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The AMA 2023 Northeastern Regional Retreat in Toronto: Celebrating Excellence, Empowerment, and Collaboration

Toronto, a city known for its vibrancy and diversity, became the first to host the 2023 Northeastern Regional Retreat in Canada. Bringing together delegates from 12 AMA chapters across North America, this internal leadership gathering was an unforgettable experience for all attendees. Our chapter’s role and participation enable us to better develop and deliver the best AMA programming, mentorship and networking opportunities available to marketers in our community.

The Retreat was graced by some of the most esteemed leaders from the American Marketing Association. AMA CEO Bennie Johnson and Vice President Alliance Julie Schnidman, as well as the leaders of the Professional Chapters Council, Craig Lund, Karen McFarlane, and Richard S. Conner, joined us for the Retreat, adding an extra layer of inspiration and limelight to the occasion.

“Hosting the first-ever American Marketing Association event in Canada, as a regional retreat, is a significant achievement for us,” said Lund, expressing his pride in Toronto hosting the Retreat, “Over the past few years, we’ve dedicated considerable effort to telling our chapter’s story better. It’s truly gratifying to have our American colleagues here, and it feels great to showcase our Canadian hospitality,” he added.

As the sun dipped behind Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, delegates gathered at the IBM office for a casual welcome, the city’s skyline promising a canvas for two days of collaboration and learning. 

Julie Schnidman, Vice President Alliance, kicked off the two-day Northeastern Regional Retreat in Toronto.

The second day was a whirlwind of growth and learning, hosted at the WPP’s waterfront campus, overlooking Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands. “Lightning Talks” and dedicated workshops provided valuable insights, covering topics ranging from board resilience to revenue model innovation and personal leadership development. Johnson also took centre stage, outlining a strategic five-point plan for chapters emphasising global expansion, business-academic partnerships, building a trusted voice, continuous learning and a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Johnson highlighted the significance of uniting all chapters. “The Regional Retreat is a space where we come together to share, bridging the unique aspects of our communities while finding common ground in the broader challenges we all face.” He added, looking at the committed and enthusiastic volunteers and leaders in the room, “The energy here is palpable, being among professionals who volunteer, serve, and commit to making a difference. It’s about the current and next generation of professionals connecting, mentors and mentees forming bonds, and friends and colleagues coming together to shape the future of our profession.” 

AMA CEO Bennie Johnson with leaders of the Professional Chapters Council, Craig Lund, Karen McFarlane, and Richard S. Conner.
AMA volunteers and leaders participate in discussions and brainstorming sessions.

The Retreat also became a celebration of excellence with the announcement of the Chapter Excellence Awards (CEA) winners. AMA Toronto was excited to be recognized for the third consecutive year, winning Leadership and Financial CEAs and special merit awards for Communications, Community Outreach and Membership. Attendees rejoiced, marking the occasion with a champagne toast symbolising unity and shared success.

The day ended with the launch of a new logo and “Empower”  theme for the 2024 Leadership Summit in Chicago, underscoring the association’s commitment to fostering empowerment within the marketing community.

Looking ahead, Giuseppe Laviano, president AMA – Washington DC, shared his excitement about the Retreat and his expectations for future gatherings. “I’m eager for the next regional Retreat. Instead of the usual big cities, exploring smaller or mid-sized markets can offer rich cultural experiences. It’s a chance to spotlight smaller chapters and create connections beyond the hustle of major cities. Despite travel challenges, the focus would be on culture, food, and, most importantly, the people present. That’s what I’m looking forward to for the next one.”

As a final surprise, attendees were treated to a visit to Toronto’s iconic CN Tower. The tower’s awe-inspiring views served as a fitting backdrop for reflecting on the transformative experiences and connections forged during the event.

A big thank you to all the volunteers, participants and our sponsors Funday, Score Promotions, Silver Leaf Solutions, IBM, and WPP, for making this Canadian Retreat an unforgettable experience.

Photo credit: Duo Ma, AMA Toronto


Zeel Gandhi, Director – Public Relations, AMA Toronto

Zeel Gandhi is a seasoned brand communications and public relations professional currently working as a Communications Specialist at Definity Financial while actively contributing as a public relations director at AMA Toronto.

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