Belfast was well represented by ICC Belfast and Visit Belfast at the 57th ICCA Congress, which was held from 11 – 14 November. ICCA, International Congress and Convention Association, specialises in the international association meetings sector is comprised of over 1000 member companies and organisations that are located in almost 100 countries globally.
Location, location, location
The host city for Congress 2018 Dubai, a city that has transformed from a humble fishing village to one of the most cosmopolitan and innovative cities in the world. Dubai World Trade Centre, an incredible venue that sprawls over one million square feet of multi-purpose space set the stage for main plenary and breakout sessions. Three illustrious locations; Armani Hotel overlooking the Dubai Mall fountains, Jumeriah Beach Hotel with its unique architectural design and views of the 7* Burj Al Arab hotel and the Arabian desert complete with camels and traditional Arabian delicacies, played host to the evening social programme, providing a truly memorable experience for first-time and veteran attendees alike.
Ahead of the official Congress opening, a Business Exchange session was held. This session gave delegates the opportunity to present the process they and their teams had followed to win the bid to host an Association event with delegate numbers ranging from 300 to 8000. During the exchange, venues and convention bureaus that are normally in direct competition with one another shared detailed knowledge and personal experiences with peers that could be critical to success of future city bids. This level of transparency and candidness is not uncommon in the Association event industry as lead times for meetings that operate on a rotational basis are often upwards of three years. James Rees, the incoming ICCA President and Head of Sales at ExCel London, also addressed this in his closing speech during which he stated, “To be as effective as you can, you need strong competition”.
The inter-chapter tournament at CAT Night was the only time a competitive streak came into play although it was difficult to take it too seriously as we cheered on our respective chapter-mates as they raced down Jumeriah beach and leapt over plastic hurdles whilst rocking a polyester camel suit.
The four-day conference schedule boasted an impressive line-up of speakers who presented on a range of topics in more traditional lecture-style set ups as well as in more intimate spaces where delegates were invited to relax on bean bags whilst participating in more interactive sessions.
One of the most popular sessions was the ICCA Best Marketing Award, which is sponsored by The Meetings Show. The 2018 finalists, Visit Scotland, Serbia Convention Bureau and The Hague Convention Bureau all took the stage to present a successful campaign, explaining to their peers how their activity performed against specific criteria including creativity and innovation as well as return on investment. Following a rigorous judging process that is split between an independent panel and an audience vote. Visit Scotland were named as the worthy winners at this years’ congress for the innovative, ‘Where Ideas Become Legend’ organic social media campaign.
On Thursday, Rathfriland rascal and acclaimed mentalist David Meade warmed the crowd up for the final day by delivering the Copenhagen-Denmark Lecture. David’s session focused on how to improve performance by gaining influence and exercising persuasion. An interesting takeaway to note was that by transforming our mind-set from approaching situations with a ‘No but…’ to a ‘Yes and…’ mentality, the results can be quite extraordinary.
Creating time for delegate mindfulness alongside sustainability were high on the agenda. The insight into the small steps that can be implemented across the industry to create a large ripple effect were incredibly interesting and, if followed will create an industry that can continue to thrive for years to come.
Attending the ICCA Congress is a must for Association meeting professionals and the ICC Belfast team are already excited to dust down the cowboy boots and don their Stetsons for Congress 2019 in Houston Texas. Hope to see you all there!