Association Community Made by BIAF

17th March 2022

With two years of a hard period for the meetings industry (hopefully) behind us, any chance we get for in-person gatherings is highly valuable, even more so when associations get together as a community to exchange experiences and ideas and learn from each other. The first edition of the Brussels International Association Forum (BIAF), organized by ASSOCIATIONWORLD, inspired and created a community among the attendees.

Words Vicky Koffa

The two-day event took place on 14 and 15 March at the unique and fairly new Maison de la Poste, in Brussels. European- and US-based associations joined BIAF’s partners – namely Barcelona Tourism Convention Bureauvisit.brusselsBusiness Events LuxembourgMontreal Convention Bureau and Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau – for an informative program. 

The first day started dynamically with Paul Rulkens’ keynote speech on ‘How the best get better’. His advice was that doing more of the same things will not lead to a more accomplished future. Leaders need to think differently, “with clarity of their vision and goals and a real focus on how to achieve them, even if that means strategically quitting some less relevant ones.” Paul’s presentation gave us the tools and the confidence that we can all get better at what we do, which a goal for most of us post-pandemic.

During the panel discussion which followed attendees were made aware of the importance of Good Governance within associations, a prerequisite for organizational legitimacy, autonomy and, ultimately, survival. Digging deeper in associations current challenges, three workshops were held simultaneously touching topics like the creation of high-performance teams with a specific toolkit to achieve that and the changing engagement models of associations. 

About Serve the City

Not forgetting the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine, BIAF included a presentation of ‘Serve The City’. A movement of volunteers ready to help when needed, this time offering practical aid to refugees arriving in Brussels, giving meals, clothes, medicine, and temporary accommodation. The movement has branches all over Europe who are working to build more connections and find more supplies in order to help as many refugees as possible.

A passionate discussion on diversity and inclusion concluded that this sensitive topic should be a leadership matter, with concrete commitments and continuous discussion and implementation. The board needs to invest the time needed to start the conversation with the members; from then on, once diversity is embedded in the mindset of the association, it becomes easier to take action with more and more projects of inclusivity. There is still a lot of ground to cover for many associations on this matter, but the passion of a few people can create the right energy to start the discussion. Julie Nazerali, Founder of INSEAD’s Global Women in Business Club, said: “The end result will be rewarding, creating more engaged members and bigger value for the organization.”

Day two raised the bar for association leaders during a panel discussion moderated by our very own chief editor, Remi Deve. The discussion highlighted that during the pandemic a different leaders skillset was required, one that combines traditional company management skills with softer ones. “A leader needs to be able to juggle the organizational demands of online meetings and keep in mind the needs and expectations of the team,” said Oliver Wykes, Chief Operating Officer, WindEurope. 

The program continued with a number of small-group workshops which offered the possibility of more detailed exchange of questions and experiences between the participants. Topics varied from community-led engagement models and communications for associations to innovation and digital transformation. Event organization was high on the agenda, offering details from experts on sponsorship strategy, hybrid meetings, pricing strategy and registration.

In her wrap-up speech, Dominique Monami, World famour Tennis Player, Olympic Medalist and Mindset Coach, said: “Having a positive mindset when facing challenges is the key element for anyone looking to advance their career and their organization. It is crucial to be surrounded by the right people, who are able to stimulate this positivity, be disciplined and grab opportunities.” Such inspiration is well-received in this recovery phase when both teams and leaders feel a bit lost between getting used to ‘new normals’ and expectations for a better future.

In a very community-based spirit, associations had the chance to present themselves and their problems and be heard by their peers. The actual time allocated for freestyle discussions (besides the networking breaks) was welcomed by all who spoke their minds and shared the concerns of their organizations. BIAF was successful in actually connecting people during and well after the event, as it seems. 

Hit enter to search or ESC to close