ASAE’s Great Ideas in Association Management Conference, Asia-Pacific, which took place in Hong Kong last week, proved that meeting planners from around the world have a lot in common.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend ASAE’s Great Ideas in Association Management Conference, Asia-Pacific, in Hong Kong. It was great few days of learning, networking, and hearing about the issues that association executives outside of the United States are dealing with and how they’re innovating and better serving their members.
If attendees feel like a presenter could offer this session to anyone—or worse, that they don’t know to whom they’re speaking—they’ll lose interest and rate the meeting poorly.
While some of the challenges they face are very different from those of their U.S counterparts, especially in terms of government regulation and involvement, many of them are similar. This is particularly true when it comes to meetings and events. Here are a few meetings-related takeaways I got from presenters during my time there that are relevant to any association meetings team—no matter what side of the globe they are on.
The elements of success. During the session “Effective Delivery of Events,” Stephanie Gillett, senior event manager, Asia Pacific, for the Society of Petroleum Engineers in Malaysia, offered attendees a look at the Offshore Technology Conference Asia. This meeting attracts more than 20,000 attendees from 70 countries, 450-plus speakers, and 280 exhibiting companies. But, even more interesting, the conference involves more than 200 volunteers who serve on 15 committees and subcommittees.
Gillett said that while having all these volunteers involved is a lot to manage, she believes that it leads to a better conference. “Of course, and the end of every conference, there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “But I truly believe getting your stakeholders involved from the beginning is one element to a successful event.” She said doing so allows you to understand what their motivations are for attending, so that you can meet their expectations in terms of content, speakers, and networking opportunities.
High-octane fuel. You want your attendees to feel energized from morning to evening, right? Even more so, planners want to avoid “the dreaded PLS—post-lunch snooze,” said Ambarish Paralikkar, director of CMIGLOBAL in India, during the “Enhancing the Meetings Experience” session. “A sustained level of involvement involves the right diet.”
While planners may be tempted to fill attendees’ stomachs with chips, cookies, and other sugary treats throughout the day, Paralikkar shared research showing that doing so leads to “an overload of sugar and [attendees] suffer from a mental crash in their afternoon meetings.” Instead, attendees need proper fuel for learning. On the list: fresh fruits, nuts, yogurt, water, peanut butter, and the occasional piece of dark chocolate. “These type of initiatives will become more prevalent,” he said. “Especially as your attendees become more and more health conscious.”
Not the same old thing. In this same session, Noor Ahmad Hamid, regional director for the International Congress and Convention Association, Asia Pacific, in Malaysia, said associations “must challenge themselves to do something new and think outside the box.” He gave numerous examples of what ICCA has offered to attendees at past meetings. Among the offerings was the ability to watch a live surgery; get an insider tour of the Boca Juniors soccer stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and watch a group of professional drivers on the racetrack.
Hamid was quick to note that while these offsite events were fun, they also had a greater purpose. “We were able to find at least one takeaway our attendees would get from each of these that they could easily apply to their work,” he said. “That was truly the result of us knowing our audience. If you don’t know your audience, offering opportunities like this will backfire because attendees will realize quickly you don’t know them.”
Always-prepared speakers. Francesco Leboffe, manager of conferences for MEHK, Hong Kong Tourism Board, in New York City, added during this session that having well-prepared panelists and presenters plays a big role in a meeting’s success. “They must be thoroughly briefed,” he said. “They need to know the audience they are presenting to and why they’re in the room. If attendees feel like a presenter could offer this session to anyone—or worse, that they don’t know to whom they’re speaking—they’ll lose interest and rate the meeting poorly.”
Leboffe suggested that associations offer deep-dive speaker briefings prior to an event. He added that another role of any speaker is to encourage questions and comments from the audience. “You want them to feel like they’re part of it,” he said.
I came away with a better understanding that meeting planners in the Asia-Pacific region deal with many similar challenges as those all around the world—in fact, we’ve talked about a few of them in the past. What other commonalities do you think meeting planners across the globe have? Please share in the comments.