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Scottish Event Campus (SEC), Glasgow

Article Published 27/03/2023

Thursday, 30th March marks Global Meetings Industry Day, and naturally we are proud to support this important day and highlight the hard work and dedication across the industry, and to recognise the growing importance of business events as agents of economic and social transformation.

This year the ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter meeting is currently taking place in Glasgow (29th to 31st March). As our industry friends and colleagues from across the UK & Ireland join us in Scotland, we took the opportunity to speak with three of Scotland's leading business events voices.

Kathleen Warden, Director of Conference Sales at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) and Aileen Crawford, Head of Tourism and Conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau, tell us why they have brought ICCA to Glasgow this year, and share some personal reflections on the future of business events and the global meetings industry. We also hear from Rory Archibald, Senior Business Events Manager, VisitScotland Business Events who shares his own reflections on the importance of business events.

Why did you want to bring ICCA to Glasgow in 2023?

KW:  ICCA brings our community together with the aim of sharing and growing as a sector.  We believe it is important to play our part in supporting the industry to do just that by hosting the conference in Glasgow. 

AC: Glasgow Convention Bureau has been an ICCA member for many years, so it is an honour to give back to our association community at ICCA UK & Ireland by hosting the Chapter conference. As all of us who work with associations know, the community relies on volunteers to put themselves forward to host a future meeting. We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with our venue friends and partners at the SEC to host the 2023 event.
The theme is meet the future - what does that mean for you?

KW: This means being ready to take the industry forward and poised to lean into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. There are many, and we are an industry that responds well to a dynamic and changing environment.

AC: The conference theme of Meet the Future allowed the ICCA UK & Ireland programme committee to take the educational sessions into interesting new areas, all tied together through the theme…the future of talent, the future of sales and the future of food. The theme gave us scope to be forward thinking, to keep innovating, adapting, and shaping what conferences could look like for us all working in the sector.

RA: We have many challenges and opportunities ahead of us. How our industry responds to the climate crisis, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and the global economic and political landscape will define us and set out the course of our future. We have a real chance to reset what business events mean to society and how it is a contributor to social and environment progress that other industries can follow.

Glasgow has a vibrant meetings industry, how do you think the near future will evolve?

KW: The biggest change we are seeing in the industry is a determination to do events better than ever before, by making them socially inclusive, and financially and environmentally sustainable. Our planners are looking for partners who can help them deliver on the core and wider aspects of their events, delivering on purpose as well as content and commerce. Glasgow and Scotland have ambitious net zero targets, and at the SEC we have taken the bold step of committing to a 2030 timeline. Glasgow and Scotland provide a great option for organisers who design events with sustainability at their heart.

AC: Glasgow regularly hosts more international delegates than any other UK city outside London. The teams at the Convention Bureau and SEC have decades of experience delivering prestigious national and international conferences and this experience gives meeting planners a confidence that their city and venue partners exist to work with them through their event journey. The conference world has always evolved, and will continue to do so, so it is our job to listen and react according to our clients' requirements.

RA: Many planners are looking for destinations that have clear frameworks to combat the climate crisis and make DEI and CSR (corporate social responsibility) a priority. Although there is much work to be done, Scotland is making great strides in these areas. Where planners are not prioritising these areas, it's our job to educate and encourage these areas to become priorities as events must contribute positively to our local communities. 
Thursday, 30th March is Global Meetings Industry Day - how important is it to recognise what business events can achieve, and have this day or acknowledgement?

KW: The power of events is multifaceted, driving social and economic and environmental change. It is critical that we fly the flag for the industry to ensure the continued support and understanding of what we can achieve. Our industry brings circularity and regeneration to our knowledge economy, delivers incredible experiences, and makes an indelible mark on our city and country, as well as for our attendees who learn and develop and go on to change the world.

AC: Everyone working in business events is already an advocate and understands the power of events, but for those not working in the industry, having a day to shine a light on the sector can only be a good thing. As VisitScotland's Journey to Change highlights, we meet today, to change tomorrow.

RA: Business events is a unique industry, sometimes describes as a 'nexus' industry. It touches nearly every other industry in the world, bringing world leaders, thought leaders, scientists, industry pioneers and humanitarian champions together to solve global issues. They give a stage to those less heard, and they give to governments a major to tool to create positive transformation.

Can you share with us one standout moment from your career where you've seen an event have a real impact / legacy?

KW: It has to be COP26. This event was designed to change the course of the global response to climate change. It's our biggest challenge we face, and the vehicle for driving change was a conference. That was a WOW moment for me. It brings to life, in no uncertain terms, the power of events.

AC: The award-winning People Make Glasgow Healthier campaign that Glasgow Convention Bureau ran throughout 2019 was a culmination of great collaborative working with our conference organisers, a chance to try out new ideas with a focus on delivering legacy and impact, and a little bit of serendipity. People Make Glasgow Healthier came to fruition when we realised there were a number of medical conferences coming to the city with important public health messages. This was an opportunity to take the subject matter of the conference outside the walls of the convention centre and into the community. Working in partnership with our five association conferences we delivered seven public events that shared important health messages to over 1,500 people in Glasgow.

RA: Events that delivery true legacy isn't always the big-ticket events. Smaller events often touch people's lives in ways that don't always hit the major headlines. Events that raise awareness of health conditions, encourage diversity in STEM industries, promote inward investment to rural areas or support the next Scottish entrepreneurs to establish a world changing organisation are the types of events that can change lives overnight.