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Associations play a key role gathering members of a community who have a common purpose. Through these type of organizations, a whole sector can have an institutional voice with other industries, stakeholders, and national governments, in order to achieve objectives, raise and share business, request support and to shout to the world: Here we are!

The Meetings Industry is one of the most affected sectors since the pandemic began, the postponements and cancellations of events were unavoidable. However, the industry has been resilient and has adapted to the new reality, using its creativity and technology to keep going. At the same time, the associations have become strategic allies that have been very collaborative in the middle of the health crisis.

INCON (International Conference Partnership) brings together ten of the most recognized event organizers in the world, is a clear example of how an association contributes and supports an industry in an unprecedented emergency. In an exclusive interview for Factor Meetings, Angela Guillemet, INCON Executive Director shares with us her impressions regarding the current situation and how INCON has collaborated with the sector, so it doesn’t lose its voice.

 

Anticipating to the future  

INCON  which together operate more than 10,000 projects with a value of 1 billion Euros, started implementing a digital strategy in 2018. This plan, which obviously was not considered for the currently pandemic, has helped partners continue to profile their business during COVID-1, especially in light of the number of associations and companies searching for virtual conference organisers.

INCON visualizing and projecting the future of the Meetings Industry, which was already demanding digitalization, began to work on a digital transformation project, in order to boost and enhance their web page and their strategy in social media. A large investment was made in that area, and so far, it has had goods results, Angela Guillemet, said.

She also revealed that since the pandemic began, INCON also started to curate content about: how to organize a virtual conference, how to increase the number of attendees in a digital event, how to attract sponsors to hybrid events, as well as other concerns. The page (INCON COVID Resource Page) has had a huge traffic and has supported considerably its members, who can also share their articles to have a more global impact.

“ I think that the work we did in the past has been able to support, the digital strategy that we are implementing today.”

According to Angela, event organizers need to reinvent their entire business, so only the companies that are willing to do so, are the ones that first of all, are going to find the opportunities and secondly are going to be the ones that are going to survive.

“We need to have a much better understanding of  technology in the first instance, it’s not enough to have a superficial understanding, for example, of a virtual event platform. Now, even the marketing and sales people, have to truly understand it; so I think, when companies do that, when they invest and they find new ways of doing business, I think there’ll be many opportunities”

She has heard from the INCON partners that the type of services that are being provided are different, so event planners in the future are going to need to provide more advisory type services, digital engagement, how to use data, how to implement A.I. in a meeting, event platforms, how to get sponsors for virtual events. “Now the event organizer needs to look for a different revenue opportunity, in a slightly different way.”

The lockdowns have affected everyone, including of course, INCON members and their clients, so brand presence and exposure are vital, Angela Guillemet, said. “The pandemic literally overnight, propelled everybody to do everything online, whereas in the past we had trade shows and we had a lot of physical ways of presenting our brand”. In her opinion, the companies that have a strong digital presence will be the ones that can survive this crisis.

 

Asking for government support

INCON being an institutional voice knows that it is essential to have government’ support, which although they have been very busy in solving health issues, prevention and treatment of COVID-19; they also have been engaged in reactivating their economies. Especially when we know the Meetings Industry is a sector which globally has been valued at 1,100 billion dollars according to Allied Market Research in 2018 and that contributed to 2.5 million jobs according to Convene.

So, to continue being a supportive figure for its partners, INCON created a letter that can be tailored by its members to request support from their local governments. The document that has as subject: «Invest in meetings in 2021» makes a forceful request to these organizations to reactivate the Events Industry. It also presents the sector’s value, as well as the contribution it has in the tourism industry and the role that the Meetings Industry plays in the economic recovery.

In the short term the letter advocates for economic stimulus that range from tax deferrals or reductions, to credits and loan extensions aimed especially at the Meetings Industry. At the same time, it requests that the sector is informed of the measures that will impact the country, the destinations and the meeting attendees from home and abroad.

While in the long term, governments are asked to help restore and build the confidence of the sector with subsidies, financing allowances and grants applied to events, delegates, transport and promotion to attract events. The letter to governments concludes with the willingness of the Meetings Industry to continue collaborating and to discuss these requests.

In addition, Angela commented that governments can begin to be persuaded to start to thinking seriously about the Meetings Industry, because, she thinks, we have not done enough.

However, she proposes that if the industry could come together through their various groups, knowing there are many useful meeting and trade associations around the world, maybe the entire sector could convince, governments to make a strategy for the Meetings Industry and to provide a concrete funding and supports.  For example, it could go towards creating an innovation hub, where the industry would be looking for funding in virtual meetings and digital engagement.

“There’s going to be a long path to recession and economic recovery and its going to be a long road, and I think the meetings industry has a voice and I think they could be speaking to the governments about trying to get support.” 

Being part of an association (mostly in these times)

It was already mentioned that an association is a representative body towards different stakeholders and the government; but also, internally it represents a support network where colleagues can share, interact and discuss the topics of interest that concern them.

The pandemic has been a global challenge, but unity can be the difference between stalling or getting ahead. For INCON, sharing experiences and challenges, as well as that interconnectivity, has been invaluable for its partners, Angela Guillemet, said.

Sharing with CEOs from different groups has been highly appreciated by their members, as they can be honest about what happened, they can receive advice from their colleagues and they can help each other to deal with the challenges they are facing. That is why in these times is very important to be part of an association like INCON.

“Of course, it has been indispensable to have that kind of education and exchange and sharing of best practices during the pandemic.”

 

INCON: The example

Ten of the most exclusive conference organizers around the globe have put their trust in an association that has responded in a very effectively way to the current situation. INCON has anticipated and prepared itself to provide the best support and tools for its partners, but also for the Meetings Industry.

INCON and its Executive Director, Angela Guillemet, are an example of leadership in the associative field, because, knowing the great responsibility of being an institutional voice, they have demonstrated their knowledge, vision, structure, openness and resilience; skills and abilities that are very necessary in these times.

More about INCON

The International Conference Partnership (INCON) is the leading association of conference organizers and association management in the world. The exclusive group of members is made up of: ARINEX, AIM Group International, BTC, Hanser Service, Dekon Group, East Star, Japan Convention Services, Ortra, MCI, Smithbucklin.

Together they have an annual budget of one billion Euros, manage 10,000 projects annually, serve 1.2 million delegates, cover 170 destinations, employ 3,500 people and represent more than 3 million room nights annually.

Watch the entire interview here:

 

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Comunicóloga con más de 14 años de experiencia en la Industria de Reuniones, (antes Turismo de Reuniones, antes Turismo de Negocios). He colaborado con medios impresos y digitales especializados en el rubro. Amante de los viajes y de conocer nuevas culturas, mi deseo es contribuir al desarrollo del sector, mostrando un lado más humano de los negocios y consciente para el cuidado del entorno social y natural.