The IBTM World Association Leaders Forum brings together the associations’ leaders with innovative destinations and the events industry leaders in an exclusive event in order to co-create an optimistic future.
Despite how much we hate this pandemic, I think we will all agree that it had at least one key positive effect. Professionals, even competitors, came together, shared ideas and good practices and forged strong communities. This indeed a big victory for business and for society as a whole.
Inspired by this exact spirit of solidarity and inspiring the sector for over 40 years, IBTM World decided to create the IBTM Association leaders Forum to shape a community of curious leaders and elevate the dialogue to focus on bigger-picture issues, vital to the growth of the association events ecosystem.
The IBTM Association Leaders Advisory Board was a steppingstone for the creation of the Forum in July. I was delighted to see that thought leaders of the association world despite the hectic period, replied positively to our call to join the Board and shared voluntarily their wisdom, shaping the purpose of the Forum. One thing that was clear to all leaders around the table was the need for a new collective vision. A vision that will guide the whole associations’ events ecosystem and help the events market recover and flourish once again.
During that initial discussion some lines were also drawn: while association world intersects with the event industry, they are clearly not the event tourism industry. A congress is not the raison d’etre of an Association, it is just the means for serving its respective purpose and community.
This fact became even more apparent with the in-person meeting restrictions when leaders had to rethink their association’s role as content curators, connectors and innovators. The need to think out of the box revealed many weaknesses and opportunities. It made somehow obsolete the association business model where everything is built around a single annual event. Simple because there are plenty more touchpoints that can be created during the year and there is too much of a financial risk if this the main revenue stream.
In parallel, the discussion demonstrated that association events are more than just heads and beds. There is such a great power when bringing a unique community of experts in the same place at the same time, that it is simply wasted when all your indicators are about the number of participants. If events are designed in a more strategic and holistic way, they can have a multi-dimensional long-lasting socio-economic impact far greater than the tourism revenues. Today more than ever both sides of the intersection and especially the events industry, need to understand what associations are all about and why they hold events, and consequently rethink how they can capture value by revising their offer, business model and impact indicators.
But while taking a good introspective look we should not neglect the bigger picture and the overall societal trends. The intensity and length of the current crisis is creating a chain reaction that is transforming not only the events industry but our societies in general. When the pandemic barrier is eventually removed, the new landscape will be indeed significantly different and will be creating a new platform of practice.
While COVID is forcing change and even though so much has been said and written about the current crisis, the change that is taking place is not always for the right reason. Instead of asking “why” change, many people keep on asking “how” to change. Reacting fast and adapting operation is a quick and necessary fix but changing only operations without understanding the new environment and without questioning objective and contribution to purpose, is a recipe for a disastrous mid-term failure.
I believe that in such tremulous times no one can predict the future nor plan detailed strategies. But what we can do is to think about what a sustainable future could look like. This is about defining our north star vision and developing a “450 that matter” strategy to set course while allowing manoeuvres over uncertainty. To do so, association and events industry actors will have to come together and reimagine the future, identify challenges and opportunities and be flexible to co-create powerful solutions. One size does not fit all, but we can all agree on some basic pillars that will allow events to flourish once again.
The IBTM World Association Leaders Forum that will take place on the 10 December 2020 from 14.00 – 15.30 (GMT) is looking to set in motion this creative process by bridging the world of associations with the world of events. This exclusive event will bring forward successful cases that can drive association events to a sustainable future.
It will talk about purpose and value proposition and run a reality check by placing visionary thinking in the context of real life. The participants will also have the opportunity to meet in groups, share their own experience and will learn about the digital challenges and the evolving competition, as well as the rising opportunities in the new normal (e.g. recovery packages and green economies, etc). An inspiring and optimistic way to close a very tough year.