Record numbers of association meeting planners from across Europe and the rest of the world met yesterday for the annual IMEX Association Day & Evening, which took place at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Frankfurt. The day’s education programme had been planned to address the key issues currently facing association meetings and events buyers, both in their professional development and in every day operational responsibilities. This year, as economic pressures have played out in different parts of the world and changes such as the growth of social media have fundamentally shifted the way in which associations communicate with their members, the day’s programme had been tailored to find fresh answers to these issues, to share winning ideas and innovations as well as providing motivation for the more than 300 individuals attending from over 30 countries.
Association Day education is devised and delivered by ICCA in partnership with a number of other leading associations including ESAE and ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. MCI – the global association, communication and event management company – formulate a programme designed specifically for German association meeting planners, plus organise over 30 round-table discussion topics creating an interactive and highly popular part of the day.
Emphasis on participation
The result was that yesterday’s programme saw delegates participating with enthusiasm and focus in a series of cutting-edge concurrent sessions and round table debates led by experts but with the emphasis on active participation from everyone involved.
Dan Rivlin, Managing Director of Kenes Group led a session on the ‘Gathering thinkers and doers from the world of scientific meetings’ with contributions from Professor Schneeberger, Treasurer for the European Society of Organ Transplantation; Keith Foley, Managing Director of Kenes Education and Anna Frick, Past President IPCAA and Head of the Global Conference & Exhibition Department at Astra Zeneca, Sweden.
The extraordinary impact of social media and developments such as phone Apps, which one delegate commented ‘sounded like a completely alien language just a few years ago’ were covered in a debate led by Michael Priem, CEO, USDM.net. Priem made the point that there is a strong desire to know and understand more about social media and the world of smartphones but many associations, as with many other businesses, are still struggling to find the right resources and to understand the true benefit of social media and how it applies to their vision and values.
As he explained: ‘There’s a revolution happening in event marketing and management, a shift that is accelerating technological development at an incredible rate and truly shaking up the traditional way in which we promote and organise meetings. We need to look beyond what we are all doing today and try to anticipate what lies ahead so that we can adopt the best tools and techniques. This is easier said than done.’
In another concurrent session organised by ESAE, the European Society of Association Executives, Nigel Middlemiss, Knowledge Director at Echo Research explored the ever-more competitive environment that associations face and examined how they can ensure they retain a central role as their members’ primary source of specialised knowledge, business opportunity and professional services.
The day’s programme was rounded off by Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research, who talked about the findings from the next stages of his company’s IMEX co-sponsored Convention 2020 study. Talwar’s presentation looked closely at the new dynamics of the global marketplace for conventions and also gave case study examples of how associations and event owners are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of meeting and event design in order to satisfy rapidly changing economic, demographic, professional and technological demands.
Giving their reaction to the day’s programme, Mike Illiopoulos, Executive Director of the European Society of Minimal Invasive Neurological Therapy, Switzerland, said: ‘There’s a good variety of sessions in a short time, and almost too many opportunities for networking. I’m here to get new ideas. The main challenges we face are competition from other associations and gaining sponsorship for our education programmes.’
Darryl Walter of The Wild Life Society, USA, also described the benefits he had gained from the day: ‘We have over 10,000 members so I enjoyed meeting people from other sectors and getting information and feedback which confirmed we have similar issues and requirements in common.’
Another delegate, Cathy Clinton of the Higher Education User Group, commented: ‘I got a lot out of the sessions, and especially the social media one which was a chance to find out where it’s all going. I had time to reconnect with lots of people too, which was useful.’
Later in the evening, association day attendees joined an informal Evening Reception at the Westin Hotel. Each year IMEX exhibitors are invited to socialise and network with association meeting buyers. Numbers swelled to a record 900-plus this year as exhibitors lined up to network with buyers from this all-important and highly lucrative market.
As Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, commented: ‘Yet again this was another really successful day, and one that we know the association meeting planners fully appreciated. New participants in particular expressed their surprise at the high quality and integrity of the education. We also know that these hosted buyers place a high value on the chance to meet and network with peers from different market sectors and different regions of the world. There were opportunities to learn during every minute of the day be it from expert speakers, or from their peers.’
When it opens later this year, IMEX America will also include a dedicated Association Day for association meeting planners and buyers. The programme will be part of the show’s ‘Smart Monday’ on October 10.