AWC 2024

Association World Congress 2024

Article published 27/06/2024

The association industry is at a crossroads, navigating a rapidly evolving landscape which has been shaped by shifting member expectations, emerging technologies, and mounting global challenges such as climate change.

In June (9 - 11), the VisitScotland Business Events team attended the 11th Association World Congress (AWC) in Graz, Austria, to learn about the challenges facing the association sector and its future landscape. The AWC unites more than 70 global suppliers and 80-90 association representatives from across the world. 

Sian Williamson, Assistant Manager - Association & Sectors discusses her time at AWC and her highlights from the event.

The world has changed, and still is changing

The opening keynote for the AWC featured a thought-provoking presentation by Sasha Frieze of The Business Narrative. Frieze highlighted the importance of crafting transformational association events, that go beyond mere information-sharing to truly engage delegates on a profound, purpose-driven level.

"The world has changed, and is still changing," Frieze emphasised, pointing to the myriad challenges associations face, from rising costs to the climate crisis. Events can put something back into the community they are hosted in and create long-lasting collaborative connections with that host destination."

Frieze's session resonates deeply with VisitScotland Business Events' ethos and messaging, including initiatives such as Journey to Change and the Transformation Protocol, which explore how business events can drive positive social and environmental impact.

Award winning Scots

The evening networking events offered some fantastic opportunities to network with like-minded individuals and industry colleagues to discuss the work taking place in our sector.

A highlight for me was The Association Congress dinner and International & European Association Success Awards Ceremony, held in the historic surroundings of Old University Graz. I was so proud to see two Scottish association professionals, Caroline MacKenzie of ISHA - The Hip Preservation Society and Victoria Withy of the European Society of Endocrinology, receive accolades for their impactful work.

A destination for future events

On the final day of the AWC, we had the opportunity to connect with suppliers and associations to discuss Scotland as a destination for events and the innovative and collaborative spirit driving the country's business events sector.

Reflecting on the event, Sian Williamson said: "No matter where we come from and what the purpose of our organisation is, we can learn how to address difficulties and challenges together. The AWC really highlighted to me what a welcoming community the association and business events industry really is.

"As the industry navigates an era of profound change, the AWC served as a powerful reminder of the transformative potential of business events. By encouraging meaningful connections, amplifying innovative ideas, and celebrating shared successes, this congress reinforced the vital role associations play in shaping a better future".