What’s In Store For The Upside Of People, HR Conference & Expo?


Ahead of the Upside of People, HR Conference & Expo on Sept. 27-28, 2021, PeopleTalk caught up with Dawn Bergot, 2021 Conference Advisory Committee Chair to talk about the event and why it’s a “must attend” event for HR professionals. 

As a long time member and volunteer with CPHR BC & Yukon, what drew you to joining the Conference Advisory Committee?

For the many years that I have been a member, the CPHR Conference (or simply “Conference” to us die-hard fans) is THE key event that I look forward to every year!  It is a chance to meet, share ideas, and learn with fellow members, from top influencers and innovators in the people space.  HR professionals from all over the province have the opportunity to come together in a picturesque setting and enjoy the experience of not only gaining more insight in the breakout sessions, but connecting with the varied exhibitors in the trade show. I love the ambiance and excited energy that attendees feel over the days of Conference and I wanted to be a part of putting that together!  I was invited to join the Conference Advisory Committee as Vice-Chair and Track Chair in 2018/2019, and it was my honour to accept. Our track team was amazing and that year, the entire committee, supported by the exceptional team at CPHR BC & Yukon, pulled together one of the most successful conferences to-date, under the incredible leadership of our chair, Cindy Dopson.

This is the first time that our annual conference will be held virtually. What do you see as some of the advantages of a virtual conference? 

It really has been an interesting couple of years since COVID landed in our world. The thought of ever successfully running a large-scale event virtually never occurred as a possibility. But I believe the world has surprised itself by the incredible things it can achieve despite the odds!  I’m very excited about our upcoming virtual conference and the many opportunities that exist now that would not have been available had we held the conference in person.  

Two main reasons that people may not want or be able to attend in-person, multi-day events are: 1) the cost and 2) the time. In a virtual conference, the cost of running an event goes down substantially as there are no venue costs, no travel costs for speakers, and no catering costs. These savings in turn are passed onto conference attendees resulting in a much lower registration fee.  Also, attendees can now plan their days around the event, rather than book time away from the office for several days to join.

Dawn Bergot, 2021 Conference Advisory Committee Chair

Some other advantages include an improved conference attendance rate as attendees can access the event anywhere; networking is easier and more “intentional” – you can reach out to attendees before or during the conference to set up a time to chat during breaks instead of trying to find each other in a crowd; and a virtual conference is more environmentally friendly as all resources/brochures are shared online and readily available.

The theme of this year’s conference is The Upside of People. What does that theme mean to you in the work that you do?

People define the workplace. They are the difference makers, the “competitive advantage”, and the lifeblood of an organization. At Optimum Talent, we value the unique “superpowers” of every individual that comes through our doors. They may be star candidates that are being considered for executive roles for which we’re placing, new leaders honing their skills with our coaches, or individuals that are going through career transition and discovering new possibilities through their programs with us. There is one common theme: people are learning what they didn’t know they didn’t know about themselves! They are realizing their “upside” and that special something that contributes to greatness. It is incredibly fulfilling to see that transformation.

The Conference Advisory Committee’s main responsibility is selecting the keynote and breakout sessions for conference. This year is jam-packed with 4 keynotes and 16 breakouts. Can you share one or two sessions that you are really excited for?

Oh boy! You’d like me to narrow it down to only one or two? Before we even get started, I’m absolutely thrilled that Narges Nirumvala is our emcee. I have been a fan of hers for years, and her daily videos are like a little bit of sunshine to start your day! Dr. Roberta Bondar is a hero among heroes. She is a brilliant neurologist and Canada’s first female astronaut – I’m sure I’ll be enthralled from the minute she starts to speak!  I’m also so very excited to see Johann Hari. His Ted Talk is brilliant! He talks about the things we crucially need to talk about, and I feel people will leave his session still discussing it weeks later. And if I can squeeze one more in, I’m so looking forward to the pre-conference workshop facilitated by Udokam Iroegbu.  A fascinating woman with an incredible background – there will no doubt be rich discussions in this session!

We know that many members will miss the face-to-face interaction and feeling of connection that comes with an in-person conference. Do you have any suggestions for how attendees can make the most of what a virtual event has to offer in terms of interpersonal connection and networking?

In the last year or so, online events have evolved from early-stage “prototypes” to full-fledged virtual experiences. We have had the benefit of using PheedLoop since last year and what they’ve created is truly incredible! Despite not having a physical face-to-face event, this year’s online conference offers opportunities to interact with other members and speakers in ways we weren’t able to before. You can participate in the morning engagement sessions, use the Chat function to share your thoughts and questions with other attendees, connect with exhibitors live on camera, and network using the “matchmaking” function to set up one-on-one discussions. Networking is more intentional and far-reaching.

With so much learning happening over the two days of conference, do you have any advice for how people make the most of it?

I would suggest planning your schedule around the sessions you’d like to be a part of live and you can always check out the other session recordings later because they are available for attendees to watch for 60 days after the event. As well, do your research and check out the attendee list, connect with peers, explore the virtual tradeshow, and really embrace everything that this virtual conference has to offer!  

Anything else you would like to share with those who are registered or considering registering?

Your CPHR Conference Committee, made up of your fellow HR professionals, has worked hard to bring together the brightest and most intriguing speakers to make this one of the best virtual events of the year!  Encourage your team to come out and experience The Upside of People! You won’t regret it!

There is still space available. Register today for the Upside of People, HR Conference & Expo and take advantage of early bird prices. Prices go up on Aug. 16, 2021. We hope to see you there. 


Dawn Bergot is the Vice President, Client Solutions in Vancouver.  She has a passion for establishing and cultivating new business relationships, and facilitating client success by working with organizations to identify the best service offerings from Optimum Talent’s extensive portfolio.  With a varied background in executive recruiting, human resources, marketing, market development, and office administration, she has gained the expertise to engage corporate clients and truly understand the challenges they face in an ever-changing business environment.

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