ICCA, the International Congress and Convention Association, has just concluded its six-week-long Congress culminating in a series of online and in-person sessions in Kaohsiung and 8 hubs, attracting 1500 delegates, 280 associations, and featuring 220 speakers in 100 hours of content. With the conclusion of ICCA’s first global hybrid Congress, the association has defined a blueprint for the transformation of association meetings and by signing the Kaohsiung Protocol, a framework of macro and micro trends and strategies for meetings, ICCA has paved a clear path for the future of events.
Back in March of 2020, during their Board meeting in Paris, the ICCA Board knew they had to create something different to respond to current times. They knew that ICCA members valued mostly the opportunity to meet face to face and they knew ICCA needed to offer the opportunity to learn and engage online. Above all, they knew ICCA needed to be flexible and allow each delegate to choose their own Congress experience, letting them choose what they were most comfortable with. This was the basis of the concept of ICCA’s first global hybrid Congress.
In the extremely short time span of just over 6 months, ICCA created a 6-week programme which included 4 days of live broadcasts – 22 September, 22 October, 2 November, and 3 November – which were open to the wider ICCA community providing speakers and topics beyond the meetings industry, from macroeconomic trends to health and safety protocols and certifications, and trends in technology and education, to diversity and inclusion.
These live broadcasts featured outside the industry experts and world-renowned speakers such as Bob Bejan – Microsoft, Salman Khan – Khan Academy, Jean Pierre Lacombe – IFC Global Macro, Yu-kai Chou – The Octalysis Group, Yasmin Poole – Plan International Australia, Lars Oskan-Henriksen – Copenhagen Pride, Anne Skare Nielsen – Universal Futurist, and many more. With a total of 220 speakers and 100 hours of content this ICCA Congress was by far the richest ever in terms of speaker profiles and valuable content. All the content is available to delegates until the end of the year.
Additionally to the 4 days of live broadcasts, we had 3 weeks of Topic Weeks, each of the weeks covered one topic for each of the ICCA sectors reserving the Monday for associations. With nearly 280 associations registered for the ICCA Congress, it was by far the highest number of associations ever at an ICCA event and they were the key focus of this years’ Congress. They had not only specific days reserved for them during the Topic Weeks, but also played an active role in the rest of the programme, as well as in the Kaohsiung Protocol providing the base group for the research done prior to the Congress, and providing continued input in live sessions in shaping the framework.
Finally, a demonstration of the richness of the programme was the programme offered in the hubs all designed in collaboration with ICCA to ensure the consistency of the messaging but including the local flavour and needs.
To ensure easy access to all the sessions live and on demand throughout the weeks and between hubs, we introduced a customised platform offered by the production company DRPG. ICCA offered engagement for delegates with the following key engagement features:
· Shoutbox – a chat function available throughout the 6 weeks and after the events, delegates could use to say hello or share photos in.
· Discussion Forum – an area for all delegates to share their challenges and potential solutions in.
· Networking Lounge – an opportunity for delegates to video chat one-on-one or in larger groups and create the connections we usually have at conferences in an online environment.
· Twitter Wall – a feed of social media posts from around the world connecting all delegates regardless if they are onsite in a destination or online.
The education programme and networking were supported by yet another element within the platform – namely the Zones, which included the Incredible Impacts zone, Health and Safety zone, and Best Marketing zone – which featured additional sessions and entries for the respective awards.
Another first for ICCA was the support of government and politicians whether in Kaohsiung or in one of the hubs. So it will come as no surprise that speakers did not only include the Mayor of Kaohsiung but also President of Colombia – Ivan Duque, Audrey Tang – Chinese Taipei Digital Minister, Xavier Bettel – Prime Minister of Luxembourg, David Maynier – Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economics, and Jose Maria Arrabal – General Secretary for Sports Andalucia to name but a few.
Senthil Gopinath, ICCA CEO, said: “In a time when our industry has been suffering more than any other, it was heartwarming to see such great support from the governments in our host destination and hub locations. This is a sign that the authorities are recognising the importance of our industry to the economic recovery of destinations, and are supportive of this new hub-and-spoke model as a safe way to meet even during the pandemic.”
ICCA managed to incorporate the majority of the meetings industry associations as a part of the Congress, creating a collaborative approach within our industry. This positive message goes hand in hand with the messages from sister associations, such as PCMA, MPI, IAEE, ASAE, ESAE UFI, AIPC, AfSAE, ACForum and AFPAO who have been closely involved in the programme and have expressed their support to ICCA’s efforts of collaborating together to have one strong voice for our industry.