Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd.

News that three of the most prominent business event associations are putting ‘collaboration over competition’, pooling their resources to bring greater value to their members, reveals much about the shared paths our industries are following.

The global associations AIPC (International Association of Convention Centres), ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) and UFI (Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) have embarked on a programme of exchange and reciprocity in four primary areas: educational content, research, standards and advocacy.

Such alliances are often a shrewd way to improve the appeal of membership, but here it seems that as the boundaries between the various definitions of a business event (trade show, convention, congress etc) are blurred, it makes sense to pool insight and resource, and provide access to this to all members.

So what does it mean in practical terms? At the alliance’s announcement the associations claimed they will now incorporate each other’s knowledge into their respective conferences, align shared agendas areas such as research and advocacy, as well as interests on issues like standards, terminology and best practice.

While an association is primarily seen as representative, the language being spoken was more in keeping with a guild, seeking to enrich members’ interests and qualifications.


And of course, such unity also enhances the credibility of the business events industry as a whole.

“Think of it as a kind of ‘Star Alliance’ network for the global business meetings industry,” explains UFI CEO and MD Kai Hattendorf. It’s an apt analogy; more than 50 exhibition industry associations are UFI members, organised in a special committee and represented on both the association’s executive committee and board of directors.

Crucial to maintaining these affiliations with the industries represented at our events is the fact these associations don’t run regional chapters that compete with national industry associations. And this continues to be the case under the new alliance. “We support national associations wherever we can to drive growth and development for our industry around the world. This sets UFI apart, and it’s this way of thinking that will drive our collaboration with AIPC and ICCA,” confirms Hattendorf.

Instead, the focus will be on enabling their respective members to do a better job for their clients, by exchanging content and insights that provide better access to additional resources. And as Hattendorf’s AIPC counterpart Rod Cameron observes, “this will not only enhance overall industry performance but boost our collective credibility amongst other industry sectors”.

“By creating better integration of our efforts we will be in a position to better leverage everyone’s investment and create greater efficiencies for the use of our member’s time – one of the most valuable resources we all have these days,” added ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath.

For example, senior UFI representatives are regular speakers, moderators, and facilitators at the main global events of these two associations – representing our exhibition industry’s perspective and needs. Two years ago UFI and ICCA collaborated on a workshop for 40 members from both associations in search of the benefits of alignment.

It’s not just the topics that they share; Hattendorf is the current president of another industry association Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), while AIPC President Aloysius Arlando serves on the board of UFI. By being embedded behind association lines, there is much that the organisations already share, and pragmatically is was just a matter of time before these mutual agendas became official.

None the less, it is a welcome development for our industry, strength in unity and all that.

“We are all organisations with a global membership and perspective and already complement each other’s activities in various ways,” explains Arlando. “However, as the business models of exhibitions, congresses, conferences, and other types of business meetings evolve, the overlap of global associations servicing the industry is growing even further.”

The associations will hold a session at the UFI Congress in Bangkok to identify areas of common interest for education and research, but what would you like to see them work together on? Do you think this alliance will benefit members? I’d be interested in hearing from you at

Read Part II of this blog: Making it count