Angela Guillemet, INCON

Shaking it up a bit

Multi-tasking Angela Guillemet, executive director of INCON, shows how to run a job and a life, apparently effortlessly. Questions by Rob Spalding

RS INCON is a partnership of professional congress organisers and association management companies. What qualities do you bring to the role of executive director?

AG The world of international associations is one of my specialities, what makes them tick, how to fund them, how to profile them, how and who to build relations with, whilst keeping members happy! I worked in Brussels for a good few years, so my other speciality is the European Union landscape and building stakeholder engagement.

RS Do you have a particular personal affinity with any of them?

AG In terms of industries, I don’t think you can beat the meetings and events business for personal relations, enthusiasm and that wonderful global aspect of everyday working life. Those who do should never take for granted how lucky they are to be working with people from different cultures and countries every day. They all bring different perspectives on ways to work and get things done. The key is to keep our eyes and ears open, learn from each other and innovate wherever we can.

RS Have you mainly been self-employed in your career?

AG I have been self-employed for 10 years and always worked as a consultant which has been a great opportunity to serve a diverse range of clients and on various projects.

RS How and when did you get the job with INCON?

AG I started managing associations for Philippe Fournier at MCI Paris, which brought me into the MCI family for a while. When I moved back to my home town of Dublin, Robin Lokerman introduced me to the formidable Padraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney, who asked me to manage INCON.

RS In what state was the organisation when you took over?

AG INCON is a long-established partnership of the leading companies in the conference, events and association industry. It has been around for 20 years. When I got involved it was time to shake it up a bit, re-brand, develop a new website and build a stronger digital and social media presence.

RS And what would you say you have done for them?

AG Promoting INCON has been easy, the partners are present in 170 destinations and manage more than 10,000 projects and events each year. They are masters in an industry where they are known and respected. What I needed to do was to draw out all that expertise and tell the story. I am proud of INCON’s digital presence, especially the best practice case studies which bring INCON’s services to life in a visually appealing way. Each case study tells its own story of how an INCON partner company created a unique solution to meet the client’s needs.

As the industry rapidly evolves, INCON is also adding value by putting together experts to discuss topics such as the impact of GDPR, event security and risk management and the affects these have on events. Our partners in Israel are organising an International Tourism Security Summit this October with several INCON experts as speakers, for example.

One of INCON’s objectives is to play a part in driving industry standards, which resulted in the creation of the INCON digital infrastructure award. This recognises best in class conference and hotel venues in terms of the quality of their digital infrastructure which is key to delivering excellent conferences for clients. While at INCON, I have also been instrumental in strengthening the partnership to include new partners like Dekon in Turkey, BTC in Mexico, Ortra in Israel and SmithBucklin in the US.

RS When suppliers become clients, does their attitude change?

AG INCON has developed a preferred supplier category which has meant working closely with several leading international destinations. This has been a really worthwhile engagement. The INCON partners work closely with the destination to learn more about what they have to offer and in return provide their expertise on what clients are looking for. Perhaps the attitude between the two stakeholders changes because the relationship becomes stronger and both conference organiser and destination work closer together, enabling both to better serve their conference clients.

RS How have you managed to balance your freewheeling career with a stable home life of partner, kids, dog, and house?

AG I moved back to my roots in Ireland in 2007 after 15 years abroad. I find life easier when you are close to family. I am grateful to my French husband who moved with me and is now a local. My parents are a great help and I have a live in au pair. My daily walks with the dog keep me sane.

RS And your management of the Avoca Hockey Club in South Dublin – was that in a parallel existence?

AG I love hockey. I have played since I was eight. Now it is my daughter’s turn, so I manage her team. We are looking forward to visiting London with Avoca for the upcoming Hockey World Cup.

RS So what’s next – both for you and for INCON?

AG INCON is going from strength to strength. It would be great to see the partnership developing to include additional conference organisers from different countries. As for me, I recently completed a Diploma in Digital Marketing which I found enriching both personally and professionally. I think my next course will be on leadership development or strategy…