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Hope and uncertainty at end-of-year association gathering

Dealing with uncertainty was the prevailing theme at an online gathering of association executives convened by Destinations Alliance, a partnership of international convention bureaux.

How associations were going to plan events during a mass immunisation programme was  just one of the questions raised at the Zoom meeting, which was attended by around 60 people.

With most present accepting some form of hybrid was going to be a mainstay of the 2021 events calendar, another pressing question was how to get those types of events to work financially.

Indeed, cash was one of three ‘c words’  – community and content were the others –  providing a running theme throughout the event, and putting them in order of priority proved taxing.

With plenty of destination representatives in the room it was also a good chance to explore how the relationship between meeting owner, organiser, and host might evolve post Covid-19.

It was agreed the relationship would have to be closer, more flexible, and venues might have to tweak their T&Cs to secure business from associations experiencing cashflow difficulties.

It was agreed, too, that associations and destinations would have to work together to ensure in-person meetings had enough ‘added-value’ to lure delegates away from their computers.

The  event began with a panel discussion, featuring Gabrielle Mouterde, event manager at ISUOG, Patrick Delaney, from MICE consultancy SoolNua, and Duncan Reid, managing director Seven Network.

Mouterde, who successfully organised ISUOG’s virtual world congress in October, as well as smaller online events, said maintaining momentum next year was going to be the real change.

“Because we organised something out of the chaos, I think we impressed our community,” she said, “but the harder task is looking forward to next year, how can we stay relevant?

“Are we going to be able to create something for our members, and keep our community at the heart of those decisions, because there are a lot of decisions to make?!”

The panel, moderated by ami editor James Lancaster, was followed by a mini keynote from Bert van Loon, co-founder of Content Marketing Fast Forward, who argued that associations had to build a resilient strategy that meant they were not at the mercy of unforeseen events – or ‘shockwaves’ – and try as best as they could to take the ‘when’ out of decision making.

It was thought-provoking stuff and concluded on an inspiring note: “It is often said in business that hope is not a strategy, but I would argue there is no strategy without hope.”

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*The Destinations Alliance members were from the convention bureaux for Australia & Melbourne, Copenhagen, Dubai, Finland, Germany, Gibraltar, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway & Oslo, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland & Basel, and Thailand.