Transforming & Innovating in Strasbourg

4th May 2023

That was the second occurence for the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Last week indeed two of its chapters, namely the Benelux and Central Europe ones, organized a joint Annual Meeting in Strasbourg. Aptly named the ICCA Beyond Borders Annual Meeting, the two-day event brought together about 100 members of the association to take part in keynote speeches, workshops, panel discussions, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the European Parliament and major venues in Strasbourg.

Words Cecile Koch & Remi Deve

The event, titled ‘Inspiration for Transformation’, was hosted by Kai Troll, the founder and president of ASSOCIATIONWORLD. The tagline of the event perfectly captured its essence – in order to move forward and achieve progress, it is essential to constantly transform and re-evaluate traditional business practices. The program itself set an example by introducing innovative ways to engage the audience, including a meeting with Aziz Shokhakimov, the talented and motivating conductor of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, and a presentation by the Bugatti company, based in Alsace, which demonstrated that anything is possible with a clear vision.

Another highlight was definitely the speech of Cedric Dumont, a highly experienced skydiver and BASE jumper, with over 20,000 jumps and multiple world records under his belt, who talked about the importance of pushing oneself out of their comfort zone and overcoming fear in order to achieve greatness. He also emphasized the value of preparation and planning in extreme sports, and the importance of learning from one’s mistakes. “The most important thing in any adventure is not what you achieve, but who you become,” he said reflecting on his belief that the journey is just as important as the destination, and that personal growth and development are key components of any great adventure.

Other keynote speeches touched on a wide range of topics, including the current state of the meetings industry, the importance of sustainability in event planning, and the impact of technology on meetings and events.

Additionally, association representatives had a unique opportunity to explore how meetings and networking opportunities can advance the development of their industry or sector. Discussions focused on aligning the expectations of mission-driven organizations with those of hosting destinations and venues, addressing sustainability requests in the RFP, and sharing insights into the challenges associations face and the pain points they need to address.

Erica Fawer, Sustainability Integration Director at MCI Group, presented the case study of ESCRS2022, the 40th Congress of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. This event made history by placing sustainability at the forefront of its flagship occasion for the first time ever. “ESCRS2022 integrated sustainability into every aspect of the event, from the venue selection and waste management to transportation and community engagement. The goal was to create a more sustainable event that not only reduced its environmental impact but also provided a positive social and economic legacy for the host city and its residents,” she stated, urging associations to do the same, and encouraging suppliers in the room to help the latter do so.

Strasbourg was an ideal location for the event, with its strong emphasis on sustainability and its reputation as France’s most bike-friendly city, as well as having the largest tramway system in the country. Strasbourg Events is also committed to the concept of sustainability and continually seeks out new opportunities to develop in a sustainable way, leaving a lasting impact. The city’s circular approach to renovation is exemplified in its many historical buildings, which have been transformed into modern and sustainable venues, such as the elegant Léonor Hotel and the Brasserie Chère Amie, which was formerly a post office.

Ramona Fischer, Director of Business Development at Strasbourg Events, and Karina Grützner, Director Convention Marketing at Stuttgart Convention Bureau, led a highly motivated organizing team that demonstrated how events can be organized in a different and more impactful way. Their efforts have shown that it is possible to create a lasting impact through innovative event planning. The Summit definitely provided a valuable forum for attendees to engage with each other, share their experiences and insights, and learn about the latest trends and best practices in the business events industry. Let’s just hope this joint meeting was only the beginning of a long series!

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