Review: ICCA Association Experts Seminar, Frankfurt, 21-23 May 2011

Last weekend, I had the pleasure to attend the ICCA Association Experts Seminar in Frankfurt. I had been to an ICCA event before, so I knew that not only are those events brilliantly organized, but they also deliver great value for an event organizer and association executive.

It is ICCA’s intention to intensify the dialogue between association meeting planners and convention bureaus and other suppliers. Such a seminar is beneficial for both sides, because it helps to improve the understanding for the needs of each party. On top of that, ICCA manage to deliver great content about trends in the meeting industry, and we even tried some quite interesting interactive meeting and event techniques (e.g. a fishbowl discussion) which are a source of inspiration of our own meeting planning.

The meeting in Frankfurt was very professionally facilitated by Gary Grimmer from Melbourne. Nikki Walker with MCI gave a presentation about the art and science of new media for association communities, a topic that most of associations are struggling with quite a bit currently. One of the take-aways was her suggestion to encourage multilingual comments on Facebook, because with Google translate, those comments can be of value and understandable for other users.

Next on the agenda was Dr. Ajay Kakar from India. This gentleman is not only the Secretary of the International Academy of Periodontology, he is also a dentist, a Cobalt programmer, a designer of his own virtual trade show tailored to the Indian market (!), an extremely nice person and a magician, too, as we could experience over the dinner 😉

We had a very good time together, and it was very interesting to share his experience about virtual events that really work. When setting the event up, he found the biggest problem was to get the exhibitors to deliver the right content in the right format. That should not be underestimated when planning a virtual or hybrid event. The main reason for him to test a virtual show at all was that his exhibitors were actually demanding it. They were pushing him to limit the number of real-life events to a reasonable amount, while at the same time offering the opportunity to reach out to an audience also in remote places in India. Ultimately, he had to take into account the limited bandwidth in rural India, and develop a system that was not too flashy and would work in those places, too. What he presented was a straight-forward, easy-to-use and easy-to-setup tool that serves the purposes in his market ideally. I’ll be curious to follow the success of this venture!

The second day featured a presentation by Elling Hamso, European Event ROI Institute. He presented the Event ROI pyramid, which is based on the concept that an event can only be successful, financially or otherwise, if it actually motivates the participants to DO something differently after the event, to apply what they’ve learned and to change behavior. Elling suggested some ways to measure this impact that are easy to implement, really. I am sure I’ll go through my event and trade show surveys to modify them accordingly! I particularly liked the stylish way how Elling sent everyone of us an email after the event with 10 recommendations how we could maximize the networking and learning experience from the seminar.

The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to interactive sessions about what meeting planners require from destinations, and what destination suppliers really want from planners to improve cooperation.

For the third day, a self-propelled session was planned, so the late afternoon on Sunday was used to prepare this. Elling came up with the great idea to create a fishbowl session, and a suitable topic for this was quickly identified: What do events have to look and feel like in the future in order to attract “Gen Y”, a totally networked and tech-savvy generation? It was great to be part of this experience, not only because it delivered great results, but also because it proved once more that these kind of interactive, un-conference-style events really work. Click on the video below to see Bruce Redor from Gary’s team explain how it works.

All in all, this weekend was a wonderful experience that I had the pleasure to share with a bunch of nice, professional and very dedicated people from the worldwide ICCA community -I look forward to taking part again in 2012! Thanks to ICCA for facilitating this exchange.

5 thoughts on “Review: ICCA Association Experts Seminar, Frankfurt, 21-23 May 2011

  1. Great recount of the ICCA Association Expert Seminar Michael, I had the experience a couple of years ago and glad to hear about these innovative formats finding their way into this weekend right before IMEX.

    Elling already shared some thoughts around the third day which was great to hear back. I was meaning to ask. In your experience, what element in the fishbowl format was critical for its success? This as we are planning to use it in a hybrid format for Event Camp Europe to be held on September 9th accross multiple venues.


    1. Hi, Ruud, thanks for your feedback. It was great seeing you in Frankfurt!

      I guess it was critical to have a not too big group, to explain in clear words the procedure, and to have a first set of discussion partners that
      a. have something to say
      b. respond to each others.

      We had that combination, and eventually Bruce had to end the discussion, because otherwise it might have gone on for another hour – but in a very entertaining and fruitful way!


  2. Were people allowed to join in/step out of the fishbowl? I’ve been playing with that variation lately, setting a couple of extra chairs in the inner circle. People can take a seat when they have something to contribute to the conversation and anyone seated can give up their chair when they feel they no longer have a strong contribution to make. Has a bit of an Open Space feel to it when it works.


  3. Jeffrey, the rule was there were 5 chairs, with 1 chair that had to be empty at all times. So, when someone from the audience took that seat, someone else had to stand up and leave the discussion. Until that person left the round, the discussion could not go on. Worked quite well.


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