Florian Locatelli, European Society of Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Therapy

No pain, just gain

Florian Locatelli, CEO of the European Society of Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Therapy, rather believes his beloved Lake Leman is a metaphor of his own life: constantly changeable, never static, bringing pleasure and comfort to others.   He answers questions from Rob Spalding

RS:  Florian how did you get to be CEO of the ESRA so quickly – by accident or design?

FL: Let’s say that I was at the right place at the right time when the opportunity arose. In 2009, I decided to complete my education with an executive MBA. I was still working 100 per cent for my employer, study days were on my vacation time and I used my savings to pay for the course. ESRA was one of my accounts then, so four years of collaboration, a brand new MBA and a desire by the Society to open an independent office, certainly played in my favour.

RS: Why migrate from the corporate world to the non-profit sector?

FL: Well, I could say that despite the fact that money is a key aspect in the non-profit world too, it is not the primary one – and I find that having a broader purpose than financial profit is rather satisfactory.  But if I’m honest. I didn’t really think in terms of profit; the main point of change was when I entered the association management business and discovered a brand new world that I still feel passionate about.

RS: Which do you prefer, providing or buying meetings services?

FL: I’ve never really provided meeting services, though I’m familiar with many aspects of them, so I consider myself more like a buyer. If I look back, I’ve had some very different yet complementary experiences, and it’s only when you do look back that you understand your path. At the time it may not look like anything logical – but I always let my skills, instinct and my good star show me the way, without too much analysis.

RS: Was your choice of finishing in a hotel school based on your intention to enter the hospitality industry? 

FL: Not really… It is true that I always have been fascinated by hotels, especially palaces. I’ll tell you an anecdote: when I was a kid, we would drive to my grandparents every Sunday along the shore of the Geneva basin. I was always fighting with my brothers to get the seat with a view of he palaces along the way! I’ve become a frequent hotel guest, but I haven’t managed to reach a palace yet! Seriously, the reputation of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne was and still is extremely good. I was very much attracted by its international environment –the best school of life there is! After three and a half years at EHL and six months internship in Manhattan working six days a week and sharing a studio next to Central Park, you’ve experienced a lot.

RS: You have been with ESRA for 11 years now. What have you changed in that time?

FL: ESRA was one of my first clients when I started with Kenes Association Management in December 2006. I was also taking care of obstetricians, gynaecologists and paediatricians. I opened ESRA’s independent office in March 2013, so we can say that I’ve already been with ESRA for 11 years now!  When I started as association manager for Kenes, ESRA was just out of a very shaky period – and had hired Kenes to watch over them. ESRA’s confidence had been very much shaken by the previous association management company, and I cannot say that the start of my collaboration with ESRA was a fairy tale. I was not even allowed into Board meetings, I had to wait behind the door and was only ever allowed to present my topics. It took some years to build confidence back up. We managed to re-write by-laws which allowed us to renew the governing Board, form committees, open an independent office and innovate! Our membership was around 400 in 2006; now we’ve just welcomed our 4,100th member, closing 2017 with the 11th year of membership growth in a row!

RS: What is your next big challenge?

FL: We are launching new meetings, and their format will be quite innovative! We are starting with our first European Day of Regional Anaesthesia & Pain Therapy. The idea is simple: we design the programme and the format of the workshop, and it is adapted and organized by our affiliated national societies for a very low cost. That way, we offer quality, affordability and proximity. On the same day in January, 20 cities around Europe will gather around 1,000 participants to follow the same workshop!  Our second big event in 2018 is the launch of e-ESRA, our first online conference. Just imagine, you will be able to access a full day of conferences, round-tables, live sessions and industry symposia on two parallel channels. Fifty speakers will gather in a TV studio in Paris and deliver live education, with direct chat, quizzes and interactions between participants and the highest profile doctors in Europe, discussing hot topics of the moment. The recorded material will be available on our ESRA Academy site for a whole year. What a blast!

RS: What are your feelings about the meetings industry?

FL: We all know we are moving towards times of great change, but despite assumptions, nobody knows what it will be like! All we can do is work together to keep the flow of communication and collaboration open between medical associations, not only in Europe, but across continents too. Let’s not forget, our mission is to meet the needs of the medical community we represent, to offer them help and support – and be grateful to those passionate volunteers without whom our business simply wouldn’t exist – I really admire them.