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The Legacy of International Association Meetings

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Related topics: Legacy & advocacy

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." (Helen Keller)

This simple statement used by Martin Boyle, Business Events Sydney, during his presentation summarizes so eloquently the many discussions during this year’s ICCA Association Expert Seminar, which was held in Frankfurt, Germany in May prior to the IMEX meetings tradeshow. 

Legacy was the overarching theme of the event. Delegates debated the importance of building long-term partnerships and transparent relationships to ensure knowledge transfer and economic impact for destinations and associations. They shared experiences on value creation and value capture as well as how to build a legacy for associations meetings and communicate the legacy they are leaving behind. 

It was very insightful to hear the various perspectives when it came to the term “legacy” itself. While in the meetings industry many assume we are all aware of what is meant by this word, it soon became apparent that this is not the case. 
Especially, as for many the term meant something final, definite and finished, while the meetings industry things the opposite, namely a continuing process. To define what the word “legacy” entailed, association executives identified key words coming to their mind when talking about legacy. Here are just some of the key words mentioned: continuing process, emotional and intangible; reputation; funds; sustainability; local government; capacity-building; individual benefit; educational – lasting effect; accountability; continuing connection; impact; engagement; values and culture; changing lives of attendees and local communities. By defining the term the realization struck not only how important the AES is, but more importantly, what tremendous role international association meetings play.

The Seminar kicked off with a World Café style sessions addressing hot topics such as: association-supplier communication and collaboration; how to make the most of association meeting; association meetings and social media; safety and risk management and finally Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and bidding. The RFPs issues continues being the elephant in the room and was again identified prior to the Seminar as a topic many delegates (both associations and suppliers) wanted to discuss. The discussion came as a great surprise. Although delegates indicated prior to the event the wish to talk about practicalities such as: ambassadors, local suppliers, the role of destinations; sponsorship and subventions; lobbying vs. value proposition, the discussion became much more strategic and focused primarily on how suppliers and associations can find a common language and what role ICCA could play in making this happen. 


The coming three days were not sufficient to devise a plan on how to make this happen, but the consensus was, that face-to-face meetings like the AES are a first step in the right direction. 

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Ksenija Polla
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