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Addressing Challenges of Association Meeting Legacy

During the recent IMEX America tradeshow held in Las Vegas in early November – ICCA and the BestCities Global Alliance collaboratively organised a deep-dive workshop exploring “Legacy for Association Meetings.” 

Using templates from the Copenhagen Legacy Lab toolkit, participants worked together to develop tangible solutions for challenges presented by four association meetings. Here’s a quick summary of what they came up with:

Challenge: expanding tourism awareness

The Africa Tourism Association (ATA) is the leading global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-African partnerships. Their World Tourism Conference in 2022 serves not only to connect and educate but will also highlight the emerging business opportunities in Africa’s tourism sector as the industry recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many tourists aren’t aware of Africa’s diverse offerings across the continent. One of the solutions offered was an experiential social media campaign supported by local stakeholders: hotels, airlines, entertainment companies, parks, museums, etc. The “Experience Africa” initiative would offer families the opportunity to experience unknown parts of Africa. The campaign would share stories from their travel experiences beyond the well known destinations and the pre-existing perceptions. This solution provided a fresh view for the association on how to involve local stakeholders and go beyond their traditional promotional channels. 

Challenge: driving change with strong connections

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) conference legacy objectives are the same as their mission – to grow ecotourism. They have difficulty connecting with top officials who can help them drive change and achieve their objectives. 

TIES Executive Director Jon Bruno said his biggest takeaway from the workshop was to look at the bigger picture within a destination. For example, although he may not always connect with the highest local authorities, all destinations facilitate contacts that can lead to higher connections in the future. One of the workshop solutions suggested developing an app that could capitalise on those initial contacts through a “365-engagement” model. In this way, each event is an opportunity for associations to expand their community and network.

Challenge: increasing attendance and local support

Our third case study was the Conference on International Education organised by the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education. They aim to bring in delegates from all around the world to their conferences. In doing so, they help enhance hosting universities' (national, regional, and city) potential to develop international partnerships with peers who specialise in research, teaching and mobility opportunities. Their goal is to increase attendance and support from local governments and industries. 

The solution offered – a global internship programme supported by local governments, chambers of commerce, and even local businesses. The post-pandemic world demonstrates that the next generation workforce is not tied down by location. As such, multi-cultural experiences are advantageous to local employers of students who would attend the conference. 

Challenge: measuring organic impact 

Finally, the fourth and winning programme presented at the workshop was connected to the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) - a global society advocating for and advancing scholarship, research, training, outreach, and inclusive community building in computational biology and its professions. Their legacy programmes have traditionally been on an ad hoc basis. They are challenged by the nature of their events, which is primarily scientific and collaboration among attendees tends to occur organically. Consequently, event impact is difficult to measure. 

The solution offered was an – “Educate and Connect” campaign. This initiative would extend beyond the scientists by creating a 365-planning group to connect long-term on grassroot levels. The group could implement various programs locally and provide education in schools on what ISCB advocates and supports. Workshop participants also suggested local science camps coinciding with the event, introducing mentorship programmes and scholarships, and a Women in science campaign. By adding such programmes, ISCB could further develop their event into a holistic, all-encompassing event for computational biology. 

Bel Hanson from the ISCB took workshop notes and flipcharts with her after the meeting. “Those are going on the walls in our office,” she said. Bel indicated that the ideas will serve as a blueprint for redesigning our Impact Programme. 

The IMEX workshop drew a packed house and generated a lot of enthusiasm amongst those who participated. This is a testimony to the interest in creating legacy and the collaborative nature of ICCA’s global community. All four association executives gained implementable ideas, Furthermore, delegates, suppliers and planners discovered tools on how they can go through a similar process within their organisations. The entire group was energised to spread the word about the importance of event legacy. A big step towards redesigning future events to become more impactful for all involved.