ICCA’s Sharing Hubs sparks insight for future conferences

A Sharing Hub in session at ICCA Congress 2023

ICCA’s novel Sharing Hubs sessions at its 2023 congress have yielded a range of topics determined to be of importance to the future of both the organisation and meetings professionals.

Ben Goedegebuure, chief global strategy officer at the event management company Maritz, which conceptualised and orchestrated the Sharing Hubs activity, said over 90 per cent of members participated in discussions in roughly 80 groups per day on eight pre-selected topics.

A Sharing Hub in session at ICCA Congress 2023

Project Spark, a research and educational initiative to uncover the impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) on the business events industry, led by Singapore-based tech firm Gevme, was employed to distil insights from over 160 table discussions into three formats: bullet-point summaries, mind maps, and sentiment analyses.

The results were segmented into actionable items, solutions, and identified challenges for each topic.

Areas of concern included changing business relations and negotiations (linked to talent), communication differences between generations within the industry, and sustainability measurement challenges.

The action items derived from these discussions included strategies for improvement, negotiation skill development, increased transparency, and the creation of standardised force majeure clauses.

In a preliminary step, a comprehensive 45-page PDF document containing challenges, solutions, and action items for each topic was sent to all ICCA Congress 2023 participants. However, it was emphasised that the AI-generated content required careful validation due to the potential for inaccuracies.

Looking ahead, ICCA has outlined an implementation plan to translate these insights into actionable steps.

Reflecting on the discussions, Ksenija Polla, head of education and legacy programmes at ICCA, whose division will be in charge of eventual implementation, said: “The biggest challenge and the biggest worry for our audience today seems to be people, talent, and resources, which echoes what we have been hearing not only here at the Congress but also throughout the year.

“The other red zone is business relationships (which are connected) to talent and resources. We are losing many of those business relationships that we had over the past years to high turnover during the pandemic.”

Alessandra Delmonte, vice president & partner at Arena Destination Marketing, agreed, pointing out that the industry had to rebuild relationships and adapt to the working style of a new generation.

“We lost a lot of people during the pandemic – people we’ve been working with for many years have left or switched organisations. We had to rebuild those new relationships. (This is) coupled with a new generation coming in that works differently from how we did in the past. As a relationship-based industry, how does that translate into how we do business?” stated Delmonte.

Polla underscored the ongoing nature of the analysis, expressing the organisation’s commitment to delving deeper into the data. The goal is to empower participants to implement changes immediately upon returning to their respective countries while providing continuous support with new tools.

The implementation plan involves sharing outcomes with participants and prioritising actions based on feasibility and impact. Identified action items will significantly influence the content, policies, and format of future ICCA conferences, actively incorporating the insights gained over the next 12 months into the organisation’s ongoing activities.