Entitled ‘The Art of Reinventing’ and hosted by Visit Flanders together with the Belgian Limburg Convention Bureau (BLCB), the ICCA France Benelux Chapter organized its yearly summit – in-person – in the beautiful city of Hasselt, Belgium last week. It was the occasion for the members of the Chapter to network and discover the Limburg province, but also to learn. After all, the event always serves as a knowledge hub for the international association meetings industry.
If the physical 2020 France Benelux Chapter Summit was cancelled for obvious reasons, the 2021 one was attended by about 60 delegates, plus a handful of online participants, making it truly hybrid. The organizer was honest about it: such an attendance was totally unexpected. The success of the Summit is testament – if that was needed – to the willingness for face-to-face meetings again and the value ICCA members put on educational events.
Over the course of two intense days, participants got a good understanding of what the host region was like, how their ICCA colleagues and their association friends have been doing in the past few months – and they also received a few, most welcome tips to grow professionally.
Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve moderated a session with a selected panel of four convention centres. Kathleen Warden from the SEC Glasgow, Carolina Garcia from the CCIB in Barcelona, Luc Chardonneau from the Palais des Congrès de Montreal and WeeMin Ong from Marina Bay Sands in Singapore delivered a true message of hope. If, as venues, they’ve had to reinvent themselves, their culture of exploration and learning have made them uniquely agile. All of them have embraced changes – and those changes touch every element of the convention centre: from sales, to contracting and of course the actual delivery. There is now an increasing belief that going forward convention centres will no longer sell square meters and catering packages. Instead, they will offer a multi-channel experience platform, enabling global reach and in-depth data mining. Focus will lie with purpose.
Two associations were also present and shared their insights. Mia Magazin, from WindEurope, and Laetitia Delzenne, from UITP, explained how this pandemic has made their respective organizations even more relevant to their members. By focusing on their specific needs, they actually have accelerated their digital transformation. Case in point: WindEurope produced a full TV show instead of a conference. Four full days of conference sessions, interviews, industry leaders talks and exhibitor talks were integrated in an actual interactive TV program featuring commercials, news broadcasts, quizzes, weather forecasts and even entertainment and games, with very successful outcomes. As for UITP, their approach towards members has aimed to answer their expectations by offering a personalized experience. The main lesson drawn from the crisis is that they will alwatys need to be available, proactive and caring. This is what made UITP appreciated and praised by the members and other stakeholders.
One session that was particularly enjoyed by participants was that by Paul Rulkens, who unveiled his secret to take back control in turbulent times and turn uncertainty into an opportunity. His answer is strategic quitting: a systematic approach to discard everything which makes you fragile and become much more robust in the process, thanks to high-quality, significant tips and tricks he gave to the audience.
The Summit, organized by Congress by Design and MC’ed by Kai Troll, was also the occasion for the province of Limburg to showcase its beautiful meeting infrastructure. The first afternoon was spent networking at Bokrijk, Belgium’s largest open air museum, and the following morning at Thor Central, an impressive industrial building which was given listed status after the closure of the mines… and which can host meetings of any kind and format, starting with a beautiful auditorium seating up to 300 people.