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Keynote Speakers 2019

Day 1 Opening Keynote Address (9:15AM - 10:15 AM)

AMBER MAC: Demystifying Artificial Intelligence

Writer | Podcaster | Digital Maverick

Amber Mac is a writer, podcaster, entrepreneur and digital maverick whose understanding of disruptive technologies helps organizations anticipate lightning-quick changes - from Artificial Intelligence, to social media, to Amazon-era retail.

Disruption means to interrupt the normal course of things, and Amber Mac is especially fluent in the art of disruptive strategies. Mac started her career in San Francisco and Boston during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. What others thought was a trend, she recognized as an explosion. As a strategist for Razorfish and Director of Marketing for an e-procurement software company, she spent four years in the technology start-up trenches. Mac eventually left the start-up world to join Microsoft to build one of the first female-focused lifestyle portals. Then, she launched her own digital media agency. The company’s first client was world-renowned business coach Tony Robbins. Since then, her client list also includes Microsoft, Intel, Shopify, Ford, Nintendo, GE, Fast Company, PayPal, Scotiabank, and many more leading organizations.

An insatiable media adopter, Mac is currently host of the top-rated (and award-winning) podcast, The AI Effect, now in its second season. The AI effect explores the Canadian AI ecosystem and the extraordinary pace of its technological growth, focusing on the rewards and perils for individuals, businesses, and society. With her co-host, Jodie Wallis of Accenture, Mac interviews guests like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Joelle Pineau of the Facebook AI Research Lab, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and many others about the challenges and benefits of AI adoption in Canada. In 2019, The AI Effect won Best Technology Podcast series at the Canadian Podcast Awards, beating out hundreds of others podcasts.

Presentation: Demystifying Artificial Intelligence

In this presentation, Amber Mac will share how AI is going to change the way we live, work, and play over the next few years. Using the latest research, engaging visuals, and practical examples, she will take audience members on a 24-hour journey to a day in 2025 to share the real-life impact that this technology will have on everything—from the way we manage work (e.g., business automation), to the way we manage our health (e.g., cancer detection), to the way we manage transportation (e.g., autonomous vehicles). For organizations, the stakes are high. For example, Accenture just released a study revealing that companies that successfully apply AI could increase profitability by an average of 38 percent by 2035. While many speakers talk about the impact of artificial intelligence, Amber will show attendees who are just starting to learn about this technology why and how they need to adapt to the AI revolution today.

Day 2 Opening Keynote Address (9:00AM - 10:00 AM)

Darby Allen: Developing Unity in Crisis


During the catastrophic Alberta wildfires, fire chief Darby Allen shot to global acclaim for guiding the 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray to safety with no loss of life—the largest evacuation in Canadian history. Now, he offers guidance on how to be a stoic, quick-thinking leader in tough situations. We all face emergencies and crises—Allen shows us how to overcome them.

Known as the face of the Alberta wildfires—and widely celebrated as a national hero—Darby Allen is an exemplar of selfless courage and level-headedness under pressure. Currently teaching a program in Transformational and Charismatic Leadership at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, Allen was Regional Fire Chief of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, an area that encompasses the community of Fort McMurray. In spring 2016, he spearheaded the evacuation of the city’s entire population while the rest of the world watched. Throughout the ensuing weeks of operations, he worked tirelessly with first responders and volunteers, who came from across the nation (and globe) to assist. His updates to the media were not only a means of reliable information, but a source of optimism—Allen provided calm reassurance as the lead spokesperson throughout the rescue efforts.

A native of Birmingham, England, where he worked as a firefighter for the Hampshire Fire Brigade, Allen emigrated to Canada in 1990. He began work as a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department in 1992, moving up in rank from Training Officer to Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations, before moving on to Fort McMurray Fire Service in 2009, where he became Regional Fire Chief in 2013.

Presentation: It Takes a Team - Developing Unity in Crisis

During a devastating natural disaster, how does one person manage a team’s countless, critical decisions? Allen, beyond being a brave and strategic leader, also practices empathetic team-building, including colleagues in his decisions and looking out for their needs. In this keynote, Allen offers actionable takeaways for leaders in any field: lessons on encouraging and trusting your teammates wholeheartedly; never losing focus on the moment by worrying about the larger story; and establishing unbreakable relationships that observe and celebrate the smallest of human elements—like the power of a Canadian flag to boost morale and welcome evacuees home.

Day 2 Closing Keynote Address (1:45PM - 2:30 PM)

David Ben 


David Ben inspires people to strike the word “impossible” from their vocabulary. A master problem-solver, David uses his training as a former tax lawyer, a graduate of the London School of Economics, and a world-class magician to make perplexing problems simply disappear.

Recognized among the world’s premier magicians, David was the sole protégé of Ross Bertram (1912-1992), one of the great sleight-of-hand artists of the twentieth century. While studying magic with Bertram, David also graduated from the University of Toronto (BA), the University of Western Ontario (LLB), and the London School of Economics (LLM). He flirted briefly with a career in tax law but abandoned it in 1990 to pursue his passion for performing, writing and community.

David is now recognized as one of the world’s foremost sleight-of-hand artists. Theatrical works he has developed have been staged at the Shaw Festival, Theatre ROM, the Charlottetown Festival, Soulpepper Theatre, Luminato, the Canadian embassies in Paris and Tokyo, the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. He has made numerous television appearances and was the subject of the award-winning documentary A Conjurer in the Making.

David has written several books, and has contributed articles and reviews to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and many other publications. He is the co-founder and artistic director of Magicana, a performing arts organization and registered charity, and he uses learning, practicing, and performing magic to help disadvantaged children, to fight isolation in seniors, and to help unlock creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.

David also tries whenever possible to give back to the community. In 2016, after losing his wife Jan Howlett to brain cancer in 2013, David raised close to $250,000 by having his signature mop of hair shaved off as part of The Princess Margaret Hospital “No Hair Selfie” campaign.

He lives in Toronto with his partner Jessica Levman, near his children Court and Harrison, and spends his spare time playing the piano, painting, indulging in culinary delights, and acquiring historical Canadian art.

David’s performance is designed to feed the mind with mystery, ignite the imagination, and provide a few laughs along the way. Don’t miss it!

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