...at least, that's how one of the Finnish heroes pledged alliance with the MICE industry. Finland is proving to be a great country for business travel and associative events once again. This is the story of four events that defied the odds and became benchmarks in a stalled industry.
It is likely that, in the not too distant future, one will try to describe this professional limbo by the various resistance stories of restless professionals who sought (and found) new ways of survival. When the pandemic hit Finland at the height of social restrictions, congress organisers and event planners found themselves in a world of trouble. How to keep your word to clients and create a bond of security in one of the most hostile periods to “meet and greet”?
Paving the way for a new year, Finland Convention Bureau (FCB) has unveiled four inspiring stories of local event heroes showing how they managed to combine small solutions and innovative experiences with health safety. These four focal events − different from each other in typology, structure and size - are proof that even in difficult times, obstacles can be turned into opportunities by making use of unlikely players, technological solutions and local resources. In the wake of a sustainable events industry, Visit Finland has also developed a business advisory programme called Sustainable Travel Finland providing companies and destinations with a concrete toolkit to tackle climate change.
The Finnish leadership has had the awareness to promote the country not only as a venue for high-level events, but also as a digital hub in the export of its own products and “grey matter”. Content will be even more important in the future, and congresses are great tools to create and enhance international reputation around universities, scientific institutions and associations. In this vein, the EAS Congress for the European Atherosclerosis Society in Helsinki, the 23rd IEEE International Workshop on Multimedia Signal Processing in Tampere, the European Bat Research Symposium in Turku, and Arctic Circle Jukola − the world’s largest orienteering relay race − held in Rovaniemi, were clear-cut examples of virtual transition, hybrid setups and interactive formats that summed up the trials and tribulations − in Finland but also a bit all over the world − of 2021.
The European Bat Research Symposium in Turku
Legacy means action! Ines Antti-Poika, business events manager at FCB, spoke to us:
1) How did this idea of compiling and promoting these four cases come about?
Us Finns don’t give up easily, and even in the times of the pandemic, our local congress organisers wanted to create memorable experiences to their peers, so they let their creativity fly. Organisers looked for innovations and created new ways of working. Essentially, they prepared for a new era of congresses and created a positive disruption of “old” meeting routines. This is what we wanted to highlight and celebrate – and this was the key idea behind our campaign. We wanted to bring the real heroes into the spotlight. Of course we also wanted to keep Finland top of mind of our international clients and share inspiring stories with a local twist.
2) Are you confident that hybrid events in Finland can sustain or even improve your market share in the long run?
It is very challenging to ensure an equal experience for both on-site and virtual attendees. It is crucial to all participants to get proper scientific feedback from their peers, and to be able to network and share ideas. There are definitely benefits in a virtual congress, but nothing beats meeting in-person. Virtual elements are a bonus; they work well for content delivery and can provide an option for those who cannot travel.
We believe in the power of face-to-face meetings, and feel that there is a lot of added value in organising physical meetings in Finland. Finland consistently ranks among the most popular congress destinations in the world, and our aim is to retain our status. I believe that the country will become even more attractive in the future, thanks to our infrastructure, accessibility and reputation as a reliable congress organiser. It is also very important for Finnish universities, research institutes and associations that they can showcase their expertise in their home country.
3) What is Finland’s legacy mission after the pandemic? Have you thought about it?
The pandemic has put us all under pressure. One of our key drivers is active local cooperation. I believe that business events are a catalyst for sustainable growth and they will help the industry recover. They also generate jobs as well as having a positive impact on society. We will continue to promote innovation and know-how and create lasting assets for our society. This will also help us increase competitiveness and perhaps even help win more bids in the future.
For Finland and for our local universities, congresses are an important platform for the dissemination of science and local knowledge. Therefore, it is important for us to motivate and help local hosts to organise meetings in their respective fields, in the country. And when it comes to the participants, I am sure they are keen to know Finland on a personal level and give back to the society by attending an event here.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.