How can Intelligence Exchange benefit your Association?

How can Intelligence Exchange benefit your Association?


Article published by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) which includes a description of the collaboration between The Conference Company and Canadian-based conference management company, International Conference Services.

Intelligence-Exchange or knowledge share, is a term that we hear within private and public industry clusters and from so many stakeholders today.  The consensus seems to be that if properly executed, it can have profound beneficial outcomes, both tangible and intangible.    Yet, intellectual property, privacy concerns, brand loyalty, customer and membership acquisition, all seem to fight against this altruistic concept that many associations and NGOs practice, which is to share knowledge for the greater good.

Most Not-for-Profits (NFPs), including associations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), societies and federations all share similar challenges – trying to solve big issues with meagre resources.  

So, how can knowledge-exchange benefit such organisations when it comes to their events, meetings and congresses?

Events and congresses play a key role in generating revenue and bolstering the resources for many of the aforementioned organisations, whilst providing much needed revenue to service their respective membership activities.  Navigating through a strategy of sharing knowledge in order to generate successful outcomes from an event or congress is essential for many but will be a challenge for all parties involved.

A key success factor in staging an event or congress of any size is the intelligent and strategic selection of a host location and city.  It is of vital importance to that NFP’s overall objective as it can directly influence attendance and participation from attendees, sponsors and exhibitors, to name only a few.  Associations must therefore be selective in the regions and cities where they decide to host such events.

Cities are aware of this and, as such, knowledge exchange between them when bidding for an event or congress can be of immense value to both the NFP and the city and its stakeholders.  Sharing of event or congress data regarding size, number of delegates, duration and economic impact value is nothing new.  Cities and Convention Visitor Bureaux (CVBs) around the world have been exchanging such data for years either direct with one another or through their membership of organisations such as ICCA or the UIA and their respective database platforms.  The type of data therein is important as it helps to qualify the potential size of a specific event by providing relevant statistics.   

However, the most vital piece of knowledge-exchange between two or more CVBs when one is beginning to map out their bidding strategy to host a congress is the non-data or intangible ‘soft’ information.  We are beginning to experience much deeper knowledge-exchange between a current or previous host CVB and a future bidding CVB on the bidding processes, political structure of a relevant NFP, decision-making process, budget considerations and expectations of host city support.  This type of knowledge from one entity to the other can, and does, provide competitive advantage when there are numerous CVBs bidding for the same event and can only happen when the CVB sharing the intelligence is open and willing to share with the bidding CVB with whom they have a mutual relationship.  

At the delivery end of the event or congress, NFPs often have limited human resource and expertise to deliver events so must rely on third party outsourced professionals such as event agencies or Professional Congress Organisers (PCOs) to do so on their behalf.   Working together successfully sometimes for several years, relies on a shared understanding of both parties’ objectives and an open and transparent sharing of relevant information, knowledge and technologies. 

It is essential then, that NFPs must share and exchange a certain amount of intelligence regarding membership information, corporate partnership agreements and potential funding and grant programmes with their selected PCO in order to ensure that a succinct and collaborative event strategy is created and agreed well in advance.  The PCO and the NFP should be seen as partners in the delivery of that event and must agree a modus operandi of exchanging such knowledge while protecting privacy and intellectual property.  

Interestingly, knowledge-share when one considers its relation to collaboration within numerous PCOs can be a powerful strategy when implemented effectively and when the relevant parties have clear roles and responsibilities.  Recently, The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) conducted interviews with numerous PCOs to deliver the FIGO XXIII World Congress in Sydney in 2021.  Two IAPCO PCOs, International Conference Services and The Conference Company, took a strategic decision to come together in order to share their knowledge of congress management, international and local reach and experience of delivering similar congresses in Australia as well as other parts of the world.   The result is they won the contract to deliver FIGO in Sydney in 2021.

It is not unusual for one PCO to partner with a local event company or destination management company (DMC) to provide the local expertise and connections when that PCO does not necessarily have key local contacts. However, the strategy for two PCOs to share intricate business practices, systems and human resources is perhaps something a bit more unique.   

Finally, and perhaps the most important consideration, in order to appreciate the importance of knowledge-exchange for the NFP, one has only to look at the event or congress itself.  As a key activity within the NFP’s membership engagement programme, the event or congress is designed to recognise, promote and facilitate opportunities for knowledge exchange to take place during such an event.   Examples abound that demonstrate positive outcomes following the chance (or planned) meeting between two academics, scientists or researchers (as examples) at such an event.  A platform providing each of them the opportunity to share initial research findings and to then agree to collaborate on further research and knowledge exchange, very often across several institutions and geographical regions, has, in many cases, resulted in the development of life saving vaccines, rehabilitation technologies and other transformative outcomes, far too many to mention.  

From an international perspective, recent political shifts away from a global to a more nationalistic focus within some regions of the world could threaten the opportunities for such international knowledge exchange as financial support to attend such events and congresses may be re-directed towards more national interests.  NFPs must continue to push for open opportunities for knowledge exchange between their members, partners, host cities and service providers in order to ensure that the relevant knowledge between parties can continue to develop and result in further developments for the greater good.

Quite simply, a combination of a unified voice, a clear mission and a mutually beneficial environment of collaboration and knowledge exchange must be at the epicentre of any group if it is to grow and succeed.

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