AIPC Annual Conference – Lessons from a City Reinventing Itself

 

Taking part in a congress whose delegates are actually the very people you deal with when you associations organise yours is always eye-opening. And when that congress takes place in a destination that’s reinventing itself –  and whose congress centre is part of that reinvention – you clearly understand how associations, venues and destinations can better work together to make the most of a conference.

Words Rémi Dévé

AIPC, the international association of congress centres, represents a global network of over 185 centres in 59 countries with the active involvement of more than 900 management-level professionals worldwide. It encourages excellence in convention centre management, based on the diverse experience and expertise of its international representation. To do so, it is engaging in a variety of educational, research, networking and standards programs. Its Annual Congress is part of those efforts to bring excellence in all areas of centre management: 2017 saw more than 150 delegates converge to Sydney and its international convention centre to tackle the very broad theme of Transformation!

Competition and adaptation are the two top challenges facing centres worldwide today, and for most venues that means applying new models and refreshing established ones in a transformation process that involves both the destination and the centre itself. At the same time, this must be linked to the broader strategies and approaches of the city and country in which centres operate, in order to ensure consistency with overall destination priorities.

In this regard, it made sense for the AIPC Annual Congress to kickstart with a session on how cities that want to play a role on the world scene – like Sydney does – must have all their stakeholders, including convention centres, work together to achieve the same unified vision and achieve growth. This way, association events can be regarded as partaking of this growth. Sydney, a recognized destination, indeed chose to reconfigure itself based on a new vision for its economic future, based on a range of perspectives that re-imagined the role of the new convention centre in the context of economic sector advancement, talent attraction and acquisition, academic leadership and an image consistent with all these goals.

As Michael Rose, Chairman of the Committee for Sydney, an independent think tank and champion for the whole of the city, pointed out: « Convention centres are a platform for success in the business events economy, has to play a role of a facilitator, and sometimes even of an accelerator, of knowledge and is hence a crucial partner in the way a city thinks about itself. »

Of course, I was particularly interested in a session called ‘Client Perspective’. After all, how associations and congress venues can work better together? What’s the overall experience of clients when it comes to convention centres around the world? Jan Tonkin, Managing Director of the Conference Company, which, among other things, offer convention services to associations, and Sven Bossu, Head of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), who organises Sibos, the only global conference on financial services out there, shared their perspectives on change and evolution in the industry.

Jan Tonkin explained how key client groups are re-shaping event formats, centre expectations and traditional business practices. She summarised her experience this way: « Clients – including associations – and centres alike must demonstrate their open-mindedness, flexibility and forward-thinkingness. The trend is to experiment with meeting environments, designing ‘nooks and crannies’ possibilities or better interactive learning experiences. Security concerns are also dramatically on the rise, and collaborative planning in the matter is absolutely key. »

Sven Bossu explained: « Our last conference, which took place in Geneva, was completely reshaped. After having around 13 forums the previous year, we restructured and reformed the programme into four streams. Sibos is all about financial compliance, all about anti-money laundering, and all about cybersecurity, amongst other things. The goal is to bring people together and make them think about how to solve common challenges and that is what we’ve always tried to do with an event like ours. If convention centres understand what we want to achieve and they can be part of it, then it’s win-win situation. »

The rest of this article will be featured in the September edition of Boardroom, available soon.

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