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How the meetings industry can thrive in 2021

How the meetings industry can thrive in 2021 

Key strategies from ICCA’s hybrid event: From Resilience to Revival 

After a long hiatus from face-to-face meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICCA held the community’s first hybrid event of 2021. More than 800 delegates registered for the one-day conference and the majority participated virtually. With the theme From Resilience to Revival, a lineup of world-class speakers guided ICCA members through strategies for overcoming the current challenges to build a stronger meetings industry. Here are some of the key takeaways: 


  1. Embrace opportunities to adapt and innovate

Crises have historically driven lasting change. According to Ramy Fares, Director of Retail & Travel for Middle East, and Africa, Microsoft, the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Although the industry faces unprecedented losses, Ramy also recognises potential for strategic digital transformation that will accelerate our path to the ‘new normal.’ One example is GE’s Wellness Trace which utilises blockchain to make air travel safer. His advice is to always rethink the brand promise, use sustainability as a key parameter, and remember that digital transformation is for all generations. 

    CEO Stian Fuglset shared how the Oslofjord Convention Center increased their investment in technology to ensure they’re ready for the future of event organisation. Despite a financial downturn, the conference center hired more sales staff and initiated major construction projects. Amazingly, in just three weeks, they developed an interactive studio to facilitate hybrid events with TV quality content. “We believe in staying dynamic and adaptive to a fast-changing world and using opportunities given in different periods,” said Stian. 


  1. Organise with creativity and flexibility 

Tasked with organising the 2nd ICCA Asia Pacific Chapter Summit in December 2020, Hiromi Murayama, Manager Sales and Marketing Division, said PACIFICO Yokohama chose a hybrid event to demonstrate resilience and confidence in the industry’s recovery. More than 300 members attended, with 170 welcomed on-site at the newly opened PACIFICO Yokohama North venue. The conference stage featured screens for each virtual speaker alongside those physically present at the event. Another new offering was the opportunity for participants to record a short, personalised video introduction that played during the lunch break. Hiromi said they received positive feedback from both the on-site and online attendees. 

    The Drug Information Association (DIA) also used their hybrid event, the 12th DIA China Annual Meeting 2020, to pilot new digital engagement techniques. The DIA marketing team delivered live coverage online for the first time. According to Cathy Persidis, Director of Operations, this creative approach was a big hit with the participants in China. Cathy explained that event organisers are looking for venues that can provide expert guidance, tech solutions, and innovative strategies for producing successful hybrid events. “Event organisers desire a partnership and flexibility to accommodate needs beyond the organiser’s control.”


  1. Lead with kindness, empathy, and authenticity 

As the first speaker of the day, Entrepreneur BJ Cunningham started off the event with an inspiring message of spreading love and authenticity. “Companies that love their customers are companies that will win,” BJ explained. “Be who you really are, be present, and tell your story.”

Similarly, Dr. Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, Former CEO Novo Cinemas and 2018 Female CEO of the Year, advised ICCA members to embrace empathy and empowerment to provide effective leadership through challenging times. “I was once told I shouldn’t be too kind as a leader and I absolutely disagree,” said Debbie. “You can make tough decisions with kindness.”


  1. Accelerate recovery and transformation through collaboration 

Basmah Al Mayman, UNWTO Middle East Regional Director, outlined the UNWTO’s recommendations for recovery in the tourism industry. The comprehensive report aims at “providing an actionable framework to help countries mitigate the immediate impact of the crisis on travel and tourism; provide stimulus for recovery and guide the long-term development and resilience of the sector.”

As the UNWTO report clearly demonstrates, revival for our industry will require an inclusive and collaborative approach. ICCA’s first hybrid event of 2021 was just one of the ways we are working to bring our members together to deliver information, facilitate knowledge-sharing, and enable the development of global relationships. “The resilience of the meetings industry was truly on display during our hybrid event in Dubai,” said ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath. “To keep our industry moving forward, it is vital that ICCA members continue to engage as a community. Together we will build a stronger, better future.”