Re-imaging the future of events during a global pandemic is one of our biggest challenges as an industry. During the 2020 ICCA Congress, ICCA delivered the Kaohsiung Protocol as a strategic recovery framework to guide the global meetings and events industry forward. The initiative also aimed to identify significant trends and strategies that would enable the international meetings industry to thrive.

At the 2021 ICCA Congress, the new Global Association Meetings Protocol was launched as a new version of the Kaohsiung Protocol. In order to develop the additional guidelines, ICCA surveyed the global membership with the same questions from the Kaohsiung Protocol to determine which priorities had changed during the past year. Four key pillars emerged from this survey - sustainability, equity and legacy, advocacy and policy, crisis planning and mitigation, and sector alignment strategy. 

Industry panellists Greg Oates, SVP, Innovation, MMGY NextFactor; Paul Ouimet, President and CEO, MMGY NextFactor; Ben Goedegebuure, Enterprise VP, Global & Industry Presence at Maritz Global Events; and Gregg Talley, President of Talley Management Group, shared their insights on the framework during the Congress.


Focus on sustainability and legacy

Sustainability has become more of a high priority for the industry as a whole. The UN climate change conference, COP26, will be held in November 2021, and more people are concerned about climate change and the environment as a whole. Individuals and businesses are increasingly ready to take real action.

Lisa Astorga, Director of Meetings, International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, said fear was holding people back before. "We were always looking at sustainability. But many people were afraid to get rid of certain things, afraid to change."

"Corporations are extremely focused on the environment, and it's no longer a matter of ticking boxes. It's not about the plastic straws. It's about looking at what the measures will be. So what are you actually doing about taking some of the high impact things back?" said Ben Goedegebuure, Enterprise Vice President, Global and Industry Presence, Maritz Global Events.

When talking about legacy, Lisa Astorga asked how destinations could help to communicate the legacy and bring it into the local community, "The sustainability component of it is that we've learned we can do meetings this way. Do we have to put 15 people on an international flight for a meeting when we could have it via zoom? Are we getting the same thing out of it? Probably not. But I think there has to be a balance in that," she said. 


Making ourselves a part of the conversation

Panelists advocated for taking a more central role and collaborative approach to driving change. "We need to bring our associations to the forefront to give them a stronger voice because we are not even on the radar of organisations,” said Ben Goedegebuure. “It's being driven by politics, not by any part of the conversation that we can control. That, to me, is a pity. All of this is about collaboration."

 Greg Oates, SVP, Innovation, MMGY NextFactor, said that the pandemic has created opportunities for new and crucial conversations. "There's a gap between industry and the people who make decisions at all levels of government. I think Covid has been a benefit in that aspect. Working with those municipal and regional leaders, bringing them together to make a national push to explain why and how and having the data to back that up. I think it's critical. Just engaging political leaders on a whole new level, because that window is open now where they are listening.


Destinations to invest in expertise in crisis management and mitigation

ICCA’s Association Community has been vocal about the new expectations that they have for destinations and venues as meetings begin to return face-to-face. Associations are looking for more guidance and support when it comes to safety and risk management. "At some point, there is an expectation that the destinations are investing in those resources. Expertise in those areas, not just sales people. Bring in those people in your local area that are experts and could speak to that," said Lisa Astorga.

Ben Goedegebuure reminded the audience that destinations are the first port of call for clients. "Clients expect that the destinations are the key point that has the connection to the national government and the people driving these things. So they need to be capable of having those discussions at a national level." 

Senthil Gopinath, ICCA CEO, said, “As was the case with the Kaohsiung Protocol, the Global Association Meetings Protocol is intended to serve the world wide industry with a roadmap to keep the industry moving forward. It’s a document that can shed light on opportunities for collaboration and innovation.”