The Agile Asian Association: A Perspective

June 14, 2017

The Agile Asian Association: A Perspective

Reflecting from Manila, Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta argues that Asian associations need to be agile organizations – active, quick to adapt to changes, and business savvy – especially in this age of disruption. To achieve this, Asian associations must strive to be well-governed and professionally managed.

Having been an association executive for the last 25 years (and counting) and having had the opportunity to travel to many countries around in Asia and Pacific and elsewhere because of my work, I can say that I am a living witness to the phenomenal economic growth of the region over the years. With this journey to progress, I also noted how associations have evolved with a sense of purpose and commitment to be part of this development process.

I have also learned quite a bit about associations in the U.S. having been a long-standing member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). So, I could say that in my case, I am fortunate to know about association governance and management from both perspectives of “the east and the west”.

Governance in many associations in Asia, and in particular, in the Philippines, however, has not kept in pace with governance developments elsewhere in both the non-profit and corporate worlds. Most associations in the region adopt the board governed and managed model or so-called “volunteer-run” type unlike the board-management delineated model or “volunteer-driven, staff-run” one that is pre-dominant in U.S. associations and which is in the same mould as corporate governance.

A typical association governance structure consists of the board of directors (or trustees) who are elected by members and who acts in their behalf, committees, task forces, components (or chapters) and staff. In the “volunteer-run” (VR) model, this governance system is undertaken solely by volunteers who are not compensated for their work. The difference between the two models lies in the staff complementation. As contrasted with the VR model, in the “volunteer-driven, staff-run” (VDSR) version, the management staff, headed by a chief staff officer (CEO or executive director) is composed of professionals, i.e., salaried employees.

Based on the study of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), hereunder are some basic differences between the two models.

  • Activity focus – In the VR model, activity focus in associations is built around successful programs and short-term membership services while in VDSR, activities are driven by strategic priorities and professional business planning in a holistic view, with focus on the return of investment (ROI).
  • Strategy positioning – Emerging needs and market opportunities are restrained by lack of resources in the VR model while in the VDSR, resources are proactively planned with a focus on integration and delivery of strategy.
  • People resource availability – In VR, knowledge and talent are not that steady since they are based on volunteer availability while in VDSR, knowledge and talent allocation is planned, recruited and cultivated, hence, knowledge is stored and retrievable.
  • Community dimension – A responsive community with key drivers is how best to describe the VR model while in VDSR, the community is multi-driven by as many in the group.

It is apparent from the above-cited differences that the VDSR model would be a better option to emulate and adopt by associations in this part of the world and this is what the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) has been advocating on. But this is easier said than done.

Read the rest of the article in the second issue of Boardroom. You can download it here.

Bobby Peralta is presently the Secretary General of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), the focal point of 106 development banks and other financial institutions engaged in sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. He is also currently the Secretary General of the World Federation of Development Finance Institutions (WFDFI), the umbrella organization of 328 development banks in 154 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East. With over 25 years of experience as an association executive, Bobby Peralta is a long-standing member of and contributor to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the CEO & Founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE).


June 12, 2017

Associations Get More Access to Japan in Paris

The Japan Convention Bureau, a division of the Japan National Tourism Organization, established its fifth international MICE office in Paris beginning April 2017 as an addition to its global team of specialists. The Paris convention specialist, Mr. Aurélien Bandini, will be the main point of contact for association meeting planners in France, Belgium and Monaco.

Associations can now enjoy more direct advice on appropriate venues for their events, ideas for social programs or incentive tour itineraries and provision of promotional materials, such as brochures, videos, images and other resources. The appointment of a specialist in Paris makes JNTO even more accessible as it facilitates communication between host cities and local organising committees.

Ms. Kawasaki, Executive Director of JNTO, says: “Japan has always been a popular destination for European meetings and JNTO can now provide more targeted support to French-speaking meeting planners with our new MICE office in Paris.”

June 8, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Vision to Attract Association Meetings

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is a project which aims to reinforce the nation’s economy and promote its position as a global investment powerhouse and a global hub connecting three continents, making it more accessible for international association meetings.

With the creation of the Saudi Exhibition & Convention Bureau (SECB) the government supports the best practices in overseeing the Saudi meeting industry by having developed a system to ensure the quality of business events and having created a one stop online platform for event organisers and venues to connect electronically.

On a more practical note, it has launched the “Saudi Envoy Program” which enables the Saudi associations, federations, trade chambers and government agencies to attract international meetings and simplifies the visa process for participating in business events in Saudi Arabia and the customs temporary clearance of exhibited products.

SECB also plans to establish the Saudi Speakers Bureau and create an annual Saudi Meeting Industry Award aiming to promote further the business events industry in Saudi Arabia.

With the rising number of hotels and event venues around the kingdom and event management companies entering the market, associations are ensured a successful event.

June 7, 2017

Reading the Culture Map in a Global World

The editors of Convene chose to look at globalization through a cultural lens. They give voice to a business professor whose research offers interesting insight into how culture affects business relationships in global settings.

Are you a peach or a coconut? The answer to that question describes your personal interaction style, according to a model developed by Erin Meyer, a professor at international business school INSEAD in Fountainbleau, France. And — as is the premise for her book The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business — your answer is largely influenced by the cultural system in which you were raised.

Meyer, who was born in the United States, shared her insights into navigating cultural differences in areas relevant to meetings last summer at PCMA’s Global Professionals Conference – Europe, held at the end of August at Palais des Congrès de Paris. In her work, Meyer has created a set of scales in eight key areas, such as trusting, scheduling, and evaluating, and ranks countries according to where they fall along a spectrum.

Two Types of Trust

In “peach” cultures, including the United States, people tend to be friendly — soft, like a peach — with strangers or those they have just met. But after some small talk with a peach person, you get to the pit, where the peach protects his or her real self. In these cultures, Meyer said, friendliness isn’t the same thing as friendship.

In “coconut” cultures, people are less open (like the hard shell of a coconut) with those they don’t already know. It takes a while to get to know coconut people, but as you do, they become friendlier and open up. Relationships are built slowly.

What might that mean for international meeting professionals, whose conferences are now attracting participants from around the globe?, Convene asked Meyer. More specifically, how do you accommodate attendees from countries for whom building personal relationships takes more time and is a necessary precursor to building trust — and therefore doing business — with others? Those countries include Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Japan, China, and India — and to a lesser extent, France, Italy, and Spain.

Scheduling plentiful and longer networking breaks to enable this kind of meaningful interaction is more important than ever at international events, Meyer said. “Instead of a five-minute quick break,” she said, “make your networking breaks at least a half-hour long.”

Time Warps

Meyer brought up another cultural challenge when it comes to meetings — scheduling, which has more to do with managing your own expectations than building the conference itinerary. Certain cultures (see above list, with the exception of Japan), are more flexible in their approach to time than others (including the United States, Germany, and Switzerland), Meyer said, so you should expect to see attendees from the more time-flexible cultures enter and leave sessions without regard for the schedule. Which, in turn, requires flexibility on the part of time-obsessed North American meeting organizers.

In Africa, “the idea that things would start on time and end on time, and that the schedule would be followed more or less to the minute — just forget it,” Meyer told Convene in an earlier interview. South Africa, including Johannesburg and Cape Town, are exceptions, she said. But in general, “if you’re in Africa, then that’s the most flexible time part of the world.”

“The whole focus is going to be on flexibility and adaptability and relationship building,” she continued, “and speakers will go way over or go way under, and everyone is very relaxed about it. Those are emerging markets, and if you live in Africa, you have to be extremely flexible in order to be successful. That just carries over into all aspects of business.”

Read the rest of the article in the second issue of Boardroom. Download it here.

June 6, 2017

Italy and Associations Work Hand in Hand

“Italy, at hand” is the title of a recent communication campaign launched by the Convention Bureau of Italy (CBI) in with cooperation with +39 Italy, an Italian DMC (Destination Management Company).

The campaign is the result of a competition held by CBI called “Capture Buyers’ Imagination”. After many proposals were assessed, “Italy, at hand” – whose aim is to promote Italy on international markets – was chosen.

The theme of the whole campaign is hands. Hands, which are tools for every aspect of Italian excellence, are available to association organisers who can enjoy the Italian history and culture. Using photos of different uses of hands, the project links their effectiveness to organising successful meetings – hence promoting what Italy as a whole can offer associations.

The project was presented earlier this May at IMEX Frankfurt.

June 2, 2017

Montréal Joins Forces to Attract Researchers

The Palais des congrès de Montréal, its Ambassadors Club and the Fonds de recherche du Québec have recently strengthened their partnership with an agreement that runs until 2019, with the goal to attract more international scientific conventions to Montréal.

Foreseen in the partnership is the awarding of the Prix du Club des Ambassadeurs du Palais des congrès de Montréal et des Fonds de recherche du Québec, which was awarded for the first time in November 2016 to researchers invested in organising international scientific conventions.

“It is important for researchers to get involved in organizing international scientific conferences. Those who’ve done it know that although it demands a lot of time, the benefits to their research career is invaluable. Which is why the Fonds de recherche du Québec are proud of this partnership, and also that the competition recognizing the work of researchers in organizing big scientific conferences will continue to thrive,” points out Rémi Quirion, Québec’s Chief Scientist.

June 1, 2017

Zurich Walks the Sustainability Talk 

Are you looking for a smart destination that walks the sustainability talk for your next association meeting? Then why don’t you consider Zurich?

Zurich was ranked #1 in last year’s Arcadis Sustainable Cities Ranking, #2 in the latest Mercer Quality of Living Ranking and #3 in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS).

The city is also home to one of the world’s leading technical universities – ETH Zürich, currently #8 in the QS World University Rankings (2016) – and is an inspiring hub for innovation in science and biotech, as well as for start-ups. No wonder that Google, IBM and many others have chosen this city as their second home.

It all started in 2008, when the people of Zurich voted in favor of a 2000-watt society and thus the sustainable development of their city. This ambitious long-term goal is now part of the municipal code and Zurich is working hard to reduce its energy consumption and annual CO2 emissions, as well as to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

A wide variety of eco-friendly projects have been set up by both public and private initiatives, and the tourism sector and local hotel industry are also investing heavily in sustainability initiatives – from waste reduction and the use of fresh, local produce to incentive programs for eco-friendly meetings. This shared vision is the most effective way to become a smart destination.

Zurich is not only ecologically smart, but also strong in terms of social performance, supplier performance and convention bureau performance (for more information visit What does this mean for your event? Zurich is safe, Zurich is clean, Zurich is efficient. The proximity of reliable urban infrastructure and refreshing natural surroundings makes a business event a professional but relaxed experience.

Zurich is a convenient and cost-effective destination. For example, did you know that you can reach Zurich airport within 10 minutes using public transport? Or that 98% of the city’s hotels are easily accessible (within 30 minutes) by public transport from the convention and exhibition centers?

Zürich Tourism – which is certified as a sustainable enterprise (ISO) – and its partners take social and environmental responsibility seriously, and will ensure that your event does the same.

For more information about sustainable meeting planning, please contact the Convention Bureau team at Zürich Tourism: /
For more information on Switzerland as a meetings destination: contact Myriam Winnepenninckx, Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, T. +32 (0)2 345 83,,

May 25, 2017

Why Regions May Hold the Key to Global Expansion for Associations

The Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP) was created by Brussels, Dubai (pictured), Singapore, and Washington DC to engage with the international association community as a trusted partner for international growth.

key component of the GAHP strategy is to feed this dialogue with original research-based content and to provide education and networking opportunities for association decision makers who are looking to expand, grow, and establish their organizations in targeted international markets.

In a recently released white paper, they investigate why world cities may hold the key to global expansion for trade and professional associations. You can read it here.


May 24, 2017

KES International – An Ideal Platform for Knowledge Dissemination

We met Professor Robert J. Howlett on the occasion of one of Ottawa Tourism’s association sales missions in London in March. Immediately KES International intrigued us, especially when we found out its tagline read : « KES brings people together to make … Knowledge Connections. » What could that mean exactly ? Isn’t that precisely what any association aims to do? Anyway, this seemed quite interesting. Together with Faye Alexander, Professor Howlett explains here what the organisation is about and what kind of challenges the’ve had to overcome in the past years.

Interview Rémi Dévé

Can you explain what Kes International is about?

For over two decades the mission of KES International has provided a professional community, networking and publication opportunities for all those who work in knowledge-intensive subjects. At KES we are passionate about the dissemination, transfer, sharing and brokerage of knowledge. The KES community consists of several thousand experts, scientists, academics, engineers students and practitioners who participate in KES activities.

Can you share what products and services you provide to your members?

KES operates a portfolio of conferences with international participation in different countries of the world on leading edge topics, accessible to academics, researchers, industry and students. Topics include intelligent computer systems, sustainable buildings, design and manufacturing, innovation and knowledge transfer.

KES International also edits a range of journals and serials on knowledg- intensive subjects as well as publishing several book series containing the results of applied and theoretical research on a range of leading-edge topics.

KES also provides live and online training courses on all the topics in its portfolio. Having recently been successful in government funding KES has delivered a wide range of modular based training events in the UK alongside relevant networking activities.

Finally KES International provides a platform for academics who need to disseminate research results as part of a project or EU project and do not wish to create a new conference in order to do so. We have worked with many project workshops providing  specialist knowledge of how to run a conference to disseminate research results alongside one of or existing events.

Are there any particular challenges that the organisation has had to overcome in the past years?

Conferences (especially academic events) are becoming very competitive and providing a high-quality event at a reasonable price is becoming more difficult.

The challenge of keeping abreast of the ever-changing and increasing social media marketing world has been somewhat interesting. Choosing a strong marketeer who can target our very niche audience and also have an understanding of what our customers use to research events, is a long-lasting challenge for a small team and a very busy association!

What kind of events Kes International organizes? How do you decide where to go?

We have a portfolio of academic conferences which cover subjects such as Intelligent Systems, Intelligent Decision Technologies, Intelligent Interactive Multimedia Systems and Services, Agent and Multi Agent Systems, Smart Technology based Education and Training, Sustainable Technology, Sustainability in Energy and Buildings, Smart Energy, Sustainable Design and Manufacturing. Other conference topics include Innovation, Knowledge Transfer, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Innovation in Medicine and Healthcare, Digital Media and Innovation in Music.

Each conference delivers its own networking drinks reception, gala dinner and often a bespoke choice of social event with links to the local area.

Being academic conferences, virtually all of our delegates come to present their work in a 20-minute presentation, and they each submit an article which is published by a major publisher.

There are so many conferences worldwide that academics can more or less choose where they want to go to to deliver their work and network.  We have a motto of ‘A high quality academic conference in a nice place to visit’ – we choose an attractive destination, accessible, good flight routes, safe and affordable for our events.

What do you find most challenging as an association executive?

Amid constantly changing technology, resources, and an increasingly younger demographic, it can be difficult to stay relevant to your membership. We not only need to keep attracting new members to KES International in an ever increasing and competitive market for academic conferences, but we work hard to maintain our extremely high standards within the way we operate our events which, for over 20 years, has made our organisation niche in the product and level of service we deliver.

According to you, what are the latest trends in the global association community?

Our delegates want to go to new places, but they need to be safe, accessible, and cost effective.

Virtual conferences, removing the expense of travel, have been discussed for a number of years, but they don’t seem to be getting much traction.  The ‘fringe benefits’ of a conference, meeting people who might participate in research collaborations or grant applications, is a very important part of attending an event, and it is hard to make the right kind of relationships over the internet.  Some of the best business is done in the bar at the end of the day!

May 22, 2017

Associations Can Now Organize ‘Greener’ conferences in Glasgow

Led by Glasgow Convention Bureau, the city has unveiled a new ‘green conventions team’ which brings together representatives from across the city’s tourism and hospitality sectors, academic and business communities, and local government to champion the city’s credentials as a world-leader in sustainable business tourism.

Silke Schlinnertz, Head of Operations and Events at Euroheat & Power said : “There is a genuine commitment in Glasgow to environmental sustainability and the values and principles that make it possible. Being the first UK city to be included in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) gives event planners one more reason to choose the city as their next meeting destination.” The 38th Euroheat & Power Congress, which was just held in Glasgow, was attended by nearly 500 overseas delegates.

Working with Glasgow City Council’s Land and Environmental Services department and local seed-planting business, Kabloom; the People Make Glasgow Greener campaign will deliver bespoke ‘horticultural therapy’ packages for conference organisers interested in offering sustainable team-building activities for delegates. These will take place across the city’s parks and gardens and include workshops on enhancing biodiversity, maintaining green-spaces and replanting Scottish wildflowers. A toolkit identifying some of the city’s leading sustainable businesses has also been created to simplify the process of organising a sustainable conference in Glasgow. It aims to make it easier for conference organisers to find the services they require from suppliers with similar green objectives.

By the end of 2018, Glasgow will have hosted 20 energy, sustainability and low carbon industry-related conferences over a 24 month period delivering nearly 60,000 delegate days.