Associations are vital organisations for their members, sharing learning between delegates, creating communities, and furthering lifelong learning. In Scotland all of your delegates are welcome, and we know they will receive a warm Scottish welcome wherever they go.

We caught up with our associations and sectors team to discuss their experience and knowledge of the sector, how they created enhanced opportunities for delegates to learn and engage with Scotland's academics and key sectors.

Rory Archibald, Senior Business Events Manager

Rory at JtC Business Events Conversation

Rory Archibald at Journey to Change: Business Events Conversation

I came into the business events industry more than 15 years ago, experiencing a variety of roles at several hotels and venues before joining VisitScotland in December 2015.

Over the seven years my role has evolved, and I am now responsible for overseeing the marketing and PR for all of business events, directing the implementation of the business events strategy across all teams and deputising for the Head of Business Events.

I work with the rest of the Associations and Sectors team to promote Scotland as an academic and sectoral conference destination while linking Scottish expertise and innovation in order to capture social transformation wherever possible through the power of events.

Nothing quite beats the uniqueness and intrigue of the associations market. One day you are discussing a niche topic with an esteemed academic and the next you have a call with the Scottish Government to discuss promoting our innovation through events. We are privileged to be able to travel across Europe and North America to various trade shows, industry conferences and sales missions to promote our country and all that it offers.

Every event we work on is notable in its own right, with hundreds of association and sectoral conferences coming to Scotland each year.

In 2019, I was lucky enough to attend the TEDSummit in Edinburgh, a four-day event packed with inspirational talks from some of the world’s leading minds. The team worked closely with Convention Edinburgh, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise to help secure the event.

Another event that I was fortunate enough to attend was the A3 Conference, which took place in April 2022 and promoted Scotland’s animal health, agritech and aquaculture industries. This event was very special; it was conceived in Scotland and VisitScotland Business Events supported it from the beginning to make it a reality.

Association events are a chance to unite world’s leaders around the same table. The opportunity at each and every event is to discover new innovations that have the power to change the world. Scotland’s pedigree on discoveries, which have quite literally changed the world overnight, is impressive and that continues to this day by engaging delegates with our academia and knowledge, to share what we do and to learn from the rest of the world. There is no destination that embraces collaboration, innovation and the desire for positive societal transformation more than Scotland.

Scotland is the destination that made its name, changing the world, and the #JourneyToChange continues more powerfully that it ever has done.

Fiona Mackinnon, Assistant Manager - Associations & Sectors

Fiona at jtc business events conversation

Fiona Mackinnon at Journey to Change: Business Events Conversation

I have worked within the VisitScotland Business Events team since 2016. My role is primarily to inspire associations to hold their events in Scotland through marketing and the promotion of the country as a conference destination.

We look to attract events that benefit Scotland and where we have local expertise on the subject matter. The other side of our work is to know and work with our key sectors, facilitate introductions and to highlight our country’s strengths.

One benefit for conference organisers is Scotland’s collaborative approach and how well connected we are with our academics, innovation centres and industry. As a small nation we have always worked with others, and we do so with passion and a genuine interest in making each event memorable and meaningful.

I have worked in many business events roles over the last 30 plus years, predominately in sales and each role has involved working with and supporting business event clients, across meetings, incentives, and conventions.

I find associations to be fascinating organisations. The regular conferences that each association organises provides their members with an invaluable platform to make connections, learn, present research, mentor and be mentored as their careers progress.

Each congress is a time away from their individual job roles and a chance to enhance their professional life. Being the host destination for these events is an honour and a chance for each group to understand the work in the sector taking place in Scotland and to enjoy the warmth of Scottish hospitality.

Personally, I have found each association I have worked with directly to be fascinating, but SPIE and the European Space Agency stand out; they are both fantastic organisations, which are involved in such interesting work.

Scotland is such a great choice for association events as we can really look to understand their aims and work with them to ensure that the country not only delivers a memorable conference but exceeds their original expectations. As a small country, it is easy for both organisers and delegates to move around our conference cities and enjoy the many cultural elements they expect, with our world-renowned music, food and stunning landscapes. Leaving a lasting memory and a desire to return.

Sian Williamson, Assistant Manager - Associations & Sectors

Sian at ITN event potrait image

Sian Williamson at Innovate The Nation talk

My role within VisitScotland Business Events involves helping to bring national and international association events to Scotland.  Prior to joining the associations team, I worked for a legal firm for seven years doing marketing and events so I have experienced organising small and large events from a client perspective. Although, marketing Scotland, however, is much more exciting than wills and powers of attorney.

I have worked in the team since 2009 and I still feel very privileged to work here. When I started, I worked within the corporate and incentives team and moved across to work within the associations and sectors team in 2015, it was a steep and refreshing learning curve they are very different markets.

My wider role within the team involves the implementation of sales and marketing activities, researching associations and our Scottish industry and sectors. Along with my colleague Patrick, I also administer our VisitScotland National Conference Bid Fund and support our marketing team with social media and website project work. I have also had the opportunity to work closely with my colleagues to deliver successful projects like Legends and Journey to Change.  My role is very varied day to day which keeps it interesting after 13 years and I have been lucky enough to work with and be supported by so many great colleagues along the way.

Within my role I have also been able to host and support many events. In 2018, VisitScotland supported the World Down Syndrome Congress, although I wasn't directly involved in the logistics of the congress itself, I was the lead in administering our VisitScotland National Conference Bid Fund award for the event. It was a great feeling to know that we were supporting a business event coming to our country which championed inclusive societies and had a positive impact.

Scotland has so much to offer the association market. Our pioneering spirit goes back centuries and we are still at the forefront of many world-leading projects and innovations today. We are an inclusive country, welcoming to all with a love of our culture, our lands and traditions. We want delegates who come to Scotland to experience all of this and return to experience this with their family and friends.

Patrick Lamont, Business Events Policy Engagement Manager

Patrick Lamont at ICCA Global Association Community Forum

Patrick Lamont at ICCA Global Association Community Forum

I have worked for VisitScotland Business Events team since 2016. My role has adapted and evolved since I joined, and at the moment I work across several of our key projects including the National Conference Bid Fund, the Journey to Change marketing campaign and the newly launched Transformation Protocol. I see my role as one that is to help promote Scotland as a destination for all types of business events, and to work with both our key partners and clients to help make their events as successful as possible. We have just begun an important transition towards aligning conference support to Scottish Government policy, and really trying to help government understand that conferences can be catalysts for change, not just economic events – and that’s something I’m very excited to be involved with.

My background in events was a bit different – I was working in Afghanistan for an NGO when I became involved with TED and helped to organise the first ever TEDx conference in Kabul in 2012. When I finally moved home to Scotland in 2016, I was really keen to work for VisitScotland, and the opportunity to work in business events again was one I was delighted to take.

I think the association world is a really fascinating one to be involved with. I’m really proud that Scotland is leading a new understanding of association events as potential agents of social and economic change and moving away from just seeing them as a source of hotel occupancy and revenue. The great thing about working with associations is how diverse the subjects are and learning so much about so many different areas of work. I think Scotland has a lot to offer associations, especially those who are keen to break the mould and engage with a destination in a new way. Of course, we have beautiful venues and world class facilities, and hospitality, but we can also connect associations with our innovation and research centres, and in return we can learn from them at a policy level.

Scotland offers associations a destination willing to engage, learn and to share our own knowledge at a much deeper level, and I think that’s pretty exciting.

If you have any questions, please find the assocaitions & sectors' team contact details here.