Final Call to Associations for BestCities in Tokyo

October 9, 2017

Final Call to Associations for BestCities in Tokyo

Just over two months away, this is the last chance for all senior international association executives interested in participating in the annual BestCities Global Forum, to be held in Tokyo from 4-7 December.

Themed ‘Building Global Connections Across Cultures’, BestCities Global Alliance is offering to champion inclusivity and multi-culturalism within the meeting tourism industry in 2018 and beyond. During this four-day programme, delegates will take part in workshops and informative sessions learning about cultural management and intelligence, while looking at ways of establishing purposeful meetings, and acquiring practical skills they can apply to their day to day work back home and future events.

In partnership with the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB), the Forum also offers attendees cultural activities in order to explore Japan’s unique and intriguing heritage. Finally, the annual Ambassador Dinner will provide delegates with the opportunity to establish relationships with peers and grow global networks.

October 2, 2017

How Nantes Drives Innovation

Over just a few years, the fast-growing city on the French Atlantic coast has transformed itself. What used to be another French second-tier city is now a vibrant, booming destination full of energy. Elected European Green Capital 2013, Nantes is like a lively, open-air museum, a cultural hotspot full of history and an excellent choice for association events looking for something different, thanks to La Cité Nantes Events Center, Nantes Convention Bureau and their dynamic teams. Words Rémi Dévé

An article in the Sunday Times once called Nantes “the loopiest city in France” and that pretty much sums it all. The birthplace of Jules Verne is indeed equally innovative and bustling – the world-famous giant elephant which is regularly walking down the streets is the epitome of it and has become an icon, a true flagship for the city. In Nantes, the cultural and creative sectors are major growth drivers, part of a very diverse economy looking to a sustainable future.

But it’s not all play and no work: Nantes means business too. The economic prosperity of Nantes and the Pays de la Loire region comes indeed from the traditional industrial and maritime sectors, while several high-tech industries have seen the light of day over the last decade as well.

Nantes and its region also home to leading international companies such as Airbus, Armor, Eurofins, LU, STX Europe and Vivalis. The territory is also a centre of excellence for a large number of key industries such as digital economy, culture and creativity, mechanical industries, health and biotechnology, sustainable development. These industries are anchored around 14 European and international clusters such as Atlanpole Biotherapies (biotechnology/health) or Pôle Mer Bretagne Atlantique (marine and naval sector), which, together with the University of Nantes as the driving force, led the city to be chosen for the 6th Congress of the International Society for Applied Phycology (ISAP). The event took place at La Cité Nantes Events Center in June. With over 300 people working in its universities and research centres and more than 100 businesses, Western France is indeed a European hotspot for the transfer and industrial development of marine biotechnology.

La Cité Events Center in numbers

6,000 sqm of multi-purpose areas

3 auditoriums with 450, 800 and 2,000 seats

30 meeting rooms

Total capacity: 4,000 people

An adjacent 4-star hotel with 105 rooms

AIPC Quality standards Gold certification

The scope of the event was to appreciate the huge phycological biodiversity and the diversity of its biotechnological applications through the prism of a new and promising industrial sector in full development. The Congress included speakers and posters presentations, exhibitors and, for the first time, a BtoB session as well as an open conference specifically designed for the general public. With more than 560 participants, ISAP Nantes 2017 was the most successful Congress of the Society to date, with twice as many attendees compared to previous editions.

When asked about the reasons for this success, Pascal Jaouen, Co-Chairman of the Congress and Head of Laboratory GEPEA-CNRS, whose research activities relate to the processes of valorisation in the fields of food, environment, energy and the sea, says: Marine biotechnology, or the utilisation of marine bioresources as targets or sources of biotechnology applications, is a field with massive potential for innovation and economic growth. The western French regions of Pays de la Loire and Brittany are leaders in the field and it just made sense to hold the Congress in Nantes, especially since there are strong links between innovation and the industries based there. As ISAP aims to promote research, preservation of algal genotypes, and the dissemination of information concerning the utilisation of algae, we knew we would get all the knowledge we needed to build up a strong academic programme.

In Nantes, the congress centre (La Cité) and the University work closely togetherThere is a charter of partnership between us for the prospection of congresses of expertise such as ISAP. As soon as they detect the possibility for Nantes to host an event, they come to us. In the case of ISAP, it started as early as spring 2014 – they were, and actually are, very reactive. Nantes and its region are home to 70 research laboratories and there is always some kind of congress activity going on!” explains Jaouen. The city and the region in general and La Cité in particular were praised as highly professional when it comes to the hosting of congresses like ISAP. Nantes’ accommodation is first-class but at competitive rates, it’s within easy reach by air and less than two hours away from most European cities, La Cité Nantes Events Center is situated at the heart of the city, opposite the high-speed train station, and its staff was extremely helpful and friendly both in the preparation of the Congress as during the congress. Altogether, Nantes is a very attractive place, which many of our delegates thoroughly enjoyed.” Jaouen adds.

The fact that La Cité Nantes Events Center and the city of Nantes have been actively engaged in welcoming international associations since 2010 also helped, with a Charter for hosting events with a view to making life easier for event organisers. “The delegates felt really welcomed in Nantes. The ‘Charte d’Accueil Destination’ did wonders to promote the Congress all over the city” Jaouen concludes.

No wonder, then, that the Laboratory GEPEA-CNRS is going to organize four additional events at à La Cité Nantes Events Center in the upcoming two years, including S2small 2017 Nantes (an international conference on sustainable solutions for small water and wastewater treatment systems) in October, the ISBC 2018 symposium (about biosensors) in May, EFFOST 2018 (for the European Federation of Food Science and Technology) in November, and SFGP 2019 (Société Française de Génie des Procédés) in October.

More information: www.lacite-nantes.com / www.nantes-saintnazaire.fr

 

 

September 25, 2017

Education is Our Legacy for the Future

In a rapidly changing world with an increasingly uncertain future, education is probably the most important single thing any organization does, and that importance just keeps growing. There are three reasons for this, Rod Cameron, Executive Director AIPC and JMIC writes.

The first is that knowledge and the benefit of experience are probably the most valuable legacies we can pass on to those who will be following us into any discipline – and critical to delivering the kinds of specialized products and services that increasingly characterize a future workplace that may require skills not directly transferrable from other areas of employment. With a tight market for talent in many parts of the world today, employers often have to recruit from other specialties and then provide the additional required knowledge on-site. And while “on the job” experience will eventually provide a lot of what’s required, specialized training is a way to get new recruits up to speed more quickly.

But in times when almost everything about the product is changing so quickly, education is not just an investment in the future – it’s also about right now, and being able to put the very latest information, insights and strategies into immediate action. Even those with lots of experience in a particular business regularly find themselves facing new challenges, as everything from client needs and business methods to new technology and customer expectations change on what seems to be a daily basis. Invariably, the best ideas for how to address these come from others in the industry who are having similar challenges, and educational programs are an effective way of facilitating an exchange of such information and insights.

Finally, it’s about reputation – and an ability to create a comfort level amongst clients who need the confidence that things are being done properly and professionally. Education is primarily about building the kinds of competencies needed to demonstrate capability – and the more visible this capability is, the more likely it is to support being taken seriously by other disciplines. In a world where “second best” gains little respect, an investment in good education can not only produce better results, but more visibly better results – and that is perhaps the most valuable commodity in the market today.

What is changing is delivery. This is a product of technology and a matter of what is possible today that might not have been a few years ago – but it’s also about changing expectations around how information can and should be communicated by those on the receiving end. Online and remote learning, for example are very attractive in that they let students set their own pace and don’t require actual attendance in a central setting. At the same time, they enable participants to access speakers and resources that would be difficult if not impossible to bring together for a smaller group.

On the other hand, in a way, the method of delivery is in itself a part of the lesson, since it reflects on what we know about how to convey information most effectively and demonstrate the additional values – network development, for example – that reinforce the value of face to face encounters in validating both content and relationships. In the end – as with remote meetings generally – the most effective approach will likely be a combination of both, depending on the kinds of materials to be covered and the need for direct interaction as a component of the learning process.

The bottom line: training and education are both critical and evolving quickly. The challenge for everyone is not just to keep pace with current norms but to also prepare new arrivals for dealing with what may be a range of possibilities in the future. That is a more creative exercise than simply passing on existing information – but the only realistic approach to a world that is evolving as quickly as ours is today.

AIPC, the International Association of Convention Centres, represents a global network of over 180 leading centres in 57 countries with the active involvement of more than 900 management-level professionals worldwide. marianne.de.raay@aipc.org / www.aipc.org

September 19, 2017

High-Level Learning for Associations at IMEX America 2017

Association professionals are invited to set aside their daily to-do lists and focus on strategic development and sharing knowledge with their peers at IMEX America this year.

Designed exclusively for association leaders and aspiring association leaders from all corners of the world, the new IMEX Association Leadership Forum takes place the day before IMEX America in Las Vegas on Monday October 9.

“In a rapidly evolving business environment, strong leadership and effective strategic planning has never been more important. Senior industry professionals within associations obviously occupy unique and powerful positions within the meetings industry, and we know they value high quality opportunities to spend dedicated, focused time together, explains Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group.

The education and networking program at the new Association Leadership Forum is open to those working at senior leadership level within associations and covers multiple challenges of association management and development. The free program is being created in association with ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. Through a mix of presentations, peer to peer discussions and an executive level panel, the Association Leadership Forum will address the high level strategic issues that currently challenge leadership teams.

There will also be a series of dedicated education sessions for association meeting buyers and planners, curated by ICCA. Open to all, these will take place as part of Smart Monday – the renowned day of complimentary, cutting-edge professional development powered by MPI. Association professionals will also be able to take part in Smart Monday’s wider education program which includes sessions on purposeful meetings, latest industry trends and personal development.

All association professionals can end their day and toast the start of IMEX America at Association Evening, taking place at The Venetian® | The Palazzo® Congress Center. “It’s always a lovely chance to unwind with peers, reconnect with old friends and forge new connections. Our Association Evening is a great networking opportunity that really ‘starts the week strong’”, adds Carina.

In addition to this customised learning opportunity, Association professionals will also enjoy further business opportunities and education sessions during IMEX America which takes place October 10-12.

There will be new exhibitors from across the US and around the world including Memorable Costa Rica, Boston Convention Marketing Center, COMO Hotels – New York, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, Global Incentive Management DMC, Viking Cruises, Live Nation Special Events and Hotel Xcaret Mexico.  In the Tech Pavilion EventsCase and CadmiumCD will also be at the show for the first time.

Exhibitors represent all areas of the industry and those with expanded booths this year include the Bahamas, Hungary, Ireland, Accor, IHG, Sonesta Collection, Marriott International, Evenium, 3D Cruise Partners, Allied PRA, multiple exhibitors from California (Long Beach, Anaheim, LA, Monterey County & Santa Barbara), Nashville and Memphis, the Czech Tourist Authority and Visit England.

The new IMEX Association Leadership Forum takes place the day before IMEX America in Las Vegas on Monday October 9 / www.imexamerica.com

 

September 18, 2017

European Calcified Tissue Society – Building a Sustainable Future

Founded in 1963 with the aim of bringing together scientists and researchers in the field of calcified tissues to interact, learn from each other and create new alliances to advance research, the European Calcified Tissue Society (ECTS) have, since 1963, been acting as a forum to promote scientific excellence and education in the musculoskeletal field.  Roberta Mugnai, Executive Director, who Boardroom met at the last European Association Summit, shares her insights as an association professional and explains how the organization operates. Interview Rémi Dévé

Can you briefly explain what ECTS is about?

With an Annual Congress, PhD Training Courses and many research funding instruments, the European Calcified Tissue Society acts as a forum for the dissemination of scientific excellence and education. ECTS represents today more than 600 members, including basic researchers, clinicians, students and health allied professionals working in the musculoskeletal field. It has a network of over 30 national and international societies.

Since its inception until the late nineties, our main activity was the organization of a bi-annual congress. The society and congress were run by a number of volunteers. But at a certain point, we found ourselves with a desire to create a stronger community: the frequencies of the congresses were increased to annual events and the first staff members were hired. That’s when ECTS started to become a truly professional membership organization.

Can you elaborate about the events you organize and you relate to Education, the main theme of this edition of Boardroom?

Like many learned societies, we organize a number of training courses and e-learning aimed to support all stages of career development, from PhD Students to established clinicians and basic scientists.

Education is at the very heart of ECTS. In 2016 we established the ECTS Academy, whose mission is to form a scientific network on musculoskeletal diseases to promote scientific excellence and the training of young scientists and doctors in Europe. It works as a kind of spinoff society of ECTS whose 10 members are elected for 5 years after a strict selection based on scientific excellence and cooperative engagement.

The ECTS Academy organizes a number of events and learning opportunities for the young generation. It is still rather new but since 2016 the ECTS Academy has successfully organized a number of activities, including special sessions during the ECTS Congress or quarterly webinars for instance, for what we call New Investigators to gain career advice, support and guidance by experienced professionals. This initiative is much more than a ‘school’ and prepares the next generation to truly become the new leaders of researchers in the musculoskeletal field.

Have you ever worked with a Professional Congress Organizer? Do you see the added value of it?

With the exception of the ECTS congress, all the activities that I just mentioned are organized in-house. We are a small team of four but the ECTS members are dedicated and committed to the ECTS mission and they take a large number of operational activities in their hands, which we are deeply grateful for. For the ECTS congress, we use the services of a PCO, but we keep the leadership of the strategic decisions, scientific programme and relations with our corporate supporters.

The size of our congress doesn’t justify the hiring of dedicated congress staff and the hiring of a PCO is the most appropriate solution for us at the moment. We selected our PCO very carefully based on a number of elements: first and foremost they needed to embrace our mission and vision and had to be ready to be a member of the ECTS family! Our PCO is now really part of the team. I believe collaboration and transparency are keys to success.

Read the rest of Roberta’s interview in Boardroom#4 – September 2017 available here.

September 11, 2017

Becoming Mindfeeders

As an association executive or meeting planner when was the last time you asked yourself: ‘how do your members feed their mind’?

In this fast moving world of content overload, there are more than 1.28bn global daily users on Facebook, 1mn global users on Instagram, 320mn monthly active users on Twitter, not to mention all the other digital and offline sources constantly feeding us with all sorts of information, everything from quirky pseudoscience ‘facts’ to inspirational quotes from the barrage of celebrity philosophy wannabes. Then there is the plethora of actual educational material being made freely available on the web daily. So what role do associations play in this ever changing world of self improvement through education?

Over the past ten years, associations have evolved immensely: from being all about an ‘annual meeting’, they have now become a real community hub providing a very special opportunity to be the conduit that helps drive the personal evolution of their members. Associations are well positioned to be a relevant source of education, especially with the rise of digital – they now have an opportunity to be content aggregators for their industry. A healthy membership thriving with industry experts, combined with the latest technology and the distribution to disseminate the best content out to those willing to receive: the associations that successfully position themselves as the ‘go to’ provider of education and best practice will be those who thrive through the coming years.

Creating Neural Pathways

There are many different ways to educate oneself and consume information, both formally and informally, online and offline. Education is formed by the people you listen to, the opinions you believe, the books and blogs you read, the videos you watch, plus all the information that you take in today. Education relates to all aspects of life – the diet you maintain, how you take care of your body, mindfulness, stress reduction. These holistic topics are just as important as gaining technical knowledge and advancing within your field of expertise. Associations have long provided evidence-based learning helping members to achieve CME and CPD credits. They have an opportunity to capture their audience and keep their attention while embracing the holistic topics to provide an integrated service towards education.

The annual event, once remininscent of a slightly dry piece of toast washed down with a luke warm cup of tea, has now become a vibrant and thriving multiple-day experience full of not only the latest technological advancements in the industry but all the additional bells and whistles designed to enthrall the delegates and keep their attention through the business part of the day. We are all time poor and if the association can assist with a holistic learning approach they can become so much more valuable than simply formal education credits.

Imagine a world where delegates flock to association events and remain buzzed and engaged throughout the experience. Where they come away with not only truly valuable industry knowledge and contacts but also having learnt some interesting things that will help them in all areas of their lives. This is the new nirvana of the association world and must be grasped in order to survive and thrive in these days of tougher competition and shrinking budgets.

We Are Family

Being a member of an association creates credibility, networks, community, collaborative working, and career paths. Associations provide a wonderful opportunity for collaboration with complimentary members working together to support each other. Examples can be found far and wide in the events industry where congress planners find local experts to assist when organising conferences in regions they haven’t worked before. This brings many benefits for both organisations and additional economic benefit to local communities where meetings are held. International associations can connect their members with regional and national chapters to facilitate collaboration and vice versa.

Tailor-Made Content

We are time poor and high maintenance, we need and want our content served up in bite sized, easily consumable and highly personalised packages. This is where associations truly can take the cake. With the highly detailed knowledge held on members, associations can provide a filter, creating a credible and reliable source for tailored online experiences.

With the advancement in technology digital platforms are able to support this experience. However, associations must be ready and equipped to take advantage of the automation age. There is additionally a generational issue to consider whereby some of the more mature members still hold loyalty to the association. However, the younger generations coming through are less inclined to simply join out of tradition or in the hope of making the right contacts for their career. Associations must recognise the differing needs amongst its changing membership and ensure to meet all of those needs personally with relevance.

The digital age has made it a much harder proposition to draw millenials into membership so associations must work harder to prove their value and worth to this generation in order to continue to see the success of the past decade. One of the ways this can be done is through ensuring a truly personalised curated eduation program that is easy to access, available on the go and utilising the latest technology to ensure the experience is that of listening to an apple podcast on a smart phone at the gym or during their daily commute.

One of the digital issues associations need to consider is their own website as well as their conference sites. Ensure this reflects current technology, has all the social plugins, is fully mobile optimised and ranking on Google’s harsh and ever changing algorithms. Navigation must be intuitive, load times lightening fast and all the SEO optimisation in place to ensure the right audience are driven to the website and once there served with relevant, engaging content. There is a case for bringing the conference website back to the main association website to maximise traffic rather than splitting off and rebuilding all the algorithm optimisation every year at additional cost.

This article was provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, author Stephen Noble, Manager Asia Pacific, The Conference Company, New Zealand. IAPCO represents 117 professional organisers, meeting planners and managers of international and national congresses, conventions and special events, from 41 countries. info@iapco.org \ www.iapco.org

August 28, 2017

“Education is an Important Part of What We Do”

Boardroom talked with Kai Troll, Chairman Best Buddies Europe, MiddleEast & Africa and Head of Development at International Sport and Cultural Association, about why he thinks education platforms and knowledge sharing are probably one of the primary reasons for individuals  to become members of an association.

From the member perspective: Is Education the very raison d’être of associations?

Indeed, often one could wonder why an association is in business and I know of a good number of associations who seem to have forgotten why they exist in the first place, for different reasons: they have grown too big too fast; they are busy with all sorts of activities, keep developing new ones and perhaps have lost focus; they lack a proper planning process, don’t have much of a plan where the organization should be heading towards or maybe the board feel that things are ‘good enough’ and keep doing things the way they have been doing them forever.

I believe that about ten to fifteen percent of association existing today won’t be around in ten to fifteen years time because they lost purpose. At the same time, we will see plenty of new associations, on national, regional and international level will be established.

Whether industry or non-industry funded association, education is always an important part of what we do. Ideally, an association has created its stakeholder map and fully understands who the stakeholders are that should be educated in order to maximize outreach and impact. Often, associations must become better in communicating what ‘problem’ they and their members actually try so solve. Therefore, I often wonder if association stakeholders at large know and understand who and why associations do educate. That could mean looking back at the core purpose of the association, or making adjustments. The key question an organization has to ask itself is: what impact do we have and what change do we create and make as an association?

 

I hope most association leaders and their board are able to answer this question. If not, there is some homework to do

 

Is education the main added value to association members?

As we all know, and considering the broad variety and types of associations, there are a number and different motives why members join an association. In my mind mostly because of the networking opportunities, connecting with people, industry colleagues and peers. Besides staying informed and current on global topics, policy issues and being ‘part of something bigger’, education platforms and knowledge sharing are probably the other most relevant reasons to become members of an international, European – or other regional association.

There is one important reason that member often don’t bother or don’t think of too much, hence don’t take the opportunity to benefit from this one relevant aspect. And that is ‘engagement’. From my observation, the majority members tend to be rather inactive and passive members, information receivers rather than taking a lead in a project, in a working group or an initiative that could help make a difference. A pro-active behavior by some will motivate other to get more involved. As a result, the association benefits overall.

One interesting question to ask these days is what makes one being a ‘member’ of an association or a network? What’s the definition of a ‘member’ for an organization? What is indeed the value added for an organization by becoming a member? I believe that we will see a lot of change in how organizations define ‘membership’ in the next years to come. There will be much more diversification of ‘members’ and differentiation to the word ‘membership’ and what that actually mean to organizations. In fact, this process has started already for many leading and innovative associations.

From an association management perspective:  How  crucial is it for associations to encourage and directly support the continuing education of their employees in the various disciplines required to manage an association?

In general, associations regardless what geographical reach or size aren’t very good at providing further education, in an academical and non-academical sense, to their staff. This is the case for any staff levels but also for board members. Often, staff members are interested in receiving further formal and non-formal education but it is not provided because their managers don’t support it for reasons of time, budget or find that there is no real need, especially if the staff is more junior, lower or middle management. Board members who should generally receive board training don’t take advantage of becoming more trained, because they often feel that they are already highly knowledgeable and others believe they know it all already anyway.

But for an association to understand staff’s interests and needs will help to keep people motivated. And there is a lot of training and education in association management out there that leaders can choose from. One issue but also key question is: ‘where do I go to get the best possible training and education that is suitable and relevant for me to an affordable price for my association?’

In most cases, people look for training and education opportunities related to their current responsibility and works in current association or of that of association in general. Association, event or project management in specific is one, but I wouldn’t necessarily restrict it to ‘association’ related management but really look at it as ‘business management’. Personally, I would very much recommend that people join non-industry related training or education courses not necessarily related to the association or meeting industry. That should help to bring fresh thinking into the work place.

According to you, what are the best ways to keep up-to-date with developments in association management?

One could easily get attracted and caught up in a number of training and educational events around the globe every year. I would recommend association leaders to attend 2-3 focused events annually that will add real value to them and eventually their associations.

In order to remain meaningful and with purpose, associations must continuously evolve and probably need to operate and be run with much more of a business mind. Since members, other stakeholders and partners start to understand that more and more, I assume that we will see much more rotation and leadership change within the association world in the years to come than ever before. There is a trend that visionary and innovative boards hire (new) leadership with general business background versus people coming from within the association business. This has pros and conts. The point being, that it is easier for an experienced business leader to learn and understand a specifics of an industry sector rather than association representatives without business training and background to gain better business expertise and more skilled in that area.

In any case, whilst associations educate stakeholders, we must put more focus and efforts in educating everyone, including ourselves the association staff and executives, our members and other internal and external stakeholders to ensure positive impact and to remain relevant.

 

August 23, 2017

Call for Proposals for the European Association Summit

Coming 8-9 March 2018 the European Association Summit (EAS) invites all association representatives to its 6th edition at SQUARE-BRUSSELS MEETING CENTRE, with a new format of sessions focusing on exchange and interactivity.

The 2018 European Association Summit is on its way. With a deadline set by 29 September a call for proposals launched early summer aims to gather abstracts for short presentations, allowing a variety of sectors to show their experience in key areas such as finance, events, advocacy, campaigns, business models or governance.

Elisabeth Van Ingelgem, Director of visit.brussels Convention and Association Bureau, said: “We wish to focus on concrete aspects of each case brought by an association. Having a narrow focus of the presenter’s speech allows the participants to have a more dynamic debate afterwards and come out to clear-cut conclusions, too”.

The format of the sessions has been adapted to match those expectations. A moderator shall deal with case studies of 5 minutes explained by maximum 3 speakers per session followed by an interactive workshop with the audience within 60 minutes. The goal is to facilitate the knowledge sharing in terms of success or failure and be a learning experience with tangible outcomes.

The strategic partners of the EAS already include UIA, ESAE, PCMA, ICCA, the Global Association Hubs Partnership, as well as FAIB and Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management.

August 22, 2017

A ‘Dubai 360’ Immersion Experience for Associations

Set to be held 11-12 December 2017, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the first-of-the-kind Dubai Association Conference will be part of a broader immersion experience, branded ‘Dubai 360’. If the conference aims to reinforce the crucial role associations play in Dubai’s socio-economic development, it will also be the opportunity for delegates to enjoy Dubai as maybe they have never before.

Associations play an integral role in Dubai’s sustainable growth, as they facilitate knowledge-sharing, which ultimately leads to innovation in key sectors, and more importantly supports the city in its ambition towards becoming a global knowledge hub. By attracting associations that are looking to expand within the Middle East, the Dubai Association Conference will go beyond traditional methods of education to focus largely on collaboration and engagement within the growing industries of the region, from technology and healthcare to education and finance.

Building on the success of the Dubai Association Centre, which was established in 2014 under an MoU between Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dubai Business Events and Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai now offers some much sought-after assistance for the establishment of non-profit, apolitical and non-religious professional associations and trade bodies in Dubai, so they can develop their activities and grow their membership in the emirate and the region.

The theme of the Conference will be ‘Building a Community’, and participants will have the opportunity to connect with key public and private stakeholders of Dubai, through discussions, networking and knowledge sharing, as international and regional experts will touch upon the latest trends in areas such as membership, online communities, restructuring education, volunteerism and governance, among others.

The Dubai Association Conference will also offer a unique opportunity to discover the various facets of Dubai, and what makes the city one of the most dynamic destinations in the world. At the same time, it will provide a better understanding of what is available in the city for associations to tap into. The itinerary will feature a deep-dive into the UAE’s rich heritage at the Etihad Museum, a glimpse into the future at the Prime Minister’s Office and Dubai Future Academy and its Dubai Future Accelerators, while unlocking happiness that seeps through city operations, thanks to the Smart Dubai programme. There will also be a behind-the-scenes peek of the site that will host Expo 2020 Dubai. Leisure activities will include a desert safari, a gala dinner, as you would expect at a conference, and tours of the Gold & Spice Souks.

August 10, 2017

The ‘Absorp­­­­tive Capacity’ Theory

Professor Rhodri Thomas of Leeds Beckett University recently led a roundtable for the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) on the theory of absorptive capacity. Heather Lishman, Association Director of ABPCO explains some of the key outcomes below.

The term ‘absorptive capacity’ is used to identify an organisation’s ability to assimilate, transform, and apply valuable external knowledge. The theory has steadily grown in popularity and the term has been used widely at the organisational level to analyse innovation processes and the effect of organisational learning on the creation of sustainable competitive advantage. Absorptive capacity goes far beyond knowing the obvious things about the micro climate in which a company operates. Instead it takes a macro look at a business and its competitive position. It appreciates all the factors that can affect change both for better or worse and allows an organisation to truly understand its market position.

An organisation with high absorptive capacity is one with an outward-looking business strategy where staff, and especially managers, are encouraged to be ‘boundary spanners’ i.e. they gather knowledge from many different types of sources and not just the obvious. It has a pulse on what is happening in the market-place, and is able to utilise this broader insight to keep ahead of the competition. Ultimately, it puts a business on the front-foot and equips them with the knowledge that will help them to understand their place in the competitive landscape, and to see opportunities in the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors that affect their business environment.

For professional conference organisers and associations, it is imperative that they keep bang up to date with innovations and engagement strategies. Not only will they be able to utilise this knowledge within their own organisations, but they can apply it when they are organising conferences. It is vital in the world of meetings that the event attendees acquire relevant knowledge and take this learning back to utilise effectively within their own environments, thus ensuring that they generate a return on investment for their time spent at meetings.

Research has shown that the ability to establish relevant networks and gather and use information is closely tied with an organisation’s ability to innovate and to remain competitive. The more familiar you are with your network, the more trust you will have and the more useful your data will be. Through shared information and trust, individuals stay ahead of the curve rather than simply reacting, which when combined with a strong sense and understanding of absorptive capacity creates a truly innovative way of thinking.

Staying up to date is critical for long-term survival as it can reinforce, complement or refocus the knowledge base. As professional leaders in their field, all professional conference organisers have an active role to play in bridging connections between acquired knowledge and generating innovation and competitive advantage – absorptive capacity is just one of many tools to help achieve this.

The Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) is a dedicated industry association representing professional conference organisers. Its mission is to develop and enhance the status of conference and event organisers and increase the recognition given to its members. www.abpco.org / hello@abpco.org