“Ready for change” 
Around 15,800 associations are an important element of the convention culture in Germany. The 15th convention of German associations discussed the forces affecting and driving them.
Düsseldorf. Now in its 20th year, the Germany Society for Association Management (DGVM) joined up with its partners Verbändereport and Kölner Verbände Seminare to organise its 15th convention of German associations at the Maritim Hotel Düsseldorf. 235 participants, including 28 sponsors, came to the event on 25 and 26 April 2016, whose provocative slogan translates roughly as "On trial: the future viability of the association model". "Membership numbers are rising, as is the proportion of women both in association offices and here at the convention. Both association models, whether service oriented or professional, are successful," emphasised DGVM president Dr Hans-Joachim Mürau in his opening address.
Thomas Timm, president of the German-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in São Paolo, shone a light on the effects of demographic change, diversity and social media. "All members have to decide whether they are getting value for their membership," said Timm, who organises a one-day event each year for 15,000 people, and has implemented an exemplary trainee programme. "The most important thing is to be ready for change and maintain self-determination," he stressed.
Seven association chief executives, who were also nominees for the award presented in the evening, discussed how to implement this credo in practice. The audience heard an abundance of ideas, with concepts such as public value being discussed.
Electronic communication, campaign management and the sharpening of an association‘s profile were just some of the topics addressed in the afternoon sessions. For the first time there was also a roundtable format, which significantly increased delegate participation. "I am not delivering a talk; the format is defined by the interests of the participants," said Günter Käfer, owner of Kaefer Brand Genome, following a lively exchange.
Further changes to the convention were the fully electronic registration process implemented by Chips at Work, a speed dating session before the opening address and the format of the evening award presentation event. For the first time, the nominees were not portrayed by themselves but by DGVM in a PowerPoint presentation. Among the award winners were those that had positioned their brand, completed a change management process or changed their image by means of a TV ad.
"We have more sponsors this year: 28. We consciously avoid referring to them as exhibitors. They also take part in the programme," explained DGVM managing director Wolfgang Lietzau. Carola Hildebrandt of the RheinMain CongressCenter Wiesbaden confirmed how enriching this is. The 3D presentation of the centre, which is due to open in 2018, attracted much attention. Sponsors from Strasbourg, Basel and Interlaken also indicated their satisfaction. Jörg Märzdorf, manager of the Dresden Convention Bureau, went home with an enquiry for an association event with 600 delegates. "The convention will be held at the Maritim Hotel Düsseldorf again in the spring of 2018. The high density of association offices in the area continues to make this the first choice," explained Lietzau.
Katharina Brauer
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