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Successful events demand a joint effort

One of the new realities both convention centers and meeting planners need to address these days is the rapid evolution in event content and formats. Driven by factors ranging from newly available technologies and changing delegate expectations to shifts in program requirements and an increasing engagement by participants in shaping the event structure itself, these shifts can require a significant investment of effort by all concerned – often with little time in which to do it.

But there’s a lot at stake for everyone. Organizers know the importance of responding to changing expectations if they are to retain attendance, and those expectations are changing daily. Many features that were considered luxuries even a year or so ago – like sustainability programs or available connectivity – are now simply givens, while others such as the availability of content through multiple media and remote technologies are moving rapidly in that direction. To add even more of a challenge, this is all coming at a time when event finances are still challenged from years of global economic recession.

Centers have their own issues in this regard. It’s a lot easier to change a program on paper than it is to reconfigure a building that may have been designed and built to meet different conditions. At the same time, many of the new services now so much in demand are costly to support – but organizers are not always willing to pay the extra expenses associated with delivering them. However, the center product is itself constantly evolving, and that creates new opportunities to revisit how changing event requirements can be supported.

In the end, only one thing really matters for both parties – and that is to ensure the delegate has the best possible experience and comes away from the event feeling they got a good return on their investment of both time and money. So it makes sense that more than ever, centers and planners should be collaborating on how to deliver that experience as powerfully and cost-effectively as possible.

There are two keys to achieving this, and again, both parties have a role to play. The first is creativity and the second is transparency.

In the creativity department, the need is to anticipate new program demands as far in advance as possible in order to create a better opportunity to address them. This means an ongoing dialogue between the planner and the center during booking and delivery in order to take full advantage of new services and program options that may be developed in the interim.

Often – sustainability is a good example – it’s possible for planners to address their organizational expectations very cost-effectively by virtue of programs being put in place at the venues. In other cases – such as required new space configurations – creative solutions can be found within existing spaces if there is advance information that enables the venue to look more widely at the available options.

As far as transparency, again it only makes sense to get all the expectations on the table and keep updating these as conditions evolve, so there are no surprises on either side. With the long lead times characteristic of many events, there can be a tendency to make decisions about spatial and servicing requirements under one set of circumstances and only revisit these after there have been significant changes, often with big cost implications. By keeping this conversation active and updated the surprise factor can be minimized – and in the meantime, everyone can be on the lookout for greater savings and efficiencies.

AIPC member centers recognize that the world of meetings and conventions is an increasingly complicated one, but they also understand that the desired outcome – a successful event that meets the “relevance test” for delegates – remains the same. The consensus view of our members, and the goal they are setting for themselves, is that by working together in a creative and open atmosphere, both they and the organizers they work with can make sure that happens to everyone’s benefit.

ECN 052014_Geoff Donaghy-Sydney ICCGeoff Donaghy is AIPC President, CEO of International Convention Centre Sydney and Director Convention Centres AEG Ogden.

AIPC represents a global network of over 170 leading centers in 54 countries with the active involvement of more than 900 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. AIPC also celebrates and promotes the essential role of the international meetings industry in supporting economic, academic and professional development and enhancing global relations amongst highly diverse business and cultural interests.

For further information, contact marianne.de.raay@aipc.org or visit www.aipc.org.

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