For the past seven years, Michele Guy of the Rotary Club of Toronto has been the driving force behind the 2018 Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada. To the best of our knowledge, she is the first Rotarian who has not been a District Governor to head up a Host Organizing Committee for a Rotary International Convention. Michele is, however, the first woman to be President of the Rotary Club of Toronto.

Transcript of Interview with Michele Guy, Co-chair Host Organising Committee (HOC) and host John Borst of Wethe4 Productions

John: Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview today. My guest today is Michele Guy, and she is co-chair of the 2018 Rotary Convention in Toronto. Michele thank you for taking the time from what I am sure is a very busy day and heavy schedule right now. Could you please fill me in on how your vocational and Rotary background has helped you become co-chair of the committee.

Michele: I became a lawyer, 30 years ago, and joined the firm Coutts Crane and I’ve been here ever since 30 years, and my senior partner, who had been in Rotary for many years, Elgin Coutts asked me to join the Rotary Club of Toronto. And I have just finished 25 years of perfect attendance at my Club.

In 2002 we lost the bid to Montreal for the International convention in 2010, and I thought Toronto is a fabulous city and there is no reason why it should not be in Toronto.

It had already been in Toronto four times: in 1924,  in 1942, in 1962 and finally in 1983. We had not had a convention for over 30 years, in this city. So I put together a team, and we put a bid in and we beat out four other countries around the world. And we won the bid for 2018,  to have the Convention.  I asked Michael Cookesy to be the chair. He said he wouldn’t do it unless I was his co-chair.  And that is how I got to be the co-chair.

John: It’s unique is it not, to have co-chairs?

Michele: Yes it is, it is probably the first time that it has ever had it.

John: What are you planning for in terms of numbers?

Michele: We have 34,000 people registered already. Now many of those are unpaid, so technically we have 24,000 coming. We will go over 25,000, so we will definitely have 25,000.

John:  So we’re going to fill the Air Canada Centre.

Michele: Oh, yes twice.  Yes. The opening session, they’ll have to do two settings because it is so crowded.

John: What are some of the early steps that took place when you start something like this? I am sure you must have gotten advice from somewhere.

Michele: Well for the last seven years Michael Cooksey and myself along with Stephen Wilkinson, the youngest son of Wilf Wilkinson. We have been meeting for seven years. About two years ago we put together a team of 25 people who have taken on the job of the Host Organising Committee, and we have been putting together all the things we have to do.

John:  I’m curious about the different role of Rotary staff plus the volunteers and how you work together.

Michele: Let me tell you, there are three groups of people that put on a Rotary Convention. The first group is the Rotary International Convention Committee. That’s made up of the President of Rotary International. He chooses a chair, someone, to run the convention and it has people from all over the World who are assisting in running the Rotary International convention. So you have the promotion people and all of the statistics and the logistics people. So that’the first group.

The second group is the Rotary staff. There are over seventy men and women who work on this convention every year. And they do all the work, the running of the hotels, the booking of the buses, the hiring of you know, the renting of the Air Canada Centre, and the Metro Convention Centre. They work all year long. They work on this for years ahead.

And the third group is the local group. Those are the Host Organising committee, and that’s what we are. That Host Organising Committee is responsible for all the evening events including home hospitality where people go to people’s homes for dinner, The running of the House of Friendship, which is the trade show. It happens in the Metro Convention Centre, and we have 200 booths to sell to people who want to have a booth in the House of Friendship. Those are the events that we have.

John: You have a lot of volunteers, you have been calling for volunteers.

Michele: We run 1500 volunteers.

John: That’s how many you are looking for? Have you got your 1500?

Michele: We ’ve got over 500 so far.

John: So you’re looking for another 1000?

Michele: Another 1000, and all Rotarians usually wait ‘til the end to volunteer.

John: How does someone listening to this or hearing this, how might they volunteer? What should they do?

Michele: The first thing they should do is go to our website called then push the button to volunteer. That’s also where you can buy a ticket to the three events: the first event being in the aquaria. We have Jazz in the Aquarium on Saturday the 23rd. We have the Distillery District is also an event on Saturday, June  23rd. And then Home Hospitality, if you’d like to sign up for Home Hospitality that’s also on Monday, June 25th. And on the 27th is the biggest Rib Fest you have ever been to at Exhibition Place.

John: And that’s at Exhibition Place, the building just inside the gates.

Michele: The Queen Elizabeth Building. Well, it is actually going to be outside, but if it is rainy, it will be inside.

John: Does the Organizing Committee or Rotary set up contracts with independent event organisers lets say for a banquet? Do they hire people to manage the banquets?

Michele: They do. They have a staff member who just does banquets. For instance, The Metro Toronto Convention Centre, all the hotels; their facilities are being used for the banquets and the dinners, the president-elect dinner, all the events that are happening.

Not many of us realise that a Rotary International Convention is a fantastic place for groups to meet in addition to attending a convention. There are hundreds, and hundreds of meetings going on that are meeting in Toronto because they are here for the convention.

John: Rotary has a meeting right at the end of the conference where the Trustees get together at a meeting, and the Board gets together for a meeting; does that still occur?

Michele: Yes it does; it still occurs. And before the Convention, Rotaract is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, and they are having a two-day convention in Toronto, and there is a Peace Summit that is happening for a couple of days before the Convention as well. So the convention really goes on for about a week and a half, but the actual convention is only about four or five days.

John: is there anything that I haven’t covered that you want to share with others.

Michele: I want to say that this Rotary Convention in Toronto, is a once in a lifetime event. We will never have this convention in this city in your lifetime, so I know it sounds …it is such an experience to go to a Rotary International Convention; you see events, you meet people, from 169 countries that you would never do so if you didn’t attend the convention. You learn so much. You see what others are doing in their world, and it makes you understand why we chose to be a  Rotarian. Why do we come to be a Rotarian? Why do we stay being a Rotarian? The Convention is the most amazing event to go to to help you with that.