What Makes a High-Performance Secretariat

August 27, 2018

What Makes a High-Performance Secretariat

Ellwood Atfield is specialised in recruiting association leaders and corporate affairs executives. In June 2018, they published a new report on ‘High-Performance Secretariats’, based on hundreds of face-to-face interviews and an online survey. They talked to global, European and national associations headquartered in London, Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Geneva. Not surprisingly there is consistency across Europe on what constitutes a high-performance secretariat as Mark Dober, Managing Director, writes.

Seven Key Attributes

Following a literature review, research and practical experience we first published in ‘Key Success Factors for European Associations’ seven key attributes of a high-performance secretariat. We knew each attribute was a key ingredient in the overall successful recipe for an association secretariat but we did not know how important they were relative to each other. So using a randomized survey methodology hundreds of association leaders gave us the answer represented graphically above.

It is perhaps obvious but important to be very clear that the most important person in any high-performance secretariat is the association leader. Indeed, Ellwood Atfield research confirms that the single most distinguishing factor between a good and underperformance association is its leadership, or simply put the qualities of the person in charge on a daily basis. We also found meeting members’ expectations, strategic planning and goal setting are by far the greatest challenges for association leaders. Hence, associations need strong leaders to set strategy and help find consensus between corporate members who compete with each other for market share, and member associations with very different cultures.

Overall Ellwood Atfield research finds that exceptional association leaders are; strategic; persuasive diplomats; excellent communicators; politically savvy; competent managers; energetic networkers; and sectoral experts. Although it is rare that individuals are highly rated on all of the seven attributes, an analysis of their relative strengths and weaknesses against the needs of the job and the association can be useful to assess performance, and remedial measures.

Evaluating your secretariat

As the saying goes, if it’s not measured, it’s not truly managed. Associations must add measurable value to the sectors they represent or face the consequences. There are many ways to measure the success of a secretariat which is after all a reflection of the success of the association, and sometimes even of the reputation of the sector itself. However, using text analysis and grouping hundreds of survey responses we see three main measurement methods used by associations; membership satisfaction; policy and communication achievements; and KPIs. The majority (i.e. more than 50% of survey respondents) highlighted membership metrics particularly around membership satisfaction.

By definition, membership associations exist to serve their members – so ensuring members are satisfied and engaged is a key strategic priority for every association. Some experts told us about the importance not just of meeting members’ expectations, but going beyond what is expected of the Secretariat. Overall five main areas for measurement were highlighted in our survey: 1) Membership satisfaction surveys and scores; 2) Measuring the value and benefit of membership; 3) Membership retention and growth; 4) Membership participation and engagement; 5) General evaluation by the Board

The full version of this article will be published in the September issue of Boardroom.

August 20, 2018

Empowering Hydrogen Research in the Czech Republic

The 7th International Conference on Hydrogen Technologies took place in Prague in mid-July 2017. But work to bring the conference to Prague started as early as in 2009, when the relatively newly established Czech Hydrogen Technology Platform (HYTEP) decided to bid for the event, with the support of  Prague Convention Bureau. At the time, Professor Dr. Ing. Karel Bouzek became the local ambassador of the conference, and received an award during the annual Ambassador Awards Evening organized by the Bureau.

“Winning the candidacy was quite a challenge but the preparation and organization to meet all the delegates’ expectations was actually much more demanding,” commented Professor Bouzek. “Work on the candidacy was coordinated with a help from the HYTEP for the scientific part and the C-IN PCO together with the Prague Convention Bureau for the organizational part. Hydrogen technologies were in their infancy at that time, and this type of conference had never taken place in Eastern Europe before.”

Long tradition

In reality, research on hydrogen technology has a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Already in the 1960s, the development of alkaline fuel cells had been conducted, even if work in the field was stopped afterwards. It’s only at the start of the new millennium that research began again.“It is worth pointing out that in the Czech Republic, as in the first country of the post-communist block, a bus powered by a hydrogen fuel cell was developed and operated, and a hydrogen filling station was installed, while other projects followed. And today there is an increasing interest both from a commercial and public point of view,” commented Professor Bouzek.

The organisation of the 7th International Conference on Hydrogen Technologies brought international recognition to Prague and the Czech Republic, as the destination hosted one of the world’s most important scientific conferences exclusively dedicated to the topic. In this regard, it helped share knowledge and best practices in the field.

When asked about how delegates perceived the conference Professor Bouzek said “The programme consisted of a number of parallel sesstions covering a wide range of topics. Plenary lectures delivered by prominent personalities from the field of hydrogen technologies were received positively, and a concurrent exhibition awoke great interest among participants and guests, who also enjoyed a great gala dinner in Hergetova cihelna. The surroundings overlooking the Old Town were magnificent. Personally, my biggest surprise came from Japanese participants, who came in great numbers. This says a lot about how much attention Japan puts into hydrogen technologies.”

In the future

Professor Bouzek has been involved in various conference bids for more than twenty years. In 1996, for the first time,he participated in the organization of the 4thEuropean Symposium on Electrochemical Engineering (ESSE). “It was undoubtedly an interesting experience. The evaluation of the documents and all the agenda were still on paper – nothing was done digitally back then! The fact that the conference eventually proved to be successful is evidenced by the fact that it returned to Prague in 2008 (8th ESEE) and then in 2017 (11th ESEE) again,” he says.

In the future, Professor Bouzek is eager to build on the success of the seventh edition of the International Conference on Hydrogen Technologies and apply for the organization of one of the forthcoming World Hydrogen Energy Convention (WHEC). In the meantime, he will continue to organize the now-traditional Hydrogen Days, which will take place for the ninth time in cooperation with the C-IN. “This is a smaller conference. However, we attach considerable importance to it, given the close links between the activities of CEE countries, like the Visegrad Group countries and Ukraine or Romania. The central position of Prague and the Czech Republic calls for building bridges between the West and the East of Europe,” concludes Professor Bouzek.

August 13, 2018

3 Questions to Claire Smith of Vancouver Convention Centre

On the occasion of the Sustainable Brands conference which took place in Vancouver last June, Boardroom sat with Claire Smith, Vice-President, Sales & Marketing at Vancouver Convention Centre. Chair of PCMA, Claire shared a lot of interesting insights on the way she has been working with associations.

Has the way you work with associations changed over the years?

It’s definitely changed since the world of associations has changed. As a venue, we work hand in hand with Tourism Vancouver in a very close partnership. They are the conduit to the broader Vancouver community, and, as far as we’re concerned, we’re looking at what happens within the walls of the convention centre. Together, we help an organization create a successful event in our city.

When we opened the West Building of the Convention Centre ten years ago we were stunned at the natural beauty you could experience from it.  From a sales and marketing perspective we were talking a lot about destination appeal and beauty, but my feeling was that ‘what should somebody care? What does that mean for the events that meet here?’. I felt we had to put our attention into what do those attributes mean for success. We started to look at outcomes and how  success is measured. If it is attendance, how can  we  help boost and build attendance, especially from Asia? We took our assets and tried to create relevance in those assets, thinking about how these could benefit associations.

Now we have really shifted to focus on the business relevance of a destination decision. To me, a conference is a business and it has to make business sense for it to be organized in a city. Every organization has different business metrics, and one of them could be growing that field of study in that part of the world: there could be a link to some research centre for instance, but at the same time every association is so specific that, in the end, what it is important is to know what success looks like to them, and how Vancouver can support and drive that success.

How do you identify those conferences that could be the most successful, should they be organized in Vancouver?

There are some that are natural alignment. If we take Sustainable Brands for example, that is a very clear, philosophical alignment as Vancouver is a sustainable pioneer.  There are ones where maybe there is a strong industry sector here and they are a catalyst and want to help. But there are also ones that may not feel naturally like a fit, and that’s where we have to have a different conversation (with a lot of questions and a lot of listening!) and dig deep to understand what success means to an organization and take the first step of collaboration.

An example that comes to my mind is a recent American meeting on neurology we hosted: Vancouver might not be an obvious leading city in that field but we had a strong and passionate school of medicine who   wanted to promote the importance of brain health. That Society worked with our university and local community organizations and hosted  a community outreach programme to help raise the profile of brain health to Vancouver.

In a way, the fact that Vancouver is not the centre of one thing and that we actually have many faces is an asset. Our first priorities are the ones that make natural sense, like any conference related to marine, port and trade for instance, but then we have to take a few steps further and ignite the business relevance of a conference that is not particularly obvious for Vancouver… when it makes sense of course.

How do you think that will evolve in the years to come?

As an industry, we are shifting and mirroring the shifts society is going through. Associations have to work very hard at showing their value. The exciting piece of it that their events have become an even more important platform for them and it is often their main source of revenue and their #1 activation of their mission. Associations are constantly evaluating how to stay relevant in a cluttered marketplace.

What we’re also seeing is blurred geographic boundaries: we see societies that might have been regional in scope that start poking outside their region; we see congresses that used to take place every three or four years take place every year or two years; we see subspecialty organizations being born… In this context, we need to be closely aligned and be able to help as they change, test and try. We have to be able to come up with solutions as how to be a better partner as a destination.

This interview was conducted by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé in June 2018 (editor@boardroom.global)

July 30, 2018

The Secretary General’s Voice
– The Power of Sharing

A member of Boardroom Advisory board, Mohamed Mezghani has been appointed Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in January. Boardroom has asked him to contribute a monthly column in which he explains all about the challenges of holding such a position. This is Mohamed’s sixth contribution, in which he reflects on the power of sharing

I am writing this end of July. For most of you, this time coincides with the traditional summer break, the so-called annual leave. But this is the case mainly for those located in the Northern Hemisphere. For the other half of the planet it is business as usual, not to say a peak period for their activities. I remember some years ago, our association activities used to have two peaks: one in spring (i.e. February-June) and one in autumn (September-November). With the globalisation of UITP, the activity is now equally distributed all over the year except may be around New Year’s. There are obviously some variations according to the region of the world but generally speaking the rhythm of meetings and events is constant around the year.

We can’t say anymore that we’ll use the summer period to take some distance from our daily work to think out of the box. We have to find time to do this while we do our business as usual. It is a challenge. How to think about new services, new segments of membership, the future of the association if you are stuck in day-to-day issues?

Interesting to see that this is actually one reason why our members join us: we help them escape from their daily problems so that they get inspired. Therefore, we have to apply to ourselves what we preach for. We must plan some moments of reflexion, we have to meet peers and confront our ideas with them, we have to discover what other sectors are doing. We must take time to know the destinations of our future events better and interact with potential suppliers. From this curiosity and interaction new ideas will be born. In other words, we must go out to be more creative in our associations.

But how exactly should we do this? By joining associations of associations, either on a regional or thematic level. By attending exhibitions and events targeting associations and event organisers. By participating in fam trips to get familiar with destinations. By contributing to web fora dealing with association matters. By reading specialised magazines like Boardroom.

But there is one important rule: if you want to benefit you must share and get involved. Passive participation is worthless. As far as I am concerned, I measure the success of my participation in such fora by the ideas I collect from others that I could potentially implement at UITP, by the quality of people I meet and I could learn from, and by the opportunities offered to me or my colleagues to contribute to events and share our experiences.

I can mention several examples: the methodology for evaluating bids for hosting events inspired by ICCA, the new approach to sponsorship learned from PCMA, the opportunity to chair the European Association Summit organised by VisitBrussels, the engagement as an Ambassador of the Dubai Association Centre, the participation in several meetings of the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE), the involvement in the United Networks of International Corporate Events Organizers (UNICEO) and more – not to forget the feedback I have been getting since I started writing this column…

The more you share, the more you learn, and the more you’ll be inspired to improve your association. Be open!

July 24, 2018

Why Every Association Needs a Social Media Policy

Social media is one of the most effective tools that associations have to communicate directly with their communities; yet many organisations shy away from social media. This may be due to a lack of interest from leadership, limited resources or simply the perception of too much risk associated with social media, particularly for medical associations. Many of these factors can be addressed, at least in part, through the development of a social media policy.

A social media policy is an internal document with guidelines and rules for the use of social media by an organisation. It must be consistent with the organisation’s business strategy and its marketing plans. It can also be a powerful tool to get buy-in from management as it shows a duty of care that helps to build a business case for social media.

One of the most important things that a social media policy does is set expectations for everyone. It sets the rules for those who are assigned to communicate on behalf of the organisation and offers guidance to everyone else. It empowers teams and individuals to be confident that their actions on social media are aligned with the organisation.

Co-creation

A social media policy ideally involves the whole organisation and is often created and managed by the marketing team. It should be co-created by various departments including marketing, community management, customer service, human resources, legal and any others that seem relevant. Ultimately it must be approved at top level and should be reviewed regularly, especially when there are changes in laws, internal restructuring or changes in key personnel.

A social media policy does not have to be a complex document. Some of the clearest policies simply ask that employees use their best judgement, but most policies go into more detail. An overview of the social media strategy, an up-to-date marketing plan including brand guidelines and how it links to the overall business strategy is a great place to start.

The social media policy should include details on how each social media platform is set up, who has access and who is responsible for posting and monitoring on behalf of the organisation. It should also clarify how others are expected to use social media at work and outline how employees or members should refer to their relationship with the organisation on their personal profiles. Many organisations ask staff to make clear on their social media profiles that the views are their own and may not represent those of the organisation.

In the event of a crisis

A social media policy must address data protection and security, copyright regulations and give direction on how to manage external content. There should also be a social media crisis plan with guidelines on how to deal with offensive or discriminatory content and a link to the full crisis plan for the organisation. Additionally, the policy must make clear any disciplinary actions to be taken in case of breach of the policy.

When something goes wrong on social media, such as a post which is considered offensive or inappropriate it almost always needs immediate attention, yet it may not be considered a full crisis. In this situation it is important that everyone acts according to the organisation’s social media policy because how it is dealt with reflects on the whole organisation.

The first step is to acknowledge the issue, understand the reasons why it happened and, if appropriate, remove the post. Direct communication with those involved, in private if possible, is crucial. Depending on the nature of the issue, there may also be a need to communicate externally. Once the issue has been dealt with, assess whether it went against the existing social media policy, and if disciplinary action is needed. The final step is to update the policy so as to help prevent future issues.

Golden rule

A social media policy only becomes real when it is actively integrated into the day-to-day actions of the team. Not everyone will require training, but everyone should at least be aware of the social media policy. Those who deal directly with social media, even if only through their personal social media accounts, should review the policy.

If an organisation is not active on social media it should articulate the strategic reasons for this in a simple version of a social media policy and review it periodically. It’s important to acknowledge that, even if there are no official accounts, employees or members may be active on social media and can be perceived as speaking on behalf of the organisation. There may also be social media activity around an organisation or an event, even if the organisation itself is not directly involved.

Creating a social media policy is simply a way to officialise an organisation’s stance on social media and set the expectations for everyone. There are limits to what can be asked of employees and members. While the most risk averse organisations may want to push for tight controls over all social media this is often counterproductive as it can cause friction with staff and members. An approach that offers guidance and support to everyone on social media is often a better option.

“Don’t share anything online that you would not like to see on the cover of a newspaper”,that is a golden rule of social media. Following this will keep almost all organisations out of trouble and able to take advantage of social media great potential for direct communication and engagement.

This article was contributed by Miguel Neves, founder of Social Media Chefs, a digital engagement consultancy that uses the language of food to help organisations develop their social media strategy / miguel@socialmediachefs.com

 

July 16, 2018

The Often-Feared Issues
of Compliance & Regulation

With global trends showing an increase in world population at 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 by 2050, according to the newest UN figures, such developments offer some real opportunities as well as challenges to the association market.

Rising living standards and fewer people living in absolute poverty offer unique opportunities for associations to innovate and work to educate these emerging markets with bespoke programmes, benefits, international professional standards and engage in knowledge transfer, certifications, networking to name but a few possibilities. In particular, associations will be faced with the challenge to a) identify growth markets, b) determine which business models will be best suited for maximum engagement, and c) how to fit these models to an appropriate growth strategy to foster this engagement.

Stringent rules

For a few years now, medical associations have felt the stress of diminished income through, among others, sponsorship contributions or even direct operating budget support from industry partners. Where in the first decade of the 2000s industry may have supported medical associations’ budgets with up to 60%, and sometimes more, through sponsorships, advertising and patient education, this support has come under increased scrutiny from the public eye in recent years. Most notably, abuse of anti-fraud regulations, exorbitant consultancy fees paid to practitioners and surgeons, and ‘kick backs’ from big pharma have caused more stringent rules and regulations to be applied to the healthcare industry all over the world.

What is it that modern medical associations can do to navigate the complex world of compliance rules, maintain an appropriate relationship with governments on the one side and industry on the other?

Medical practitioners list a variety of benefits they enjoy and find useful and thus attach value to continuing membership with professional bodies, such as associations nationally and internationally. These lists usually start from simply benefitting from educational and knowledge exchange programmes, continuous education credits (CME) and the opportunity to network with peers and relevant industry partners. In addition, many associations offer opportunities to publish scientific articles of high academic value in their journals, develop clinical databases for the use of their members, and engage in dialogues with governments and industry alike to represent and uphold the values of the medical profession. Some associations have even ventured into financial markets offering insurance and other products to their members. While this may read like a laundry list it shows the resilience and creativity of some professional bodies to remain at the forefront of relevance in the global association market.

Recent surveys have shown that, although a diverse range of benefits is certainly advantageous, it is but a fraction of the benefits experienced during a global summit or world congress. Practitioners feel more than ever that there is nothing as useful as meeting in person and having the chance to engage in discussions, debates and other learning activities, while having access to the newest trends in the healthcare industry. The impact of such gatherings is clearly not to be underestimated and their attractiveness to new markets still has room for deeper exploration.

Industry relations are important in this scenario of venturing out into the great wide world and industry supports large parts of congresses and activities of medical societies. Whether it is through support of patient-education (a prominent case being the relationship between the American Association of Family Practitioners AAFP and The Coca Cola Corporation on the research into obesity), advertising in medical journals, product endorsements, and/or financial support of (graduate) education programmes and awards.

Ethical engagement

While it is safe to say that industry provides large support overall to the benefit of medical associations, making significant financial contributions, criticism arises as to the potential pitfalls and trade-offs when not-for-profit organisations are being supported by for-profit entities. Even more questions arise around established norms as well as the responsibility of medical societies towards their members, patients and societies at large. Ethical concerns are at the forefront here and maintaining a neutral stance can often be a challenging balancing act.

As societies therefore look to the future and explore new ways of engaging with their environments, public affairs move to the core of a society’s life. Ethical engagement is the buzzword of future generations and in order to differentiate and free self-governance and independence from conflict of interest it is worth spending a thought or two on the creation of a set of ethics rules and/or an ethics policy. A clear outline on which activities, relationships and engagements are indeed to the benefit of a society’s stakeholders and how to address potential risks of conflict are vital to determine a society’s position vis-à-vis its interest groups. This is certainly an easier approach than trying to evaluate and handle each relationship and potential risk on a case-by-case basis.

Having a set of rules and guidelines at the ready also facilitates engaging in newly developed markets. Past mistakes can be avoided from the beginning and a society can prove its maturity and value the more developed and grounded its ethics and policy basis is in relation to the work it carries out. In fact, it opens itself to becoming a learning organisation itself and becoming a strong partner for local authorities to develop appropriate and modern standards. This, in turn, may assist industry in accessing new markets as well and adjusting their efforts towards ethical and environmentally compliant behaviour to the benefit of society.

Organisationally responsible behaviour has never been more in fashion as today and current trends show that responsible engagement needs to be deeply anchored in the values of any organisation if it is to survive. The challenges of greater interconnectedness, AI and further automation require new standards also in transparency rules. Being prepared by means of appropriate ethics rules that address the handling of conflicts of interest openly strengthens and stabilises not only continuous community engagement but also the bottom line.

This article was provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, author Christoph Raudonat, Director of Associations, International Conference Services Ltd, on behalf of IAPCO President, Mathias Posch.  IAPCO represents today 117 companies comprised of over 7500 professional congress organisers, meeting planners and managers of international and national congresses, conventions and special events from 41 countries.  info@iapco.org / www.iapco.org      

 

 

 

July 9, 2018

ETHA: How Partnerships
Can Increase Impact

Officially launched at the end of last year, the European Thrombosis and Haemostasis Alliance (ETHA) was formed to advocate for better awareness and prioritisation of thrombosis and haemostasis in European Union patient safety and research programmes. Initiated by the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), it’s a revealing example on how international organisations can expand their European –and even global– footprint by being more present formally in an association hub like Brussels. In our second instalment with the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), Thomas Reiser, ISTH Executive Director, explains why there couldn’t be a better place—or time—for the birth of ETHA.

How did the European Thrombosis and Haemostasis Alliance initially come about?

The European Thrombosis and Haemostasis Alliance is currently comprised of 21 European national, regional and speciality societies representing the field of thrombotic and bleeding disorders. ETHA was formed out of the need for a united voice of the EU thrombosis and haemostasis community in order to represent the field, make recommendations on EU research programme funding and encourage sharing and adoption of best practices in the treatment and prevention of thrombotic and bleeding disorders across EU member states.

The impetus for it came out of a recent ISTH strategic planning exercise. This identified the need for ISTH to seek closer collaborations with—and support the efforts of—national and regional organisations around the world in not only scientific matters, but also in the areas of raising awareness about bleeding and clotting disorders and their impact on public health among the general public and policy makers.

As an international society, you initiated the Alliance. Do you consider this a growth strategy?

Unlike many other medical and scientific fields, in the field of thrombosis and haemostasis, a European organisation does not exist. This is probably due to ISTH’s strong overall ‘presence’ in Europe through our activities, members and leaders from Europe, even if we do not (yet) have a permanent physical presence in the EU.

In addition, we at ISTH are very focused on seeking partnerships. We have built, over decades, strong collaborations with over 100 national thrombosis and haemostasis societies around the world. So, it was a natural step for us to initiate the Alliance after consultation with our European sister societies. What was very important for us in this is that while ISTH plays a leading role in the Alliance as a convener, we are not dictating the course of action; we are working alongside the other member organisations to determine the strategy, objectives and tactics.

While the Alliance in itself is not in support of a growth strategy for ISTH per se, it has the benefit of further strengthening ISTH’s position in Europe and provides additional value to the partnerships with our sister organisations.

Do you find this kind of regional federation of sister societies is a business model that ‘fits’ international associations like yours?

Collaborations among organisations with aligned objectives are (almost) always better than when a single organisation tries to do something. Particularly if it is about having more significant impact on public policy, public health, etc. I think how this specifically can and should look like for any given organisation or field may vary and what the exact governance model is also needs to determined. For ETHA, we specifically chose a more informal alliance model, but in essence it is about several organisations aligning themselves to pursue the same objectives—and this is where its power lies.

Did it help that you know both Brussels, where you lived and worked, and DC, where you now live and work, as they are both association hubs?

It has certainly helped greatly to have a fundamental understanding of how the EU and ‘Brussels’ work. But it’s also helped to have a cultural understanding (as a European myself) to charter a clear(er) course on how to best approach this project from a policy aspect, as well as how to best collaborate.

We started with the classic approach of conducting a policy audit and stakeholder mapping to identify what the situation is and opportunities may be before going too far into this project. We wanted to make sure there is a real need and opportunity for such an Alliance. Once that was identified, we engaged our European sister organisations to understand their interest. It helped greatly that we were able to tap into all our existing relationships and find common ground, which was actually quite easy and straight forward.

The European Union and the US, respectively, are two of the largest single markets where associations are welcome and encouraged to be part of the public dialogue and contribute to best solutions for society and business. This allows associations to have substantial influence and the respective capitals, Brussels and Washington DC, naturally represent hubs where organisations could and should be active and – if necessary – be present.

Achieving impact requires diligent work, patience and persistence and a local presence allows for better insight and access, as well as the ability to build relationships and act quickly when opportunities arise. Cities like Brussels and Washington DC can provide a framework for organisations to do business easily and effectively (by providing association hub infrastructure and access to networks of other organisations, facilitating registration processes, etc.) that lower the barriers of entry and operations. This definitely makes it more attractive for organisations to consider a presence there and allows them to focus more of their efforts on doing their important and good work rather than wrestling with bureaucracy.

Were there any challenges along the way?

The greatest challenge was and continues to be that this is a long play that may only yield clear results in several years. Investing financial and human resources, as well as a lot of time from our very dedicated ETHA member leaders, in such a process can be challenging, particularly when you want to measure progress and justify those significant investments. But the end goal is worth it if we can achieve what we set out to achieve—and we believe we can. It will have significant impact on our field, as well as on Europe, in both an economic and social sense, as well as on the health and well-being of its citizens.

This interview was conducted by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé (editor@boardroom.global)

 

July 4, 2018

Three questions to Lyn Lewis-Smith of Business Events Sydney

Lyn Lewis-Smith is Chief Executive Officer of Business Events Sydney, the organization in charge of securing international business events that deliver economic, strategic and social benefits for Australia and global communities. Lyn devotes considerable energy to her passion for women’s rights and was Co-Chair of the Host Steering Committee for the Global Summit of Women Sydney 2018.

As a destination, you bid for conferences. But the way you do this has changed… Can you elaborate on this?

Ten years ago, there was a low level of sophistication when it came to bidding. To simplify, cities could win events off the back of their beauty. Then things changed in terms of how global events operate and the people shaping them. International organizations now really understand why they select one host city over another for their next global meeting. Our industry has also championed this change – we have triggered conversations around what we have to offer to the world as destinations, and what the world has to offer to us.

We always take the Olympic Games bidding model as an example of what we are required to do now – a strategic alignment with our Government’s key growth target areas, and the identification of events that can add the most value. These events might not be the biggest in the world, but they are strategically important to us in many other ways. In Sydney’s home state of New South Wales, we have an A$80-billion infrastructure pipeline – one of the largest in the world at the moment. To support this agenda, we look at everything around building cities – whether it be architecture, urban design, or water waste. We’re bidding for events in that space because New South Wales and Australia are at the forefront of this globally: we have so much knowledge to share from our Private Public Partnership (PPP) funding models, to new applications of technology, and using data science as a way to solve traffic congestion and social housing, for instance.

That’s the mindset we’re operating in now and that’s where the complexities in bidding are coming from: you have to have a vision, a purpose, a business case and then the accessibility, infrastructure, and supply chain back into it.

When it comes to association conferences in particular, have you identified trends?

In Sydney, the decisions to bid for a conference are based on our expertise in specific areas. But we’re only going to attract, secure and hold events if our locals are at top of their game in Australia, and in the world. For us, it’s a matter of seeking them out in university faculties, in the fintech world, and in our startup community.

I am always discovering new things about Sydney or what Sydney is good at. We’ve got industry specialists in infrastructure, health, medtech, fintech (with cybersecurity) and advanced manufacturing. We’re creating and exporting devices that makes us a leading player on the world stage. And then you’ve got the sciences, life sciences, the engineering…

For associations, we can create value even without them asking. We have transformed our whole convention precinct, where the new state of the art International Convention Centre Sydney lies; we have gone from the traditional DMO to a professional services organization, specializing in international business events. We have heavily invested in engaging stakeholders, local, state and federal government, the not-for-profit sector and academia. Now, I like to think that we can sit with any decision maker in the world and bring value to the table.

You’ve recently participated in the Global Summit of Women, which you were instrumental in getting to Sydney. We understand this event was really dear to your heart…

Known as Davos for women, the Global Summit of Women took place in April. An annual summit dedicated to accelerating women’s advancement in the global economy, it brought 1,200 global leaders to Sydney from across the public, private, and non-profit sectors in more than 65 countries to share creative strategies and practical working solutions.

I made it my mission to personally secure that event. I’m passionate about developing women into leadership positions and their economic empowerment. I wanted to bring Indo-Pacific women and our Indigenous communities together, and we helped them attend the Summit. I also wanted to have the opportunity to step into the shoes of people that I convinced to bid for these kinds of events, and the international clients that deliver them, so I got the best of both worlds. It was the most rewarding and valuable thing I’ve ever done in my career, and my team is richer for the experience, having gained so much competitive advantage doing that.

Hosting events like the Global Summit of Women is a catalyst for greater economic empowerment of Australian women – it shone a spotlight on underperforming areas, eliciting tangible commitments from our leaders to change the status quo. A recent EY report suggests that tapping into women’s global potential could be the equivalent of having another one billion people in the workforce, driving economic growth around the world. That says it all.

This interview was written by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé (editor@boardroom.global)

 

 

June 29, 2018

Washington, DC Provides Access, Ideas and Innovation

According to the latest International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Statistics Report, Washington, DC is the #1 city in the USA for international association meetings. With 17 free-to-enter Smithsonian museums, historic landmarks, tech-friendly venues and artistically-appealing buildings, the city is one of the top destinations to host a meeting.

Washington, DC is dedicated to developing initiatives and investing in new opportunities by adding to its strong industries with $11.5 billion in development, 19 hotels in the pipeline and many new and renovated special events venues in the works. The city’s appeal and ease of access are unparalleled, making it a hot spot for the international business community and specifically its top international meetings markets: UK, India, Japan and China.

It’s all about the access, ideas and innovation that ensure your event will be a success in the U.S. capital. Learn more about how DC is a leading industry knowledge hub where meeting planners can gain unrivaled access to venture capitalists, government leaders, tech startups and cybersecurity experts.

Access

Washington, DC is a top city for social entrepreneurs, the most educated city in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau) and offers unmatched access to federal government and policy leaders. In DC, your proximity to many federal agencies spurs advocacy. Meeting planners can connect directly with members of Congress, policy makers and government experts. The access also extends to a built-in delegate base and nearby stakeholders, so sponsorship dollars and exhibitors grow.

Leading Innovation

DC is home to a thriving startup scene of more than 1,000 tech startups (Business Insider). As data protection has become a hot-button issue, choosing a destination that cultivates young entrepreneurs for jobs in cybersecurity is even more important. The region is a top city for cybersecurity tech startups, and included over 27,000 cybersecurity job postings in 2015, far more than other tech cities (Burning Glass Technologies).

Skilled Workforce

New talent thrives in the nation’s capital. Local businesses create thousands of new jobs for underrepresented workers and entrepreneurs in the tech industry, fostering the most inclusive culture among tech cities on the East Coast. The region ranks number one in the U.S. for high-tech employment concentration, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and continues to grow as a destination for recruiting local talent. The concentrated workforce facilitates more potential attendees at your event.

Intellectual Capital

A neighboring region known as “DNA Alley” boasts 170 biotech companies with nearly 60,000 private sector and government employees. Meeting planners looking for a destination with prestigious research capabilities and science will find that DC is an area where pharma, medicine and biotech investment are rapidly growing.

To learn more and submit an RFP, visit washington.org/meetings.

June 27, 2018

The Secretary General’s Voice
– The Potential of Social Media

A member of Boardroom Advisory board, Mohamed Mezghani has been appointed Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in January. Boardroom has asked him to contribute a monthly column in which he explains all about the challenges of holding such a position. This is Mohamed’s fifth contribution, in which he reflects on the potential of social media.

A few days ago, I wanted to mention a partner association in a tweet. I couldn’t find their tweet account. Then I visited their website and discovered that, to my amazement, they don’t use social media to communicate. It was a surprise to see such a big association completely absent from Twitter. How can we communicate in this 21st century without using social media? But on the contrary, if we use it too much and too often, isn’t there a risk to over communicate and to dilute the impact of our messages?

If you read this article, it’s likely you are a user of or a contributor to social media, and you see them as a tool to inform and/or stay informed. I consider they are indispensable to our activities as associations. I am personally an active user of Twitter and LinkedIn. At UITP, we also use Facebook and have a YouTube channel. In addition to our multiple official accounts, we encourage colleagues to post, like or retweet messages or share posts as much as possible. The more you are active on social media, the more you follow and will be followed, and the bigger the chance will be to learn and share information with a higher number of people, getting your message across.

If used properly, these tools are a mine of knowledge and an opportunity of networking. They also offer direct access to people it might not be possible to easily reach via traditional means. For one of our big events, it took me just a few minutes to contact and invite a keynote speaker who confirmed his participation two days later. I could also approach or was approached by potential members who then joined the association. The same for establishing partnerships to develop joint actions.

Not to mention the numerous new contacts that will grow your database… provided it is compliant with the GDPR. Now each time we evoke contact data we have to add the GDPR compliance provision, the same way publicity about alcoholic beverages must mention the moderation in drinking. GDPR is having big impacts in relation to our marketing and communication activities, our HR policy and our IT tools and security. Moreover, our global dimension adds a level of complexity. It is a challenge, and if a large part of it has been addressed it is still work in progress as, I assume, is the case for many international associations of a certain size.

Coming back to social platforms, besides the public ones, we made the choice at UITP to launch our restricted networking tool, called MyNetwork, which is exclusively reserved to our members. It is the way to offer them one more exclusive benefit. Indeed, if all communication is public what would be the added value to join the association? The aim is to offer information and share knowledge which will not be easily available on public forums, and package it according to the preferences of the member: by topic, by profile of member, by region, etc. This is a way to offer personalised services and satisfy individual needs.

Be it public or restricted, social media based communication is a must for associations. It is an efficient tool to highlight services and people, advocate their positions and show how relevant they are in monitoring trends and knowledge. In this regard, finding a way to cling to the (general or trade) news will attract additional interest and bring the association close to its audience. And if you don’t have enough time to interact on social media, leave your car at home and use public transport. You’ll better use your travel time to explore the potential of networking tools and learn a lot.