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Centers and their clients are both facing bigger challenges these days as they are often having to deal with ever more complex events and higher delegate expectations in a time of reduced resources. But the obvious solution – to work more closely on achieving solutions with mutual benefits – can suffer from focusing too much on the business deal at the expense of investing more time in the “what if” area. Now, AIPC is encouraging both sides to better recognize how such an investment can pay off to everyone’s advantage.

AIPC President Geoff Donaghy

AIPC President Geoff Donaghy

“Dealing with the practical realities of event management can be a challenging one for both centers and their clients, and AIPC centers have been looking at ways to better deal with this in collaboration with some of our key client groups,” said Geoff Donaghy, president, AIPC. “As demands for greater center involvement in the areas of program and services delivery increase, we are finding that more and earlier consultation by both sides is more important than ever.”

Strategies now being examined and discussed between clients and AIPC member centers include putting more effort in sharing the client’s organizational objectives and what they may mean in terms of anticipated event outcomes. However, there are also some very practical approaches, such as getting the operations side of a center’s organization engaged in even the earliest stage of the planning process at a time when typically only the sales group is involved. Driving this is a growing appreciation on both sides that centers are often well positioned to suggest alternative formats based on their experiences with other clients, and that their ideas may not only deliver a better event but make more effective use of center facilities.

As a major association planner put it in a recent conference session on this topic, “we don’t know what we don’t know” – meaning that while organizers understand their event needs better than anyone, they are not necessarily entirely aware of the full range of possibilities available to them to achieve their goals. Center staff, on the other hand, has inevitably seen a wide variety of different approaches in similar situations by virtue of experiencing many different types of events in their building and can thus be well positioned to offer suggestions as to alternatives. This is particularly true when it involves the specialized use of that center’s particular attributes, which are always at least somewhat different from what clients may have experienced elsewhere.

This kind of exchange can also help deal with another area of potential friction between centers and their clients – namely, making sure there are no “surprises” in the form of unexpected limitations, challenges or cost charges that emerge at the last minute. While centers generally work hard to address this area, in the absence of a really detailed exchange it can be difficult if not impossible to identify all the event requirements in sufficient detail and to overcome assumptions that may exist about what may or may not be included in the original cost estimates based on previous experiences.

Finally, both sides are generally more disposed to look at alternative forms of engagement these days up to and including taking more of a “partnership” approach where the center and their clients look at various means of sharing the risks and rewards associated with staging an event. In such an arrangement everyone is clearly motivated to create the best possible outcome, whether in terms of attendance, exhibitors or other measureable outcomes – and that all benefits everyone involved.

“What AIPC is encouraging, and everyone in the piece is looking to achieve, is the best possible event experience,” said Donaghy. “When that happens, we all win – including the delegate!”

Geoff Donaghy is AIPC President, CEO of International Convention Centre Sydney and Director Convention Centres AEG Ogden.

AIPC represents a global network of more than 170 leading centers in 54 countries with the active involvement of over 1000 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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