Reinventing Medical Conventions in the Digital Age

March 7, 2018

Reinventing Medical Conventions in the Digital Age

Medical societies started to blossom in the early 1800’s. The aim was for their members to exchange knowledge and organise medical practice. Those were initially limited to countries, but, as science does not have frontiers, international societies soon began to burgeon as well, spreading scientific knowledge worldwide and initiating medical conventions.

In general, national medical associations hold conventions yearly, while the international ones do so every two to four years, rotating in different regions of the world. The interval between meetings usually gives enough time to build a body of new information worthwhile for participants to come and justifying the investment of substantial resources. The profitable business of conventions was thus born, fostering networking and scientific progress.

Besides showcasing the latest scientific discoveries, it then became necessary to promote the education of young doctors and regulate the expertise level of specialists. The educational boards of medical specialties became managed by national societies. Specialised medical societies were born with the need of branching general medicine into specialties fostered by the fast medical progress made all through the 20th century.

A bit of history

As medical societies were born and organised medicine progressed, humans experienced roughly the triplication in life expectancy. This improvement was witnessed in all continents, even in less wealthy areas of the world – a testament to the overall improvement of healthcare with the specialisation and the rapid dissemination of knowledge promoted by medical conventions and a well-organised medical sector worldwide.

Today all medical specialties have their corresponding meetings, whose mission is the exchange of information, the education of young doctors and the dissemination of new therapies, whether medical, surgical or technological. At one point, pharmaceutical and medical device companies became major sponsors of medical conventions starting to play an important role in medical education. There were days when conventions were highly subsidised by private companies.  The convention industry became profitable to all stakeholders – to the hosting cities through direct tourism benefits, to the delegates through education and to the companies that were hoping to introduce their products to the market. It was also a major win for the patients who benefitted from the outstanding medical progress that was showcased at those conventions.

While the dissemination of knowledge was dependent on the specialised press, the two- to four-year accumulation of knowledge justifying the holding of an international convention was reasonable, as the turnover of publications, be it medical journals with the need of peer review, or the production of textbooks, would take as much time to reach the reader. The presentation of the most recent findings in medicine was indeed dependent on conventions: the material presented at conventions would appear in the scientific press one to four years later; they would then be read by the scientific community at large, generating ideas, new discoveries and developments. This was a relatively long cycle in today’s standards!

Changing time frame

The time frame to spread knowledge has changed with the digital age. Today knowledge is produced and disseminated at a speed that traditional conventions cannot follow. What will happen with the old convention model, which most of us know? Will conventions become digital? Is this already happening? Convention stakeholders, starting with the sponsors, are questioning the  model based on expensive exhibition boots, placed in highly priced spaces. Additionally, lavish and expensive trips offered by exhibitors to attending doctors are no longer viewed as appropriate. As major device companies initiated, isn’t it less costly and more effective to bring doctors to be educated in their headquarters, where the demonstration of products is at hand and practical?

Compliance, a synonym for private corporations not being able to take up the expenses of conventions, is being dutifully enforced by government agencies. Will this regulation of doctors’ participation in conventions limit their attendance (or is it already doing so?), therefore slowing down the dissemination of science, which is so important for the evolution of medicine and patient care? Medical societies are already trying to overcome these barriers by promoting more and more digital education. The webinar industry is rapidly growing, as are free online journals, medical and surgery technique videos on YouTube, providing free learning to doctors, as well as advertisement opportunities to medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

This easy access to medical education is bringing medicine to a point where patients are as much – if not more! – informed about their own disease than the doctors who treat them. Does this information, which lays at everybody’s fingertips, as well the easiness of communication among peers yielded by the digital age, threaten conventions? Or is the need for direct human contact and networking strong enough to maintain its model? These are questions that will be answered in the following decades as digital education evolves.

The survival of international medical societies depends on their members. It is no longer enough to organise a convention every two to four years. Members and delegates need more pampering to accept registration fees, mostly because the information they seek can often be found outside the association itself. Continuous medical education, credentialing process, local courses, frequent webinars, access to libraries, forums directly helping in difficult medical cases are a few measures that can justify the enrolment and the retention of members, engaging them to participate in future conventions.

The remaining question is who will continue to pay for the costs related to doctors attending conventions in an environment where heavy taxes, profit-oriented health insurance companies, expensive drugs and medical devices, and failure of some governments to provide an effective healthcare system all have an impact on medical income in general. It becomes unaffordable for some doctors to participate in conventions, especially as there are so many potentially, of interest to them. Those are the very practitioners who will likely to embrace digital education.

It is possible that doctors’ participation to conventions will decrease, and so their expertise and, in turn, the quality of their care. Medical societies have to evolve with the digital age, enhancing their presence in the day-to-day life of their members, partnering with other related societies in a kind of multidisciplinary effort to decrease the number of conventions.

Antonio A.F. De Salles, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Neurosurgery and Radiation Therapy, Departments of Neurosurgery and Radiation Oncology, University of California Los Angeles, and Head & Founder, HCor Neuroscience, São Paulo. He is also President of the Ibero-Latin American Radiosurgery Society.  

References: / / / / Br Med J. 1936 Feb 29; 1(3921): 431. The History of the French Medical Association





February 28, 2018

Fostering Transformation in Bogotá

 As the political and economic capital of Colombia, Bogotá is one of the most dynamic cities in Latin America with 7.6 million inhabitants. The commitment to lead through transformative initiatives that call for the integration of society is mandatory, even more so now that Colombia is at a crossroads in its history as the nation is leaving behind more than 50 years of internal conflict. Attracting international events that have an impact is part of an overall strategy of change.

Words Rémi Dévé, with the Bogotá Convention Bureau

Working from the heart will always make a difference. If one is able to find a connection between people’s deepest desires to be part of something bigger, then transformation will take place. Events, no matter the sector, are always created with a larger purpose.

Associations can play an active role in this reconciliation process, consequently their events have that power of transformation and can align both members’ and delegates’ needs and those of destinations wanting to grow. Their events can activate a citizen movement, motivate people to create a link, involve the vulnerable population affected by conflicts, connect people to a larger purpose, and make them a reality in the short term.

In this context, Bogotá, led by its Convention Bureau, bid in 2015 and 2016, for two events that accomplished what the city and the country needed. The first event, One Young World Summit (OYW), engaged young people as key actors in different movements around the world, in the hope for them to participate in a historical moment of Colombia and have them “help create the country’s future”.  The purpose of the second event, the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, was to raise the level of dialogue around peace and contribute to the peace building process of the country.

Both events, which were held in Bogotá in 2017, help to:

Activate citizen movements: citizens were involved not only during the bid process but also during the event. For example, OYW and the city were hot topics on social media for the whole duration of the event and more than 47,000 persons from 7 countries were engaged in the Nobel Peace Prize Summit through livestreaming.

Involve the vulnerable population affected by conflicts: both events had an active participation of people affected by the conflict, including speakers who shared their story, but also attendees and volunteers.

Create a legacy: At the moment, OYW is measuring the impact of the projects regarding their contribution to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. On the other hand, the Permanent Secretariat of the Nobel Peace Summit, together with the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, is continuing the conversation with different foundations and the civil society.

Increase the level of dialogue around the meetings industry in the country: now, actors that are not directly related to the meetings industry, are aware of the power of events and how they can be used to achieve different types of purposes.

Create a strong network: at a destination level, creating ties between different actors (not only within the meetings industry) makes city bids more competitive thanks to the added value that all the actors can bring to the table.

February 20, 2018

Having an Impact: More Than Child’s Play

Experts from around the world came together to find ways to get kids outside and active in September in Calgary, leaving a permanent imprint on the city.

Words Sarah Beauchamp

Four years ago, someone approached Heather Cowie, manager of recreation for the north and east region for the City of Calgary, about hosting the International Play Association (IPA) conference in Calgary. She said knew nothing about IPA’s mission, prompting that person to respond, “That’s exactly why you need to host this conference.”

Cowie and her team immediately began learning more about the organization’s mission and quickly realized they not only wanted to host the conference, but they wanted to ensure the impact lasted well beyond the four days of events. “I don’t want to just do a conference,” Cowie remembered her boss saying at the time. “I want to do something that’s meaningful.”

Play in time of crisis

So Calgary partnered with IPA Canada last year to host its 20th IPA Triennial World Conference, held at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, 13–17 September. IPA is an organization dedicated to securing “every child’s right to play and to promote healthy, high- quality play opportunities and environments,” according to its site ( Its annual conference brings together thousands of play researchers, advocates, designers, educators, practitioners, providers, and policymakers from around the world. In Calgary this past September, the conference featured more than 450 speakers, and hosted sessions on topics like the mental-health consequences of a lack of play time and how children can make space to play in times of crisis.

There’s been a steady decline in “children’s free play” since about 1955, according to Peter Gray, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at Boston College. That, he told The Atlantic, is partly “because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children’s activities.” Without enough free play — when children are directing their own activities, unsupervised — kids are more prone to anxiety, depression, and attention and self-control issues.

“It’s so important for kids to play and go outside and have child-directed play rather than adult-facilitated, so that they can test their own boundaries and take their own risks,” Cowie said. “You learn so many things about yourself… [including] how to negotiate with other people. It’s physical, it’s emotional, it’s fun.”

Outliving the kids

Hosting IPA’s conference also galvanized Calgary to create what they’re calling a play charter. “Rather than the city of Calgary doing a play policy, we’re doing a charter that’s collaborative in nature, to say why is play important, what are we going to do about it, and who’s going to do something,” Cowie said. About 30 organizations came together at the IPA Triennial World Conference to sign the charter and commit “to do something about play in the next year.”

IPA was held at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, and its proximity City Hall helped Calgary’s elected officials to understand “what we were doing,” Cowie said. “It was good access for them to come see what was happening.”

The IPA Triennial World Conference was a way for play professionals to gain new perspectives.  “Where we all are in the world with play is very different,” Cowie said. “An international conference gives you different perspectives, gives you different learnings, gives you different contexts. Certainly, contexts are different all over the world, but there are nuggets of information and knowledge that you can get when you have an international conference.”

When Cowie and her team fist started this journey, they didn’t fully understand the concept of play, but now, she said, “every time we get together with the organizations that we partner with, I believe we get smarter. For me, that’s what the conference is about. It’s an amazing learning opportunity.” Hosting IPA has inspired Cowie to continue to create play initiatives. “We’ve laid the foundation for legacy and we’re gonna keep going.”

Sarah Beauchamp is a contributing writer to Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), and a partner of Boardroom.

February 13, 2018

A Broader Perspective in Lampedusa

By involving local communities you can create a concrete legacy for host destinations. Whether it be business events or association congresses, strategic results can be achieved for everyone, the organiser, the attendees and local stakeholders.

The impact meetings have on host destinations and local communities is much wider than people imagine. Things like knowledge or skills transfer, sharing of scientific and healthcare advancements with local professionals, empowering young people or women in developing countries, and involving future political leaders, are all important legacies far beyond economic and touristic values. It is about how events change the real lives in a community.

Nowadays the meeting industry’s broader value is becoming more and more understood. The most important industry associations are engaged in promoting this value, and professional congress organisers and associations are definitely on the frontline of this process. But, why should they deploy resources on a legacy programme?

Strategic approach

Planning an event with a broader vision for positive legacies on a local destination is not only a good practice for CSR and for moral reasons but it can produce significant outcomes for associations. It helps them attract and retain members, build brand reputation and promote accountability of the meetings industry to society. It also helps create a meaningful bond between delegates, boost team spirit and make conferences more engaging.

To realise the right legacy projects with the most concrete and useful impacts, it is important to have a strategic approach, identify clear objectives and plan the actions well in advance. Choosing initiatives tailored to the core activities and topics of the conference can foster the engagement of participants and sponsors, while it’s advisable to interact with local people and stakeholders in order to understand the local social issues.

With those premises, the possible actions are numerous.

You can, for example, involve participants in construction/renovation projects, as happened at a national conference of real estate agents, where the attendees had the chance to participate in a volunteer program of building three new homes for families in need. Or at a national congress of respiratory and pulmonary medicine, where, due to the relationship between respiratory health and air quality, it was decided to plant all the trees used for the decoration in a park. This was a concrete contribution of these specialists to the city’s air quality. Also, during an international conference dedicated to Alzheimer disease, a sensory garden was built by local patients and after the event it was relocated as a community garden in a derelict area.

Of course the contribution of a conference is related to knowledge-sharing with the local community. For example, at a European congress of paediatric physicians local parents had the opportunity to discuss child-health issues with world-class specialists, during an open conference.

Another type of legacy is the economic support to local social projects by corporate donations or fundraising among delegates (e.g. gala dinner auctions or a fun run). In this case, it’s important to carefully handle the choice of the recipient, and preferably working in close partnership with the destination stakeholders who know local needs and non-profit organisations.

A deep dive into reality

A good example of what can be done in terms of legacy is the SIAARTI Academy 2017, the innovative and efficient training event for the young members of the Italian Society for Anaesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care – recently awarded at Bea World Award and IAPCO Collaboration Awards.

Together with PCO AIM Group, SIAARTI decided the small island of Lampedusa, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, was the most appropriate venue for the Academy. Once known as an ideal holiday destination, Lampedusa has become famous as the backdrop for migrant boat landings and major socio-sanitary challenges. The island is well acquainted with human suffering and known for its ability to handle emergencies.

Organising an event on such an island enabled some local facilities and companies – such as the airport, hotels, restaurants and transfer companies – to be revaluated and to successfully adapt to the needs of the meeting industry. AIM Group hoped to prove that Lampedusa was capable of hosting business events and educational activities, creating an important legacy in terms of the destination’s reputation. Furthermore, the event was held just before the opening of the tourist season, providing an additional economic profit to local operators.

In fact, the island welcomed 100 medical residents from 38 postgraduate schools to attend plenary sessions, lectures for smaller groups and hands-on sessions with experts and stations with up-to-date simulators. A remarkable highlight of the congress was a maxi simulation. Organised in collaboration with the Coast Guard and the Military Corps of the Italian Red Cross, the sinking of a boat was simulated and field hospitals were situated on the beach.

The specialists had to play different roles, such as the wounded (with realistic make-up), rescuers (doctors and nurses) and observers, in order to test their ability to put into practice what they had learned and to move from abstract clinical practice to empathy of a real-life situation. The new format mixing team building, hands-on and theoretical sessions, and the legacy in the destination was the perfect solution to effectively involve young doctors and to get the island’s operators ready to welcome new events.

This article was provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, author Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, Vice President, AIM Group International. IAPCO represents today 118 companies comprised of over 5,000 professional congress organisers, meeting planners and managers of international and national congresses, conventions and special events from 41 countries. /    

February 6, 2018

A Community Legacy of the World Parkinson Congress

The first World Parkinson Congress took place in Washington, D.C. in 2006. Together with a strong legacy component, the concept was simple: create a high level scientific meeting on Parkinson’s disease (PD) that opened its doors to the full community, including people with Parkinson’s (PwP).

While simple in theory, the complexities in planning a totally cross-pollinated meeting, which had never been done before in PD, were numerous. We weren’t sure if this was a one-off Congress, or a would become the triennial Congress it is today. Fortunately, the latter is what emerged and now every three years the World Parkinson Congress draws world leaders in basic and clinical science, care, and advocacy from across the globe. The recent WPC 2016 in Portland, Oregon, our fourth Congress, attracted nearly 4,600 delegates from 60 countries, 26% of whom were people with Parkinson’s.

PD is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that impacts 7 to 10 million people worldwide.1 Considering people may live for decades with PD, family members are very much part of the PD journey, so the number of people directly impacted by a PD diagnosis is probably closer to 40 million. There is a need for the World Parkinson Congresses, but we believe that there is also a responsibility that falls to us with each WPC we plan.

We start planning by asking ourselves how we can make an impact on the host city. We never want to enter a city to just hold our meeting and leave. We believe that it’s our duty to elevate awareness of PD, an often-misunderstood disease, in the host city, before we leave.

Perhaps our biggest impact is made through our “WPC Parkinson’s Ready” program which trains key local community members to better understand PD in order to welcome our delegates, particularly those who live with PD. Our Parkinson’s 101 course introduces PD to front of house staff and first responders who have little to no knowledge of PD. We work with our hotel staff, the convention center, local police officers, local fire fighters, taxi drivers, the airport staff and customs officials who may be the first to greet a PwP after a long flight. We prepare our delegates with brightly colored wallet cards announcing, “I have Parkinson’s” and make sure that they have these cards with their passports when they go through customs, or check into hotels. This alerts the staff that the person in front of them may need extra care, especially if their medications are “off” and they are jetlagged, as exhaustion and stress can exacerbate PD symptoms.

Our Parkinson’s Ready program is one small part of the World Parkinson Congresses, but the impact is profound. Not only do the trainees learn about Parkinson’s, they now have more awareness and increased empathy for people who they work with in the future. These little details matter for our delegates.

This article was contributed by Elizabeth “Eli” Pollard, Executive Director of the New York-based World Parkinson Coalition® /  


January 31, 2018

The Legacy of Associations

Nowadays in the association world, I hear a lot about “legacy”, especially in the context of what associations “leave behind” after organizing events in a venue destination.

In his article in the Legatus magazine, Paul J. Voss writes that the word legacy has been used exclusively as a noun for nearly 500 years but has expanded its original meaning and now signifies a “gift” or “bequest” transmitted from one person (or one generation) to another. He adds, “used as a noun in this fashion, legacy carries a wholly positive meaning and represents an act of love, charity and care.”

Three Opportunities

In terms of associations, I read an article written by Keith Burton and Kristen Tremeer in the April 2017 issue of Boardroom magazine, entitled, “Three Legacy Opportunities for Associations”. The article starts with, “international professional associations that convene congresses in destinations around the world mustn’t miss out on the opportunity to leave a legacy that reflects the values of the association, whether tangible or intangible, social, or economic or environmental.” It then offers 3 legacy opportunities for associations, as follows:

1 – Community-engagement – Examples are planting a vegetable garden for a seniors’ centre, building a playground for a preschool, or constructing a library at a community centre. It’s a “volun-tourism” approach that gives visitors to a destination a chance to interact with local residents that they might not have otherwise been able to meet.

2 – Content driven – Examples range from the establishment of an endowment in a relevant university department to a scholarship for participants from developing economies to attend future congresses, or using the host association’s members as congress volunteers.

3 – Skills transfer – An example is a mobile clinic in an under-developed facility staffed by leading physicians who treat and train their local counterparts, or special training sessions for students in a particular field.

Beyond events

But how about legacy “beyond events?” What legacy do associations give to society? Below are some examples of what Philippine associations and other member-serving organizations have done and are still doing. These outstanding legacy projects have been recognized by the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) through its annual “Ang Susi” Awards:

1 – The Cement Manufacturers’ Association of the Philippines’ “Road Safety Program” which addresses to standardize road safety guidelines among all its member-companies’ trucking contractors.

2 – The National Confederation of Cooperatives’ “Aflatoun Social and Financial Education Program” that allows children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to manage their own savings accounts and learn about savings, spending and budgeting, among others.

3 -The Philippine Franchise Association’s “Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) Program” that offers franchise professionals the opportunity to learn, grow professionally and reach a recognized standard of excellence in the franchise community.

4 – Alalay sa Kaunlaran Foundation’s “Agriculture Value Chain for Onion Farmers in San Jose City: Onion and Vegetable Producers Cooperative” which helps onion farmers to have a sustainable agricultural livelihood and uplift their socio-economic condition by adding value to their produce with stable pricing and market availability.

The above-mentioned legacy projects demonstrate that associations not only provide services to its members but also provide benefits to a wider community of people, and in effect, contribute to the socioeconomic development of the country.

The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) and CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE). PCAAE enjoys the support of ADFIAP, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the Philippine International Convention Center. E-mail

January 23, 2018

A New Model for Association Meetings?

Increasingly, associations are interrogating traditional ways of creating meetings and events programmes. Delegate numbers are broadly on the up, but audiences continue to demand more engagement and specialist content. Organisations need to draw a balance between managing effective continual professional development, and giving delegates curated content based on their specialities; creating a legacy of knowledge across its often global membership.

For many associations, this need is set aside the requirement to create revenue. So, how can an association continue to create value for its members while also capturing, and commercialising, the scientific value that comes from bringing large numbers of an active community together?

Broader Look

The European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) is one that is taking a broader look, and in doing so, re-writing the manual in terms of how it works within its membership, and how it builds its event programme for now and the future.

In 2016 the ESTRO annual congress attracted over 6,000 delegates across 6 days. It’s 36th gathering was a success both in terms of its growth in delegates, but also in its delivery. However, it became clear to many within the association that more and more ‘breakout’ content was needed and delegate feedback showed that, with the meeting growing so much, traditional networking was getting harder.

Equally, the congress never took its eye off its dual responsibilities to; firstly, ensure that new specialist research and technology was shared amongst the scientific community, and for those within it to be allowed the chance to network, discuss and debate the findings, ultimately adding value to their experience and a lasting legacy for the event.

“We quickly realised the need for a broader business model, spinning off some aspects of the traditional congress,” commented Alessandro Cortese, Chief Executive Officer, ESTRO. “A new approach that gave us the opportunity to create smaller, highly specialised meetings that came directly to the delegates or to the areas of excellence, rather than them coming to us. It gave us the opportunity to host more events, all feeding off the main convention, allowing us to have forums for content throughout the year, and more specialised networking for professionals.”

An Opportunity

In terms of the physical location of these events, again, this presented an opportunity for the association. The main congress continues to benefit from the support of its host destinations, and taps into the city’s network of organisations, academics and opinion leaders that were based on their doorstep. However, a new meeting model would allow events to visit different destinations and tap into richer local networks of academics and professionals.

The first option for such a meeting was Glasgow. Already, ESTRO had a strategic relationship within the city, not only amongst the professional and academic community, but with the city’s main conference centre, the Scottish Event Campus, and the convention bureau, Glasgow Convention Bureau.

Glasgow had also just opened the Imaging Centre of Excellence (ICE), attracting a network of globally leading professionals, who were bringing their expertise to the facility. ESTRO itself was incredibly strong in Glasgow, with equally strong relationships with leading experts at the University of Glasgow, as well as professionals at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“Our new model changed to one where the content, the science, technology and the network would lead the choice of destination. Glasgow was an obvious choice; the strong professionalism in the universities, the newly launched ICE, and our relationship with the city, made it a safe option to try out the new model,” commented Alessandro.

Both the Scottish Event Campus, and the conference bureau were well known to the event organisers at ESTRO, having met through the Leading Centres of Europe network; with an already close understanding of Glasgow and its premier destination, this only increased the desire to come to the city. At its heart, the SEC has a strong reputation for hosting medical conferences, and had the knowledge and expertise to support such a meeting. With this in mind, an agreement was put in place to establish a new event at the Scottish Event Campus, with options to continue the collaboration in the long-term.

“We’ve known Alessandro and the ESTRO team for some time and got to know that there were synergies within the city and the Society,” commented Kathleen Warden, Director of Conference Sales, SEC. “We knew that there was a desire to tap into the scientific community of Glasgow, all we needed was a reason, this was it.”

Scientific Networking

The event took place as a scientific networking workshop for 220 medical physicists involved in Radiotherapy. It was built on a new concept for scientific exchange: five topics were selected and participants, both academic and developers from the industry, were invited to actively contribute to the programme, with the intent of advancing scientific research. The developments in the specific content areas were discussed to facilitate the potential application and maximise the impact on the cure for cancer.

“When associations such as ESTRO look to do something different with their conferences and events, it provides the conference organiser, host convention bureau, and the local academic and business communities with an opportunity to create a more engaging platform for knowledge exchange. This both enhances the overall experience for delegates and has the potential to leave a lasting legacy on the host city,“ commented Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions, Glasgow Convention Bureau.

“ESTRO’s approach is a fantastic example of connecting on far-reaching levels within the destination,” commented Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Events, VisitScotland. “Association conferences and conventions provide strong platforms for new ideas and innovative thinking, paving the way for collaborations, research and new discoveries. ESTRO’s model will go far in developing long-term collaboration with Glasgow – long after the main event has taken place.”

This article was contributed by Alistair Turner, Managing Director, EIGHT PR & Marketing. Picture: Glasgow Science Centre and Cityscape.

January 12, 2018

Making a Mark Beyond Tourism

In November the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) welcomed a record number of delegates to its 56th annual congress. Almost 1,300 members, including more than 40 association executives, travelled to Prague for four days of education, chapter meetings and networking.

During the event, the inaugural winners of the “Incredible Impacts” grants supported by both ICCA and BestCities Global Alliance were announced at a session called “A celebration of the beyond tourism impact”. The three winning international associations have each made legacy a central part of their thinking and activities.

One of Boardroom’s partner The Iceberg is currently running a series of videos recorded at the event which celebrate “Incredible Impacts” and the wider effects meetings have on a destination and its region. In this second video of the series, Jane Cunningham, BestCities Global Alliance’s Director of International Associations, delves further into the stories behind two of the “Incredible Impacts” winners…. “…because it’s not just about the conference. It’s about what is left after that conference…”, she explains.

More on this here.

January 6, 2018

Legacies of Dubai Association Conference

Held in December 2017 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the first-ever Dubai Association Conference was set to reinforce the essential role associations play in Dubai’s socio-economic development and its transition to a knowledge-based economy. On that level, it definitely delivered and brought together association executives, government representatives, university faculties and students, as well as professionals interested in forming associations, coming from Dubai and the region, but also from all corners of the world.              Words Rémi Dévé

Like Dubai itself, or even the United Arab Emirates, the association community based in the region is rather young. Wishing to move away from a purely oil-based economy, the Dubai government realized very early that trade and professional organisations can play a key role in driving social integration, competitiveness, and knowledge sharing, and therefore support in the development of a knowledge economy.


Three takeaways of the Dubai Association Conference

Susan Robertson, Executive Vice President of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) reminded the audience that associations make the world smarter, safer, and better (…) and can advance causes that government and official institutions could never do, by providing the most up-to-date information, best practice, and professional development and networking opportunities.”

In a session dedicated to globalisation, David Macadam, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers and Middle East Council of Shopping Centres based in the UAE, argued that “better serving your overseas members, providing value and building engagement abroad are key strategies for associations wanting to go global. But you have to think this through: you can significantly increase your likelihood of success by researching the market and the competition and setting clear objectives, timelines, milestones, and metrics and using this research to create a kind of roadmap.”

For successful volunteer engagement, Mark Dorsey, CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute, urged the audience to “be clear about what your organisation expects from its volunteers. People are usually attracted to a purpose and if you’re clear about the purpose, it will be all the more easy. In fact, volunteer work might provide people with opportunities to learn skills they wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise.”


Platform for dialogue

In this context, the Dubai Association Centre (DAC) was launched a few years back and has already achieved considerable progress. Offering assistance for the establishment of non-profit, apolitical, and non-religious professional associations and trade bodies in the Emirate of Dubai, its main objective is to become a platform for dialogue and education for associations interested in exploring opportunities in the Middle East Region and to ultimately contribute to building an association community that drives the knowledge economy in the UAE and the wider Arabian Peninsula. The Dubai Association Conference is another step in the road to Dubai’s association success.

In the opening session of the Conference, His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing & Dubai World Trade Centre, explained: “Dubai has seen a tremendous rise in the number of associations over the past few years, which is testament to the city’s significance to reaching their target groups based in the region. This rise has resulted in a heightened demand for networking and engagement platforms for associations across different industries. The Dubai Association Conference has helped respond to that demand and allowed for much-anticipated community-building.”

His Excellency Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry added: “Associations are among the biggest contributors of economic growth and business activity globally, and they are crucial for generating the flow of innovative and creative ideas that can add value to our society. Supporting the growth of Dubai’s association community is one of the main objectives of DAC, as associations have valuable knowledge, expertise and skill sets that can enhance the emirate’s competitiveness and drive its knowledge economy forward.”

Super Kids

‘Building a Community’: that was in fact the very theme of the Conference. As industries ranging from technology and healthcare to education and finance are growing quickly in Dubai and the UAE, there is a need for connecting industry professionals among associations, government, academia, and the private sector, a need for facilitating discussions and networking and knowledge sharing. In addition to providing all of this, the Conference, which had a strong focus on the future and unveiled the concept of the Super Kids during a session that proved very popular, touched upon the latest trends in areas such as membership, online communities, restructuring education, volunteerism and governance, among others. It also went beyond traditional methods of education to focus largely on collaboration and engagement.

The Dubai Association Conference also offered a unique opportunity to discover the various facets of Dubai, and what makes the city one of the most dynamic destinations in the world. At the same time, it provided a better understanding of what is available in the city for associations to tap into. Designed as a study mission, the itinerary featured a deep-dive into the UAE’s rich heritage at the Etihad Museum, a glimpse into the future at the Prime Minister’s Office and Dubai Future Academy and its Dubai Future Accelerators. There was also a behind-the-scenes peek of the site that will host Expo 2020 Dubai.



December 16, 2017

How a Congress Can Empower Young Meeting Professionals

The delegates of the 2017 Congress of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) may have noticed plenty of young smiling faces roaming the streets of Prague in November. Boasting blue shirts with “Prague InSpires” on the front and “Bridge to Inspiration” on the back, these young volunteers, or ICCA Pilots as they called themselves, were students of the Travel and Trade at the University of Economics in Prague.

 Last year, the University, together with the Prague Convention Bureau, launched the Event Management course supervised by the Department of the Tourism Management designed for students interested in the meeting industry. More than 60 young individuals joined the winter semester. “This course has a strong emphasis on practice and many renowned experts are involved in it, which is positively perceived by the students. In the 2016/17 summer semester, the Event Management course was even voted as the best one at the Department of Tourism,” explains doc. Ing. Josef Abrhám, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Tourism.

As the ICCA Congress was promoted as a green event in a walkable city, the delegates were encouraged to walk and use public transportation. Bus transfers were organised only for the social evenings at Forum Karlín and the Industrial Palace and from and to the Prague Airport.

Even though the centre of Prague is very compact, the delegates needed to be guided around: that is where the students got into the picture and played a key role. As a part of the Event Management course, the students were asked to create a detailed plan of transportation and navigation, to help delegates move around the city easily. A winning team was then selected and got a chance to implement their project and become a part of the organising committee of the congress.

In addition, the project included entertainment and special activities for the delegates, such as “Build Your Bridge” (an activity where delegates could get a reward if they completed selected tasks) or the “Icebreaking cards” (a small communication game). The students also published a digital daily newspaper called On the Go with interesting facts about the city and distributed traditional Czech wafers and gingerbread cookies to the delegates. In total, more than 140 students joined as volunteers.

“We created our own projects to share and present Czech culture and traditions to the delegates. The Prague Convention Bureau offered plenty of opportunities for us to showcase what we could do but also to engage and learn from meeting professionals. Being engaged in the Congress brought us a lot of experience in the field of event and time management and a general overview of event marketing.” concludes Matěj Buďárek, leader of the winning team.