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A Modern History of International Association Meetings: 1963-2012

This report describes how the international association meetings market's exponential growth is closely related to global progress in science, technology and society.
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“A modern history of international association meetings”

ICCA conducted a study of 50 years of association meetings data as the centrepiece of its new publication, “A modern history of international association meetings”, launched as part of ICCA’s 50th anniversary year in September 2013. ICCA asked its members and friends to share their insights into both the past and the future of this sector, and agreed a policy to allow anyone to download and use it. ICCA plans to proactively promote it through every channel at its disposal, worldwide.Looking at aggregated figures for each five year period (to remove annual fluctuations), the number of regularly-occurring, internationally-rotating association meetings is increasing by 100 per cent every 10 years, and has been consistently doing so for the last half century, with no signs of a slowdown.

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk says: “Half a century is a long period over which to collect detailed and consistent information on any subject, and in the world of international meetings, where most countries are still struggling to obtain even a partial picture of the current size and impact of this complex and fragmented industry, it represents a monumental achievement.  For almost as long as there has been an international association meetings sector, ICCA has been there alongside, in all regions of the world, to observe and carefully record its growth.  And now that we have 50 years of data to study and consider, the figures are showing what we have long believed: that our world is undergoing a truly revolutionary period in the creation and dissemination of new knowledge and innovation, and that association meetings provide an excellent insight into this dynamic, worldwide process.”

Association meetings as a force for progress in the world

It is no coincidence that there is a parallel between the exponential growth of the international association meetings sector and progress in the fields of science, healthcare and technology. Association congresses are to a large extent driven by advances in these fields, and the unprecedented levels of discovery and innovation that are the hallmarks of recent decades are giving birth to entirely new associations and conferences, which are in turn stimulating further advances, new business opportunities, and fresh insights.

Association meetings are also important drivers of societal change and opportunities to address and understand some of the world’s most challenging problems. Expert thinkers are brought together from government, industry, NGOs and academia to share knowledge and to find solutions. ICCA includes a number of case studies in its report to illustrate how this process works, and to demonstrate that the value of international meetings extends far beyond the immediate economic impact of the delegates on their host destinations.

Martin Sirk: “It isn’t just important to celebrate the dynamism of the whole sector, driven as it is by ever-accelerating scientific, technological and healthcare-related advances and innovation. It is also vital to recognise the massive improvements to society that individual associations and their meetings can deliver, and there are still enormous improvements to be made in that area.”  

“This is something that every association should be doing: showcasing and shouting about inventions, discoveries, advances, solutions, collaboration and new pathways for the future. All of these wonderful products of association activity are on show at your international meetings, and this is when the world is most ready to listen to well-crafted messages that illuminate your members’ achievements. Alone, this is a worthwhile enterprise for any association; together, if all of us join in to raise the volume exponentially, our similarly fast-expanding community will start to earn the recognition and respect it deserves!”, said Sirk.

ICCA President Arnaldo Nardone: “I am very proud to be ICCA’s President during this, our association’s 50th anniversary year.  I am even more proud of the enormous influence and impact that association meetings have made over these years, and of the work that many hundreds of ICCA members have done to help these meetings take place successfully, providing cutting-edge venues and welcoming cities, professional services and support, and ever more efficient transportation and technological infrastructures.  But I am even more excited about the potential of our sector for the future.  Because make no mistake, we are still at the early stages of this dynamic, revolutionary period.  It will not always be easy, of course, with complex societal, economic and political challenges to be faced, but international association meetings will always play a major role in finding solutions to these issues.”

DOWNLOAD “A modern history of international association meetings” (PDF).

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