In reality, we started planning the 2020 conference last year, and COVID wasn’t really on our radar at that time. In March, we realized that COVID meant we needed to pivot. We went from conversations with hotels to figuring out how to run the conference online. Questions like “How can we provide a valuable experience to the delegates and faculty without the travelling to Waterloo to experience the culture?” were key. We did a lot of research with different organizations that had run international case conferences to collect their feedback and see how we could adapt to provide the same experience. We also spoke with the sponsors who provided their insights on how they have adapted to work from home but still keep connected given current circumstances. With all this feedback, we were able to offer a comparable experience to how it would have been in-person.
Lazaridis: What should someone do if they’re interested in getting involved with LazICC?
Matthew: Reach out! To anyone interested in getting involved: we would love to have you. There are all sorts of positions. We will work with people who want to be involved – we want people who are interested and passionate. In 2020, we had first-year students all the way up to alumni. We will find a spot for you.
Brett: Stay tuned on our social media. This is likely where a lot of hiring news will be posted and it’s a great place to reach out. We are looking for passionate people who want to be involved.
Lazaridis: What has been your favourite part or best memories of being involved with LazICC?
Matthew: The delegates, the faculty, the coaches – that is why we have the conference. The reason we are doing this isn’t just to learn and compete. It’s great to get the faculty to come out and meet one another and being a part of that is great. You get to see people who you have seen at other international conferences. There is a huge social, non-competition piece that is so important.
Brett: Seeing the delegate’s presentations. It is so incredible to see the quality of presentations a group of students can come up with in such a short time. Meeting the delegates and building an international network is also amazing and not a typical opportunity. Being able to have those connections of 64 people from across the world from the top business schools and those connections can last a lifetime.
Lazaridis: What advice would you give to other people who might be interested in organizing an event similar to LazICC?
Matthew: Work hard. At the end of the day, these events are so much bigger than you think. Regardless if it's a local or international event, the impact is always greater than you can imagine. It's important to work hard and deliver a top-quality product, because at the end of the day, these events reflect on Laurier. For LazICC, this is the only interaction many of the competitors will have with Laurier, so it's important to deliver our best.
Brett: You get what you give and you’re representing Laurier to the world. It’s important to work hard to make sure you represent it well. Also, having three contingency plans for any problem – virtual or not – is key. Accessing information virtually can be challenging so make sure you have a backup.
Lazaridis: Any last words?
Matthew: Next year, we are hoping to have some sort of hybrid to provide an in-person experience. We want the experience to be the best it can be for everyone involved – remote for some and in-person for some. We are excited to see what that may look like.
Brett: I am looking forward to working with a group of great students to build a new version of LazICC for 2021. We have experienced a variety of unprecedented times in recent months that have caused us to pivot many times. We are hoping to build a plan that offers some aspect of an in-person conference, with the hope that the world begins to settle over the coming year.
To learn more about LazICC and stay up-to-date on their plans, visit https://lazicc.com/ or check out their social channels @LazaridisICC. If you want to speak to Brett about a specific role or joining the team, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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