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Kaohsiung Protocol reimagines the future of business events

An association’s hub-and-spoke event promised a new dawn for international meetings with the launch of a new framework to help planners and destinations reimagine events.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) 59th Congress made history as the association’s first hybrid, multi-hub event and the launchpad for the Kaohsiung Protocol.

Taiwan’s southern port city of Kaohsiung acted as the congress nerve centre, welcoming a live audience at the Kaohsiung Exhibition Centre and connecting the global ICCA community by live-streaming content to more than 1,500 attendees in eight regional hubs across the globe.

The framework is ICCA’s response to major global trends such as technological advancement, health and safety, and understanding the next generations of attendees, all affecting the events industry.

Following the theme ‘Transforming Global Events Together’, the event featured a six-week ‘Road to Kaohsiung’ pre-congress programme that crowdsourced ideas and technologies for the future of events. These insights were presented as the ‘Kaohsiung Protocol’ and will serve as a framework to help the industry identify new business opportunities and advance hybrid meeting models.

The framework is centred upon four key pillars:

  • Enhanced engagement and value (customer centricity and omni-channel culture)
  • Digital restructure and hybrid events (workforce and skills)
  • Shared risk management (health and safety)
  • Innovative business models (revenue diversification and increased collaboration)

Yang Mingzhou, secretary-general of the Kaohsiung City Government, said the city’s quick pivot to bridge the online-offline divide resulted in a number of innovative event components, while ICCA president, James Rees, said the event would be a “live” case study for the events industry.

The event’s hybrid format connected live viewing parties in Kaohsiung, Riyadh, Cape Town, Luxembourg, Malaga, and Seoul, with virtual hubs of localised content in Kuching, Latin America and North America, along with individual members who tuned in virtually. Live broadcasts in the various destinations were weaved together by host, Robert Coren, in a London-based recording studio.

Like a news broadcast, Coren summarised keynote sessions and segued to regional hosts for additional comments. Programme interludes were also filled with localised content so that virtual attendees could watch live or pre-recorded content while in-person delegates broke for lunch.

This digital-first approach — where live gatherings were organised as viewing parties that connected to a wider, digital community — follows the advice of keynote speaker Bob Bejan, corporate vice president of global events, production studios, and marketing community at Microsoft, who urged planners to focus on cinematic experience rather than theatrical delivery.

According to Bejan, the future of live events will develop along a digital axis, where ongoing engagement will build an appetite for live activation in local markets.

“As event professionals we always think about the [event] destination, but if we think about our local markets as opportunities for live activation in support of a digital core that is distributed globally, the possibilities are endless,” he said. “We need to apply this new way of thinking to buildings, facilities and capabilities.”

Gregg Talley, moderator of the Kaohsiung Protocol working group and CEO of the Talley Management Group, said: “We have an interesting path forward on innovative business models, industry collaboration and advocacy.”