Collaboration is key

Mark Cooper, CEO of International Association Conference Centres (IACC), talks to CIM about IACC’s mission, and how to keep up with the changes in the events sector.

Q: What is IACC’s focus for the next few years?
A: Our mission is simple, to represent the best small to mid-size meetings focused venues globally. Our goal is to expand our reach into other cities in Australia including Perth and Adelaide and to discover exceptional meeting venues in other parts of Asia and the Pacific such as New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Q: How is technology shaping events?
A: Technology has been around for as long as I can remember in meetings, but never has it become so entwined in multiple ways like it has in the last two years, with sometimes six technologies at play in a single conference, all relying on the venues internet infrastructure to support it. Beacon technology, collaborative tech such as Microsoft’s Surface Hub for Meetings, Conference App’s and Smartphone Audience Participation software like Sli.Do are just some of these which have improved engagement on communication between delegates and those running the conference. It is a big responsibility of the venue to provide fast, stable internet to support these technologies and for meeting organisers to know what they need from the venue to support their technologies. Also, I think this is partly fuelled by tech becoming easier to use and the current generation of meeting organiser being more tech savvy than past generations.

Q: How important is international collaboration?
A: To be exceptional in providing the best conference venue facilities and services, you have to look globally for best practice and inspiration otherwise you get caught in a rut and cannot stand out. In our recent Australia Asia Pacific conference in Sydney this year, we saw members from the US, Europe and Asia attend, sharing ideas and best practice in what is a very open and collaborative culture.

Q: What are some of the current trends that you are seeing in the industry?
A: There are many we are seeing at this time, but ones we hear spoken of the most, are the development of social/networking spaces in venues and the other is the move to providing more meeting spaces that replicate a homely environment. The first is born out of a growth in recognizing that the value of bringing people together is enhanced by the conversations and interactions they have outside of the meeting room. It used to be common for organisations to want private coffee break stations to keep them away from other companies meeting in the same venue, but now the opposite is often encouraged to allow delegates to connect with other professionals. The second is perhaps a consequence of the lines blurring between home and work. With so many people now working from home and meeting at home, the comforts of home are stilling over into meeting venues. Self-contained rooms with sofas and even ovens and beer taps are being designed and are popular with clients.

Q: Where do you think the meetings sector is heading?
A: To survive in the future, you have to be a curator of exceptional meeting experiences. It is an exciting time for the industry and venues who can design spaces and customer service specifically for meetings are in a good place, as they do not have to compromise and can further separate themselves from their competitors, the general event venue or multi-purpose hotel around the corner. If venues do not invest in the meeting environment, the internet infrastructure or innovative food and beverage, then they will be left behind. We see it as an opportunity for our members and a good thing for the industry.