BestCities’ Strategy for “The Congress of the Future”

For the past three years, BestCities’ flagship get-together, the Annual Forum, has grown and strengthened thanks to each successful edition in cities like Dubai, Tokyo and Bogotá. Last December, the Forum took place in Copenhagen with the theme ‘Exploring the Congress of the Future – Fortifying Impact’ and attracted about 20 global associations, who all returned home with a tangible tool they can use for future strategies for their organizations.

The members of the BestCities Alliance – an alliance of 11 cities whose motto is to “harness the power of collaboration and community to create positive impact through business events” – invited a delegation of associations to Copenhagen as a way to enhance the skills and knowledge of executives based globally. Held in collaboration with Copenhagen Convention Bureau, the Forum honed in on the concept of creating and fortifying change through an impressive programme of education, insight, and networking, addressing the opportunities and challenges the future has in store for the global associations and congresses industry.

What is the BestCities Global Alliance ? The BestCities Global Alliance is a worldwide partnership of convention bureaux whose objective is to deliver the world’s best convention bureau practices for the meetings industry. The Alliance has members in Vancouver, Bogotá, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Houston, Melbourne, Singapore, Tokyo, Madrid and Berlin – cities that boast international cache, a rich historical and cultural depth, and offer a high standard of living. Together, with ICCA, BestCities initiated the Incredible Impacts Programme, which celebrates the “beyond tourism” lasting impacts made by associations; gives inspiring legacy examples; and awards much-deserved grants to internationally-based organizations.

Future Scenarios

With the help of Danish Design Centre and the futurologists of Public Futures, the Forum focused on developing scenarios that could be very real possibilities in 2040, offering educational insights and tools for associations to tackle potential challenges. ‘Scenarios for Associations of the Future’ was designed to provide the industry with new long-term perspectives that were an eye-opener for some of the attendees.

The second day allowed associations to get familiar with Copenhagen’s Legacy Lab— an industry first— that the Bureau launched specially for this occasion. The Lab offers an opportunity for international associations to realize their organizational purpose, vision and objectives by identifying activities that integrate the goals of international congresses with the local public, business and science communities in ways that generate long-term impacts. During a hands-on workshop, participants were invited to adopt a legacy-focused approach to their events to ensure they deliver meaningful legacies in the host communities by engaging stakeholders and involving local business, research communities and citizens along the way.

This is what makes the Global Forum stand apart from other events targeted at association executives based globally. Thanks to a great line-up of speakers, workshops, and networking sessions – playfully facilitated by David Meade, a lecturer and researcher in international business and strategy at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland – participants were provided with informed strategic advice and practical tools that they could work into their long-term strategies. And the conversation wasn’t one-sided, either — everybody felt engaged.

Positive Change

Saskia Dean, Conference Manager at International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), put it this way: “I’ve been invited multiple times to the Forum, but I felt this year was the right time to attend. At FIGO, we’re on a mission to explore, identify and commit to initiating activities that can drive long-lasting impacts and create positive legacies. At the Forum, we were given concrete tools to do just that. I can bring back these strategies to the office and implement them right away so our congresses inspire something in addition to the quality academic program we usually provide. This was definitely worth the time spent away from my desk!”

Since the destination plays a big role in the success of a congress, the Forum made the most of Copenhagen’s dynamic cultural backdrop, promoting everything from the Winter Wonderland at Tivoli Gardens to the city’s top-notch culinary achievements. One of the event’s highlights took place on the last day, when Claus Meyer, the co-founder of Noma, a restaurant that constantly tops the list of the world’s best, led a session. Claus delivered an inspirational speech that left participants quite emotional. After sharing his life story about how his career took him to all corners of the world, he urged the audience to understand that everybody can make a difference, no matter how small the contribution.

The goal of this year’s Forum was to show the power conferences and meetings have when it comes to creating change and leaving legacies for and by the communities involved — a goal that was certainly achieved in Copenhagen. The next BestCities Global Forum, which will take place before IBTM in November 2020 in Madrid, will continue to explore how destinations and associations can collaborate better to create positive impacts affecting members—and their communities—worldwide.

This article was written by Boardroom Chief Editor, Remi Deve. The right to use it, in parts or in full, has to be granted by the Publisher. 

The Forum was the occasion to showcase some of Copenhagen’s venues, including Carlsberg
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