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AIPC 2018

Black Box

"Strategies for a changing world!" was the theme of AIPC's 2018 annual conference in London. 240 delegates were keen on exchanging thoughts and learning about new business models, something of a Black Box for most of them.

r. Razeen Sally was back! He had delivered the keynote at the 2017 
annual conference
 of the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) in Singapore, and he did that again in July 2 of this year in London. "This is very unusual, but he was so highly rated," is how AIPC-President Aloysius Arlando announced him. Sally rendered a 75-minute presentation on what current trade and geopolitical turmoil mean for key business sectors. "For international trade, we have seen a significant trade recovery," said the Co-Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy. "Last year, I said recovery would not last and I was wrong." In consideration of US President Trump and the risk of an all-out trade war, he stood by his prognosis: "Good chance the economic and trade recovery will last into 2019 but be dented by protectionism and geopolitics."

Sally questioned three CEOs for their input from an operational perspective. "My most surprising observation is that despite of all your concerns and threats from the policy perspectives, we didn’t see any impact," said Greg O’Dell, Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The other panel members Peter King, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and Joachim König, Hannover Congress Centrum (HCC), agreed with that statement.

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The format of the AIPC conference was conventional.

Elishilia D. Kaaya, Arusha International Conference Centre in Tanzania, warned: "Don’t forget the rest of the world, don’t forget Africa!" And Lindiwe Rakharebe, Durban International Convention Centre, was also hoping for more inclusion – not only of Africans, but of women as well; she saw none of these on the stage, and there were also no interaction platforms available. The ICC Platinum Suite at the Excel London was a black box, in spite of the LED wall. Exchange of ideas and thoughts among the 240 members from all over the world and the important matching of media impressions against on-site experience took place in the intermissions, outside the plenary hall.

"If there are problems like protectionism, instability and Brexit, we need to meet," remarked HCC CEO König. And in view of the EU withdrawal, London was the perfect choice. The metropolis intends to weather the Brexit storm with destination partnerships. "The impact of Brexit is uncertainty. At this stage we don’t understand the size of impact," said Kevin Murphy, Chairman Excel London, which contributes around GBP 4.5 billion to London's economy. There were no cancellations in the wake of the Brexit polls; and the European Society of Cardiology will return again in 2021. London will concentrate on clusters such as technology and signature events such as the London Tech Week. These stand both for technology and the trend towards festivalization.

"In five years we won't sit in a room like this," said Julia Cyboran at the session "From Disruption to Evolution: a consumer-centric approach to rethinking of the delegate experience".
She works for C2 and has plans to revolutionize business events. The focus is clearly on attendees; her 'C2 Montreal' establishes an environment encouraging interaction and learning. Cyboran: "Entertainment acts are really crucial to us. Getting people to see things differently is a great spark to start conversation." An everincreasing number of businesses are calling on C2 to assist them with their transformation.

By her side was Peter King. He added: "We are not selling spaces anymore – we are selling experiences and mind expansion." The MCEC CEO explained this new partnership with C2: "First, it is a point of differentiation. Second, we open another space and we have challenging revenue plans. Third, people are getting bored with conferences, basically sitting in formats like this!"

The format of this AIPC meeting was quite conventional: there were extensive rostrum-centered lectures, occasionally interrupted by panel discussions. There was little time for answering app-based audience inquiries and the keynote 'Securing and Retaining Talent in a Global Competition' consumed another 60 minutes. "Getting the right talent is the number one challenge," said Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning & Development Director MCI. "Millennials will be the majority of workforce by 2025." On invitation by AIPC, he did what many do: talk about Generation Y and Z, and not with them.

Stefan Lohnert would actually prefer to enhance the programs with contributions by the next generation. "We have great talents in our ranks, which could actually be given a forum here." The CEO Internationales Congresscenter Stuttgart (ICS) would like to learn how younger staff members see their own center and competitors all over the world and which aspects and developments they consider significant – apart from digitalization. Lohnert: "We should listen carefully to be able to react to changes and trends inherent to these generations, because they make up our future clientele as well."  KERSTIN WÜNSCH
„2025 stellen Millennials die Mehrheit der Belegschaft.“
Avinash Chandarana,
Group Learning & Development Director MCI