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Driver of Change

Matthias Schultze, Managing Director German Convention Bureau (GCB), in his guest article shares his opinions on the meeting industry's responsibility and the legacy of events.

ccording to statistics publicized in the current 'Meeting- & EventBarometer Deutschland', around 2.97 million events with a total of approximately 405 million attendees were staged in Germany in the year 2017; impressive figures underlining the economic impact of conventions, congresses and events. This is further augmented by the fact that event attendees spend an average of 300 euros per day in Germany. However, the effects and significance of conventions and congresses should not be measured in economic terms alone. Numerous conferences create a legacy, they have considerable influence and live on with their contents.

Conventions, congresses and events are manifestations of our society structures: they reflect national and international developments and trends, and they generate impulses in political, economic, scientific and social sectors. As platforms for the exchange of experiences and ideas, they promote knowledge transfer and innovation – thus functioning as driver of changes. Moreover, conferences generate impulses to show their attendees and the public perspectives outside their habitual filtered bubble. The initiative 'Legacy of Events' is intended to highlight these effects of conventions and congresses – and these are objectives also shared by the GCB.

Conferences and meetings will have had sustained effects if attendees after returning home transfer to everyday life any insights they've gained at the event.
This can be accomplished above all by way of well-orchestrated 'User Experiences', in which the event itself is only one element in an array of communication channels ranging from attendee acquisition all the way to follow-up communication. On one side, it's all about extending the conference in terms of time and using virtual options to reach more people than those physically attending an event; on the other side, the emotional interaction with attendees during the event is extremely important for the conference to have a lasting, sustained positive effect. Congresses and conferences are essential for networking attendees within their respective communities and their emotional bonding to these collectives founded upon shared interests.

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Matthias Schultze, Managing Director of the German Convention Bureau.

Conferences with resonance: There are numerous examples for conferences generating lasting effects. In the convention and congress industry, for example, that applies to the 'greenmeetings und events Konferenz', the first edition of which already produced results in 2011: the 'fairpflichtet' sustainability code for the event-staging industry, which today has more the 650 signatories in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

This sustainability conferences alternates with the 'Meeting Experts Conference' (Mexcon), which every two years shifts the limelight on issues significant for the future. A number of important initiatives have emerged from the Mexcon: for example a study on the future of conventions and congress, the innovation network 'Future Meeting Space', and an in-depth expertise on Germany as event venue.

Yet another example is the initiative 'She Means Business', which had its premiere just prior to this year's Imex in Frankfurt. The presence and attention of the global event-staging industry at the Imex is directed to the interests and concerns of women in the meeting and event world. The GCB's 'Digital and Innovation Day' might also be considered an event with positive effects and the momentum for change. There's yet another high-profile conference with a focus on digitalization. This re:publica, which inside of eleven years has matured from a blogger class reunion centered on the Internet to an event with a wide range of contents relevant to sociopolitics, succeeds in highlighting topics and issues outside and beyond attendees' particular filter bubble. Another event with long-term international effects is the 'TED Conference', which makes available inspiring and meaningful speeches as video clips. On a more global level, the history of worldwide politics is marked by a number of conferences which have shaped the world – for example in climate protection and species conservation, human rights or peace politics. Apart from establishing rules and agreements as concrete products, these conferences have also taken effect because they shifted their particular topics into regional, national or even global public awareness.  MATTHIAS SCHULTZE
Events reflect national and international developments and trends, and they generate impulses in political, economic, scientific and social sectors.