Many conferences today are the equivalent of a 20 year-old mobile phone - no longer fit for purpose, according to Martin Sirk of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA).
“They are too often ‘top-down’ with too many plenary sessions with so-called experts talking at audiences”, rather than interactive sessions, said the ICCA CEO. Sirk called for a more creative approach to events that achieve greater audience engagement, citing the example of an IBM conference he attended in Amsterdam as an example of the best practice. That event, organised by London-based George P Johnson, had 50 sessions running concurrently at one point – some open and many with ‘closed’ participation.
Sirk was addressing delegates at the 7th Conventions India Conclave in Noida, just outside Delhi, India, where he also called upon the industry to measure more than the direct spend of delegates in trying to ascertain the true value of the meetings business. Using an image of an iceberg to illustrate his argument, Sirk said most of the meetings industry’s value was unseen and while economic impact studies are delivering a useful message to politicians and media, they do not measure the “hidden depths” of the sector. He said: “The meetings industry is an engine of change at government policy level as well as being a deliverer of knowledge.”
He cited examples of diabetes and dental conferences being held in the Middle East as examples of how conference content can be used to highlight medical and other important issues. “The problem is that because our industry was born out of tourism, we tend to measure the tourism outputs alone. But we are not in the tourism business, we are in the healthcare business, the IT business and the engineering business. We need to stop measuring the $20 hotel breakfast and measure the $2 million deal that was concluded over that breakfast.”
Pictured: Martin Sirk