BestCities 2019: Shaping the Congress of the Future

12th Feb, 2020

How can destinations boost the congress of the future adjusting to the main requests from associations? BestCities circled around this issue in a 4-day forum that propelled meeting planners, association leaders and MICE agents into a lively discussion.
Manuel Fernandes reports

2020 is a year of irreversible changes for the meetings industry. As we have been emphasizing in the HQ, a congress can have a magical effect on local economies and truly impact a destination. The heritage that one event leaves both in a small destination and in a large industrial center, might be decisive for its affirmation as a major economic hub or think tank. In the meetings industry, what precedes us defines our future and this reputation base is vital for all MICE structures. Thinking of an event as a purely commercial act, isolated from its social component is a far cry from today’s business. Add to that the growing awareness of environmental issues, sustainability, and new social architectures in these globalized societies, and here we have a new board to play on.

Last December, the BestCities event in Copenhagen tried to address these and many other questions through its slogan "exploring the congress of the future - fortifying impact". A rotating alliance of eleven global cities that join forces to highlight the positive influence that business events generate and how their unique features complement each other. After three remarkable editions, the Danish capital was chosen to host 20 international associations and the remaining members where strategic partnerships were discussed along with hot industry topics. Reflections on the future of the industry was an ever-present theme in an open showcase between the two ends of the rope: the association overview and the destinations’ supply.

Designing New Scenarios

In a good way, the city of Copenhagen does not cause any big surprises. Here, everything is managed in a balanced way with priority for the people – do not miss our report in the last HQ edition of 2019.
However, this apparent normality hides an admirable path that qualifies it, in fact, as ‘Best City’ for its ambitious goals in terms of sustainability, clean energy and social development. A walking friendly city with academic and research institutes just steps away from the most important congress centers and hotels. Therefore, we went to the Bella Center Congress to see how the Danish Design Center's minimalist approach is infusing different scenarios for the associations of the future. A series of interactive activities that spanned four alternative projections of a "congress" that will dominate the year of 2040 with all the challenges that spell out potential scenarios for our industry. Namely: Accelerated Adaptation; Catalyst for Change; Go Regional; Into the Wild. This was the result of joint work by the Copenhagen Convention Bureau and BestCities, which led to in-depth research in exclusive collaboration with future scientists and designers. In the evening, we had the pleasure of visiting Øksnehallen, an exhibition space located in the Vesterbro district that used to be a former market hall, part of the Brown Meat District.

The Legacy of Meetings

How can we ascertain the impact that a congress has on a city? What does this leave in concrete for local communities? Copenhagen Legacy Lab initiative was the icing on the cake of this global forum and came to summarize in a tangible way the empirical consequences of this meeting. Imagine that when hosting a medical congress, two scientists at different stages of research meet to develop an active cell that can serve as an antidote to cancer. What is done after all with this accumulated knowledge that MICE promotes in our cities and associations? The importance that this industry can play in making the world a better place is still largely underestimated.

And this is where this Legacy Lab comes in supporting and developing a positive, long-lasting and sustainable impact of international congresses. At the same time, this concept serves as a descriptive fact for choosing the best meetings for associations, which means that bad examples will eventually disappear. In this triangle between people, education and business, Copenhagen is leading a systematic approach in creating action for legacy and experience. This initiative is the responsibility of the Copenhagen Convention Bureau, with the support of MeetDenmark and the Danish Executive Board for Business Development and Growth and was presented in the The Carlsberg Museum & Business Centre.


Speakers turn!

During these four days, the agenda listed a series of interventions that emphasized team building, the measurable impact on the community and key performance indicators for a successful event. In fact, there was a slight trend in relation to issues such as public engagement, responsible policies for MICE and new interdisciplinary practices for associative management throughout the stay. After the group activities with Danish Design Center, the BestCities delegation attended a lecture with Nadim Matta on how to create “Impact in 100 days”. Thomas Trøst Hansen and Alessandro Cortese, spokesmen for the Legacy Lab, explained how to fortify Impact from a scientific perspective, using a brand-new toolkit developed in Copenhagen. After lunch on the last day, Claus Meyer, the world-renowned restaurateur who founded the no less famous Noma and New Nordic Cuisine, offered a passionate speech on the social repercussion and positive impact that unconventional thinking can build in our society. The event ended with the passing of the torch from Kit Lykketoft, director of Wonderful Copenhagen, to the new host of BestCities 2020, David Pérez from Madrid Convention Bureau. If you are an international association or ACM executive do not miss this opportunity in Madrid.

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