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Messages of Drive & Optimism

by Sven Bossu, CEO AIPC

Monica Lee-Müller Hong I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Monica Lee-Müller (pictured right), managing director of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center, in early December. It was a lecture for the participants of the AIPC talent program, Future Shapers, on the difference between management and leadership. Next to the deeply human perspective Lee-Müller gave to the notion of being a leader, I was particularly struck by another message: “Now is the moment to experiment and go bold to be fully prepared when business is coming back. Because the question is when, not if.” So, let’s have a look at the positive notes across the globe to close another remarkable year.

Let’s start in Australia. The Melbourne Conference & Exhibition Center recently announced that large-scale, organized events will be allowed again. A contributing factor to this is the vaccination rate, which is now above 90 percent. And 280,900 of the vaccine doses needed to achieve that goal were hosted by the MCEC. Along the way, MCEC also encouraged those attending the venue for their vaccinations to “pay it forward” by buying a nurse a coffee, with more than 1,927 coffees having been donated now, averaging 50 a day. Throughout the world, convention centers have played a critical role in supporting the national health systems in dealing with the pandemic. They were transformed into hospitals, testing areas or vaccination centers, each time demonstrating their commitment in supporting the communities they are embedded in.

Barry Smith Convention Centers of CanadaMoving to Canada, I had a discussion with Barry Smith (pictured left), president of the Convention Centers of Canada. During the annual conference of the association, hosted by the Shaw Center in Ottawa, the 2022 business outlook was discussed, and it showed a remarkable similarity with the data collected by AIPC on a global level earlier this year: There is a clear and shared expectation that, as from Q2 2022, business will be back at levels close to 2019. Communities are more eager than ever to come together again in a face-to-face environment and share those unique moments only live events can offer.

These live events will be complemented with digital experiences, which brings me to the topic of collaboration. During the pandemic, industry associations have collaborated more intensively than ever. A very recent example is the research paper on hybrid events, co-created by IAPCO and AIPC, which was released on December 4. The input from members of both communities, combined with the perspectives of thought leaders from other stakeholders, resulted in a document which Kathleen Warden of the Scottish Event Campus,provides unique insights on how the thinking on hybrid has evolved in the industry, the challenges tackled and the ones to address. But most importantly, the document helps several groups share knowledge and grow together as an event community.

The same was demonstrated on a global level when it comes to sustainability. Brought around the table by Kathleen Warden (pictured right) of the Scottish Event Campus, global associations and global industry players created an industry pledge to become carbon zero by 2050, which was officially presented during COP26, and which is now endorsed by 270 organizations across the globe. All this was done in close collaboration with the UNFCCC, which is in full support of inclusive industry wide initiatives like this one. While a lot of work remains to be done—look on the JMIC website for the latest updates—this represents a major milestone to make the events industry truly sustainable.

Oscar Cerezales MCIAnd to conclude, I would like to bring you to Barcelona. Prior to IBTM, AIPC organized a one-day summit on evolving business models. Moderated by Oscar Cerezales (pictured left), chief strategy officer of MCI, 25 convention center leaders spent a full day re-thinking business models, starting with the new market landscape and ending with a list of “calls for action” to be taken back home. The level of energy in the room was simply amazing and to echo the message of Lee-Müller: there was no question of “if”—only a matter of being fully prepared for the “when.”

I am extremely proud to be part of the event community and moments like the presentation of the pledge at COP26 or the workshop with 25 convention leaders make me believe that we are undergoing what Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm shift: Rather than solely progressing in a linear and continuous way, these paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding what we would never have considered valid before. Together, we can make this work and bring our industry to a very different level.

Sven Bossu, AIPC’s first CEO, was previously the managing director for innovation at ESTRO, the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology, and spent eight years at SWIFT, organizing the world-renowned SIBOS conference. Contact him at

AIPC represents a global network of more than 190 leading centers in 64 countries with the active involvement of more than 1,000 management-level professionals worldwide. It is committed to encouraging and recognizing excellence in convention center management, based on the diverse experience and expertise of its international representation, and maintains a variety of educational, research, networking and standards programs to achieve this. For more info, visit

This story originally appeared in the Jan./Feb./Mar. 2022 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 20. For original layout, visit


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