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Presidential Message: It always seems impossible until it's done

We are all coming to terms with and learning to adapt to our new, digital lifestyles and striving to maintain a semblance of normality, but the desire to see and hear from colleagues, friends and loved ones becomes even more powerful when we are forced to be apart. 

But while we are reminded of the power of our industry, ICCA recognises its responsibility to its members to provide a global knowledge hub and share every possible best practice from our sectors and regions. ICCA has a unique place as a truly global, multi-sector association and we will use those connections as we move forward.

This month, I read with interest an article by Martin Fullard published by Conference News in the UK. He made the point that our lives are a series of events. An event is the facilitation of real-life experience – it matters. That is why it is important that we now work together, at a crucial time during the pandemic, to go ever further to raise awareness across local and national governments, of the power of our industry to drive the economic recovery that will come in the future.

So as ICCA, we must remind all authorities that we manage and host world-leading, organised events, where our audiences are invited and known. Our events are not mass gatherings of unknown people and it is vital that we cooperate with the authorities to adapt and put in place the right practices that will allow for the resumption of responsible meetings at the earliest practical opportunity.

There WILL be changes in attendee behaviours. There will be new rules and regulations to adopt, new technology to build into our events and our plans. However, I know we will adopt. And we will adapt. And we will become used to new ways of doing things. But by sharing what we do and the successes we have, ICCA members will be able to help shape these behaviours so that our industry recovers quickly. We should be flexible in our approach to our plans, our services and our events and this spirit of innovation brings me on to a very important announcement and a question which has been asked by so many ICCA members in recent weeks. The question of how ICCA intends to host its annual congress this year.

The ICCA Board and its staff have been monitoring the situation in our host city, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, Chinese Taipei on a constant basis and liaising with the host committee and city stakeholders. The situation in the country is very positive and the authorities have been working extremely hard to contain the COVID-19 virus with a great deal of success and without the need for overly restrictive limitations on personal movement. As a result, our hosts are realistic, but hopeful, that by November this year they will be able to welcome visitors to congresses and business events such as ICCA.

And so, having evaluated all the available information, the ICCA Board and CEO have agreed with our hosts in Kaohsiung to continue to plan our congress over the scheduled dates of 1-4 November this year.

However, as this is not business as usual, we will be planning our first ever Hybrid Congress. This will entail, to the extent that conditions and travel restrictions permit, a face-to-face congress in Kaohsiung with an exciting programme of education and facilitated debate around how we as ICCA members plan and set out a pathway to the new normal of our industry. To allow the maximum possible participation in the circumstances, we will link this main event, virtually, to other member gatherings across the globe over the same dateline to allow for sharing of experiences and learning across our regions and sectors and use the assembled knowledge to help plan our future pathway.

I have committed to the Board and our hosts in Kaohsiung that, if I am permitted, I will guarantee to be there personally at the congress and I very much hope that we will be able to facilitate a gathering of as many of the ICCA family as possible, both in Kaohsiung and connected, virtually, across the globe.

It is ICCA’s fundamental role to demonstrate leadership in these times and we should not be afraid to be bold, try the untested and consider all options as we plan for the future. I, for one, am excited at the prospect of a truly global, highly-interconnected hybrid congress in Kaohsiung and I very much hope we will have the opportunity to see each other there.

Finally, and at times like these, I like to turn to the wisdom of others and I wanted to end with a very short quote from the great Nelson Mandela.

He said, "It always seems impossible until it's done."

Thank you and for now, let us continue to stand together while we are far apart.

James Rees 
ICCA President

P.S. This message was part of the ICCA Plenary at PlanetIMEX session, of which you can find the recording via the My ICCA section (login required).