Are your event formats and content legacy-driven? Disruptive? Innovative? Tech-focused? Personalised? The word in the meeting room is, it’s time to rethink our approach to association meetings.

Here are 4 of the major trends the ICCA team expects to see making a mark on the association meetings landscape in 2019.

1. Demonstrating a tangible legacy is becoming the norm. It’s time to measure, not define.

To meetings industry practitioners, the terms legacy and impact are not strangers. We know what they mean by now, but how do we begin to measure them?

Remi Dévé of Boardroom Magazine recently explored our industry’s current duopoly, and came to this conclusion about effective measurement: we need to look through the lens of the broader “output” values (business, professional, academic, community) associated with meetings, and use them to situate our industry at the centre of the global knowledge economy.

Financial impact is concrete; the effects of knowledge expansion and relationship building are harder to quantify. But it’s no longer just about restaurant spend and the number of hotel rooms booked. Whether you’re an association executive or a meeting supplier, to create a truly successful event for your clients and delegates in 2019, you need to demonstrate the wider quantifiable impact beyond cold, hard cash.

The lessons in legacy we have learned from our Incredible Impacts Programme have shown us that at the heart of association meetings are tales of passion and a determination to enact tangible change. The World Down Syndrome Congress 2018’s commissioner programme, one of our 2018 Incredible Impact Grant winners, and Bogota Convention Bureau’s emotionally-charged successful bid for One Young World 2017 are just two powerful examples of how associations are creating measurable legacy through their meetings. Their stories could also be yours.

If you’re a meeting supplier, show potential clients how you can help them achieve their legacy goals and make real change, right from the beginning. Identify the challenge of the association in focus, make it the heart of your bidding strategy and provide practical, real-life examples to help the organisers clearly visualise their potential impact on your meeting destination.

For Association Executives, you should consider the destination that could benefit most from the transfer and investment of your community’s knowledge and connections, and incorporate a strong CSR element that involves your delegates.

2. The evolving meeting experience, going digital and the educational content lifecycle: Delegates are demanding more than the traditional keynote lecture. How can you create a 360-degree experience?

One answer: festivalisation.

Inspired by the immersive and memorable atmospheres at music festivals, the “festival experience” is being incorporated into business events across the world. Lecture-style session formats are being deconstructed in favour of setups that promote interaction, and active over passive engagement is on the agenda.

ICCA makes sure to keep this in mind when designing our own education programmes, and our delegates have taken note. According to our 2018 ICCA Congress post-event survey, 89% of participants agreed that the event included experimental and interesting meeting design concepts and formats. 81% also agreed the Congress made them feel positive about being an ICCA Member.

Our results suggest that if you are creative with your educational stimuli and session formats, delegates will get more value from your education programme and your association community as a whole. Get delegates out of their seats participating and engaging, instead of consuming. Invigorate their senses!

Meeting planners are also going digital to offer tailored experiences to member-delegates on and off-site. Offering a sustainable move away from printed material and easy centralisation of key information, the event app is now an essential component of any business event.

We are just one of many associations making use of one. Mieke van Loenen, Director Events, says that the ICCA Meetings App is a main source of connection and business exchange for delegates at ICCA events: “We centralise all our important information in the app, including a full listing of our education programme, floor plans, and delegate lists. Delegates can also make appointments with each other, speakers, and ICCA Researchers via the app for effective business exchange whilst on-site.”

To continue engagement beyond your event, Mathijs Vleeming, Director Marketing, emphasises the need to extend the lifecycle of content shared as a way to build your community: “We put lot of effort into setting up our education programme and finding the best speakers from around the world to provide perspectives on our chosen topics. It would be a shame to not use this valuable educational content beyond the event room. At ICCA we have made our first move in implementing this strategy by creating an online Knowledge Hub for association meetings content; we share session recordings, interviews with speakers, presented case studies, award entries, blog posts from speakers and links to their presentations on a regular basis. We use this content to build engagement with our online community throughout the year, and for promoting ICCA and our events, and for online marketing purposes.”

3. Keep millennial and Gen-Z members engaged both in and outside the meeting room. Purpose-driven and tech-savvy, they are your future membership base.

Millennials and Gen Zers are highly-educated, with a well-documented thirst for knowledge and a strong societal conscience; education and connections – key components of association meetings - are powerful weapons for these modern young professionals. This is how meetings and events offer them value, and where associations can retain and grow their younger membership base.

According to AMI Magazine, recruiting millennial members involves keeping them inspired and engaged: activities and education should be purpose-led, fully immersive, disruptive in structure, digital, and reach diverse audiences.

As an industry, we should seek to address generational issues and offer millennials content focused on subjects and trends that are relevant to their level of industry experience, reflecting both core topics and outside-the-box knowledge. The return-on-investment for us is a well-informed and open young workforce, resulting in more purposeful, efficient and innovative events taking place.

Away from the meeting room, continue to nurture your future leaders! Tap in to their drive to create change to bring in a fresh perspective on association management.

Connecting digitally is not the only avenue you can use to access the ideas of the tech-savvy generation. For James Rees, ICCA president, engaging younger ICCA members is a key priority. During his final campaign speech at the 57th ICCA Congress in Dubai, Rees outlined his plan to ensure greater youth representation in our own association community: “I want to draw on the talent of the younger, future leaders of our association. I would seek to create a shadow board, of members under 30, who would be tasked with bringing fresh ideas to ICCA’s strategy and in particular to the content of our annual Congress, which must be a Beacon of Excellence that every member aspires to attend.”

4. Cater to your members’ regional as well as international needs.

As many industries diversify their offerings and become more international and specialised, there comes a need to address specific challenges at a regional level. The latest ICCA Statistics demonstrate that regional association meetings have experienced major growth between 1963 and 2017. Whilst “World/International” is still the biggest rotation area overall, the proportion of meetings rotating worldwide decreased from 77.4% in the first 5-year lustrum to 43.7% in the last.

What does this mean for association meetings? As this market has expanded regionally and internationally and its supply chain has grown alongside to meet demand, our membership base has become naturally more diverse and internationally representative. We’ve identified the need to increasingly personalise services to cater more to our regions. Our geographic Chapter meetings are growing in importance, and we are holding more regional networking and educational events, such as the upcoming ICCA Africa Association Day as part of Meetings Africa.

Elif Balci Fisunoglu, Regional Director Europe, has noticed that our members are collaborating across national borders to attract more association meetings to their respective countries: “We can see an increasing number of our members trying to strengthen their regional collaboration in two ways. Firstly, they use their regional networks of both associations and meeting suppliers to attract more international business to the region and their own countries for the benefit of their national economies. Secondly, they work through their national associations and meeting suppliers to create new regional events.

“These strategies in turn help to stimulate the meetings industry as a whole; smaller meetings are more sustainable, as they grow naturally alongside the demand for a bigger supply chain. The recently-held ICCA Scandinavian Chapter AES and work of the New Europe region are prime examples of the successes of catering to regional needs.”

Many associations are also nominating ambassadors in their communities to establish regional meetings, one of the many reasons why the number of association meetings keeps on growing.

In 2019, association meetings are set to play a major role in building regional engagement. Create opportunities for your members to network, share knowledge, and tackle issues closely together in the regions, not just at your international gatherings.