Associations are staying agile and leaning into creative solutions to revive and reinvent their international meetings. The first annual ICCA Global Association Community Forum brought together association and business events professionals to examine strategies for transformation. Participants also met one-to-one during business appointments coordinated via Marcom Connect’s unique matchmaking platform.

A group of top Association executives drilled down to the core of the challenges and opportunities within the COVID-19 pandemic during a critical discussion moderated by Malcom Love. Mike Morrissey, Chief Executive at the European Cancer Organisation and ESAE Board Member, shared his insights into how associations can not just survive, but actually thrive in the new normal. “Our job as association executives is to facilitate a buzz in our organisation, to bring energy and dynamism,“ he explained. “Of course there’s nothing like events to be able to achieve that.” Mike said that associations will need to explore how they can create a year round engagement experience for their members, utilising both in-person and virtual events.

Although everyone is eager to return to meeting face-to-face, Tracy Bury, President, Associations & Conference Forum, cautioned that returning to business as usual is not the way forward. “We can secure the future of physical events by carrying over some of the important lessons that we’ve learned from digital events and not just doing what we’ve done before.” She advocated for associations to find ways to connect diverse groups of people. “Chance will still play a part, but how intentional can we be around opportunities to bring different people together who might not meet otherwise.”

When it comes to planning, associations are vocal about their desire for more flexibility and to share the risk with their meeting supplier and destination partners. “It is important that we come up with a way that we can continue working together and to have a meaningful long-term relationship,” said Jeffers Miruka, President, AfSAE.

Octavio B. Peralta, President, APFAO, described collaboration as the new currency for associations. He said it is essential for associations to come together to share knowledge and best practices and to advocate for the revival of the association meetings industry. Octavio also advised meeting suppliers and business partners to be aware that the timeline for associations’ strategic planning “is on steroids” as most are currently looking only as far ahead as the next year or two.

The relationship between associations and Convention Bureaus might need to be completely revised, according to Kai Troll, President, ASSOCIATIONWORLD. He emphasised that associations are increasingly feeling that CVBs should not only be an information source to associations but also a key player in their negotiations with hotels and meeting suppliers. At the moment, personal relationships are taking precedence over RFPs when it comes to organising meetings for the near future.

“At ICCA World, our aim is to support the ICCA Association Community through whatever challenges they are facing. We do this by delivering world class education and resources to support international association meetings. We also provide our business events industry members with knowledge and guidance to form long-term, sustainable partnerships with associations,” said ICCA CEO  Senthil Gopinath

“Sharing ideas and strategies and making connections must remain central to everything that we do. In this way, we can not only get back to safely meeting face-to-face, but we can truly transform the international association meetings industry for a stronger and better future.”

The 2nd annual ICCA Association Community Forum is being planned for the first quarter of 2022 and will take place in either a face-to-face or hybrid format. Associations can further benefit from a world-class educational programme and networking sessions during the ICCA Congress 2021, themed Forward to our Future. ICCA Association Community members can register free of charge to participate in-person in Cartagena, Colombia, a Congress Hub, or on the virtual platform.

Get the key takeaways from the ICCA Association Forum in this Ready for Transformation toolkit

Plus you can watch the full discussion on the global outlook for international association meetings during the 1st annual ICCA Global Association Forum.