With the continued focus on the relevance of engagement and value creation to enhance the association journey, both from the organiser and delegate’s side, the role of congress centres and their responsibility as advocates, connectors and advisors has clearly evolved over the years, as argues Angeline van den Broecke, Director of Global Business Development and Marketing, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
When a global association starts thinking of choosing a destination and more specifically a venue to host an upcoming international congress some of the most obvious factors that influence the decision are venue availability, location, space, technical capabilities and pricing. These technical and commercial considerations have historically driven the purchaser/supplier relationship between associations and venue providers.
Another key factor that global associations have to consider when choosing a destination is the capacity and capability of the local association or host partner, to contribute to the success of the proposed event, particularly their ability to assist with supporting the organization of the event, contributing to content, delivering participants, and providing cultural communication support and an ease of doing business from a local context or perspective.
Building capacity through partnership
Recognizing the importance of the role associations play in advancing social and economic value, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (the Centre)in partnership with the national bureau Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) are investing in building the professional capacities of local association executives. Using their connections, resources, experience and knowledge this collaboration has led to them playing an active role in secretariat support to the Malaysian Society of Association Executives (MSAE)
This support role by the Centre in Malaysia, has assisted to highlight the important role association’s play as a vital business segment of the meetings industry and just how importance it is to invest in understanding the needs of associations beyond their meeting and event requirements.
Most recently, the Centre hosted an educational visit for AMC (Association Management Companies) Institute. As part of the programme the Centre, in collaboration with MyCEB, organised an Association Education & Knowledge Exchange session. Over 200 Malaysian stakeholders, including many national association executives, attended the event where five AMC Institute board members shared their invaluable knowledge and experience on six association-related topics. These included ‘Disruptions facing associations, ‘Engage membership and volunteers to thrive and survive’ and ‘Challenges facing associations in today’s environment’, to name a few.
Commenting on this the Centre’s General Manager, Alan Pryor, explains, “Convention centres are ideally placed as advocates, connectors and advisors. Our entire existence is based around facilitating knowledge transfer, so it is a natural extension for us to use our resources to help build the capacity and capability of local associations.
Sharing her experience AMC Institute Chief Executive Officer, Tina Wehmeir, CAE, CMP, says, “The level of maturity of associations varies from market to market and even within markets. While Malaysian associations may not be at the same level of development as those in the US, for example, what I did see in Kuala Lumpur is the right environment, enthusiasm and tools for them to build their capacity. Initiatives such our knowledge sharing session, facilitated by the Centre and MyCEB, play an important role in enhancing the capabilities of local associations, as well as triggering excitement and opening up new horizons such as running for international boards or hosting their association’s global meeting in Malaysia.”
Pryor continues: “We view our investment in developing local associations as part of long-term strategic objective to grow their capabilities. We feel that this partnership approach helps differentiate us from our competitors. Even if local associations go on to bid and host meetings in Malaysia that end up going to other venues, we see this as a positive and part of our ongoing contribution to the development and growth of the local business events industry and the country more generally – which benefits us all.”
An important contributor to the success of their capacity building work with local associations has been a commitment to the programme’s sustainability. The Centre has been working closely with Malaysian associations since it first opened in 2005 and for Pryor this has been a key part of its success. “Our focus on viewing associations as partners rather than clients has been part of our organisation philosophy since day one. We have built on this using our unique position to attract national, regional and international partners to share their expertise with Malaysian associations,” he adds.
In 2018 the Centre partnered to host the PCMA-ICESAP Knowledge Exchange Kuala Lumpur, which provided an avenue for business event professionals to explore how changing digital, political and economic climates can be effectively responded to, turning possible threats into unique opportunities. They also partnered to host the UIA (Union of International Associations) Associations Round Table Asia Pacific. These events were designed to promote engagement, advance professional development and provide a knowledge exchange platform and were well attended by local associations.
Pryor concludes: “We see the capacity building of our local associations as a long-term commitment. As key players in business events, venues such as ours have a lot to offer associations beyond our facilities. Convention centres are well-connected and perfectly positioned to help associations develop their full potential if a partnership mind-set is adopted on both sides.”
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