Strategies, skills and resources needed to deliver valuable meetings 
Jan Tonkin, President of IAPCO (International Association of Professional Congress Organisers)
On 16 February you will kick off the IAPCO Annual General Assembly. Is there a specific theme for your congress?
The overall theme for the Meeting is Leading the Future, Creating Opportunities which is perfect for our association. Leading the Future embraces all the quality standards for which IAPCO is renowned, and Creating Opportunities talks about the strategies, skills and resources needed to deliver valuable meetings for our clients.
At the Meeting we discuss the all-important quality standards we strive for and participate in a Quality Seminar during the programme. The Meeting also embraces three other important components: networking in an environment that is more than collegial – we do feel like a family; a willingness to share best practice despite being competitors; and first-class presentations from experts who stimulate us to think differently.
Is your conference also of social and cultural resonance?
We believe so. Whatever we learn and absorb from the Meeting is disseminated, firstly, back at our offices, to our teams and colleagues and, secondly, from there, to our clients and suppliers with whom we share the new concepts, best practices and innovations discussed at the Meeting. All of our Annual Meetings include cultural experiences which help everyone better understand the nuances of working in a destination, its people and their traditions. And of course, we always aim to leave a legacy which, in this case, will be in keeping with the UAE’s Year of Giving.
For your congress you have chosen Dubai. Why?
Selecting the destination for our Annual Meeting is based on a Bid Submission system. Dubai was one such Bid. The imagination and creativity of the proposed programme ultimately swung the decision in Dubai’s favour. In addition, Dubai is one of IAPCO’s corporate partners and a key supporter of the quality standard of PCOs which form our membership. We have heard much about Dubai and the way the Middle East is embracing the meetings market so we were keen to see for ourselves. Indeed one of the programme sessions is specifically on “how to work in the Middle East”.
For those delegates who cannot join you in Dubai, can they participate remotely?
We do not have live remote participation, but all sessions form part of our on-line webinar package which is free to members to share with all of their team. We find that this on-line learning in individuals’ own time is of special benefit.
What are the main challenges for the IAPCO?
Profiling the value IAPCO members contribute to the success of conferences continues to be a focus for us. We are also continuing to expand our educational offering across a number of countries which creates its own challenges as we strive to design programmes relevant to various marketplaces and recruit just the right faculty members on each occasion.