How Nantes Drives Innovation

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 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

September 8, 2017

Get Educated in Davos

A congress city with a long tradition and a state-of-the-art infrastructure that perhaps no other Alpine town can match, Davos is best known as the venue of the World Economic Forum, which gathers around 3,000 leading figures from the worlds of business, politics and science every year. As such, it has all the expertise and the capacity to host association events of any kind. Words Rémi Dévé

The highest-altitude resort in Europe and the largest municipality in Switzerland in terms of surface area, Davos has since long been established as a congress, research and clinic destination. What was once only a health resort has developed into what is known today as Davos research centre. The knowledge accumulated here – primarily in the fields of natural science and medicine – has been passed on since the beginning of the 20th century.

The roots of the congress business reach back to the end of the 19th century, when famous guests and leading physi-cians from all over Europe stayed in this high-altitude health resort. The successful treatment of patients with lung disorders led doctors to exchange their specialist knowledge at conferences and training courses and share it
with colleagues at home and abroad. In 1923, Davos physicians organized the first international congress, which, five years after the end of the First World War, brought scientists from former hostile countries together again. In 1925 the Physical-Meteorological Observatory initiated a congress on bioclimatology, which was followed by further congresses of the World Meteorological Organization.

Because there was a need for a place to hold some advanced training courses in several fields of expertise, the Davos Congress Centre was built in 1969, where the World Economic Forum has been held every year since 1971. As Davos progressively developed into an internationally known congress location, the Congress Centre was extended in 1979, and again in 1989, to cope with an ever increasing number of participants. Today, Davos Congress Centre has an overall capacity of 5,000 participants. On a practical note, if, as an convention planner, you book at least 300 rooms in one of the partner hotels of Davos Congress, they will offer you the Davos Congress Centre free of charge…

Around 400 people work in research in Davos. With four internationally acclaimed research institutes in the fields of natural sciences and medicine, an Institute of Risk Management, two grammar schools and the Kirchner Museum, it is an outstanding educational and research centre for an Alpine destination. The Science City Davos Association unites the key institutions of research, education and politics under one roof, with the goal of strengthening and expanding Davos as a focal point for research, congresses and education.

As Professor Peter Matter, former President of the Association for Osteosynthesis (AO Foundation), says : « Davos is well known for its decades-long tradition of holding national and international medical congresses. As a congress resort, it is based on close ties to its five scientific research institutes and a well-equipped, competent acute hospital. The city-like character in an Alpine landscape is much appreciated by congress delegates and enables personal contact outside the Congress Centre. »

More info on Davos: T. +41 81 415 22 76 / sales@davos.ch /www.davos.ch/meetingplace and on Switzerland as a convention destination: T. +32 (0)2 345 83 57 / myriam.winnepenninckx@switzerland.com / www.MySwitzerland.com/meetings

 

 

 

 

September 4, 2017

Riviera di Rimini,
An Introduction

Rimini, the fast facts 


40 kilometres of equipped beaches

2,141 hotels

11 urban parks

20 theme and water parks

17 theatres

1 international racetrack

2 golf clubs

20 villas and historical residences

45 museums and collections

2 marinas

30 discos

16 fortresses, towers and castles

2 thermal spa centres

93 kilometres of bike paths

Easy accessible by car, by train or by plane with just one hour shuttle from the Bologna Airport, Rimini offers the perfect blend of a territory steeped in history, a wonderfully and diverse inland area, modern accommodation and entertainment facilities, simple and efficient logistics. Formed in 1994, Convention Bureau della Riviera di Rimini is the oldest one in Italy and promotes the entire province of Rimini as an event destination – no wonder they have all the necessary experience to host your conference.

The Convention Bureau manages the Palacongressi di Rimini which offers a flexible space and can host events of any size and format, from business conventions to medical-scientific symposiums, from cultural gatherings to association meetings. The Palacongressi features 39 rooms that have a total capacity of 9,000 people, a plenary hall of 4,700 seats and 11,000 sq m. for exhibition.

The local area around the Palacongressi di Rimini and the congress centres of Riccione and Bellaria are well served with spaces for all types and sizes of meetings and events. From historical villas and castles, to medieval villages; from the numerous hotels to theme parks; from beaches to trendy bars, the Riviera di Rimini provides a special atmosphere that hopefully will make for a memorable event for your guests.

CBRR work together with meeting planners, PCOs, agencies and organizers at every stage of event organization. They provide a complete and customised service, free of charge. Their brand-new brochure is available here.

Need more information? Write an email to info@riminiconvention.it or visit www.riminiconvention.it

This content is powered by Convention Bureau della Riviera di Rimini. 

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 20, 2017

AIPC Annual Conference – Lessons from a City Reinventing Itself

 

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

Words Rémi Dévé

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 14, 2017

Centre and Association Partnerships in Washington

Both centres and association organizers have a shared stake in a successful outcome for any given event since whatever satisfies attendees is the best guarantee for future participation. Working together – using a centre’s unique knowledge of what works best in their facilities combined with the organizers in-depth understanding of what their delegates most want and need – is the best way to achieve this, but requires a commitment by both parties to cooperation and keeping an open mind to a range of possibilities.

Words Greg O’Dell, President and CEO, Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Events DC

I can best illustrate this via a specific example drawn from our own experiences at Events DC, which hosts hundreds of events annually in its venues, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Over the years, the Center has established itself as a strong partner and resource for associations looking to increase attendance and enhance the overall event experience in Washington, DC – all while building innovative revenue opportunities.

Enhancing the Attendee Experience in DC

The Center has partnered with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) since 2012. RAMW uses our annual investment to enhance its local marketing spending and to develop select national promotions showcasing District restaurants and the District’s growing culinary experiences to national media, entrepreneurs and event organizers.

RAMW creates customized marketing campaigns for citywide and major Center events and promotes these events to its member restaurants, encouraging them to offer event-related discounts, incentive and welcoming opportunities. This gives event patrons a wider selection of restaurant options. This is a member benefit for RAMW members, driving thousands of new patrons looking for memorable dining experiences to restaurants throughout the city each week. The promotions particularly benefit newer, smaller restaurants with limited promotional budgets.

RAMW also provides the Center with enhanced client hospitality opportunities during quarterly Chef’s Table food showcase events.

The Center hosts RAMW’s annual awards gala to showcase our venue and food offerings to the restaurant community; Events DC is designated as the gala’s primary sponsor.

RAMW’s promotion of the District as a significant culinary destination creates a unique value proposition for leisure, business and convention travelers, as well as increasing the city’s appeal to tour operators, business developers and event organizers. It also significantly expands its member restaurants’ customer base at no additional marketing cost to its members through advance alerts of the convention business opportunities, creating a significant and valuable member benefit.

Read the rest of the article in the third issue of Boardroom available here.

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