An attractive destination – though not an expensive one – still tops the list when placing association business, according to Professor Martin Brown, organiser of the European Stroke Conference.
Speaking at the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) Annual Conference, held in the Barbican, London, Brown outlined the changes he’d seen in the conference as it grew from 600 delegates and 190 abstracts from 28 countries in 1990, to 3,500 delegates and 1,342 submissions from 64 countries.
Priority one for placing the conferences was finding an attractive host destination, he said. “You want them to want to come.” However, the vast majority of his association’s conferences were held in second cities, as capital cities were often too expensive, both for delegates and in terms of venue costs.
Appropriate facilities were also important, he said, noting the conference has never been held in eastern Europe. “Arrangements have always fallen down before the contracts were signed as they were not capable of providing the level of organisation we needed. Though we would like to do it – for education purposes it is important.”
Brown was less than complimentary about the narrow corridors in host venue the Barbican for being not conducive to "vital" networking. Big exhibition venues were too noisy “like being in a warehouse”, though London’s ExCeL has turned around its fortunes with its new ICC development, he said. After being labelled “not fit for purpose” six years ago, it has won the event in 2013.
Other bugbears included conference centres in the middle of nowhere, having to eat standing up, paying large registration fees, spending ages travelling, getting lost in the venue, having to buy refreshments during conference time, lack of rooms for a busy simultaneous programme, no free Wi-Fi, and being forced to listen to promotional lectures.
He added that a conference in Monaco never got the go ahead because the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t sponsor it. “The finances at a conference are important – you don’t want to charge too much. The pharmaceutical industry is influential because they will rent exhibition stands and bring delegates in. Ultimately, though our aim is not to make a profit – though you don’t want to make a loss. The aim is to educate people.”