By ABPCO association director Heather Lishman
There are few paths more rewarding than a career in association events. The breadth of skills gained in areas such as sponsorship, delegate acquisition and the financial management of a congress with the turnover of an SME speak for themselves, but there is also the emotional reward of organising a congress that can potentially change lives through, for example, breakthroughs in research.
However, there is a real issue when it comes to attracting the next generation of professionals in association conferences and then providing the motivation for them to remain on that chosen path.
The fact is that corporate and public events, as well as festivals, will often get the lion’s share of attention in event management courses. This generates the perception that association events are less exciting, too long term in their planning and therefore they often get left out of the spotlight.
Can we blame students for not choosing a path into association events when they cannot see it clearly laid out in front of them?
So, how to solve this issue and ensure that students have the option to make that choice? It’s simple and it all begins with working with the universities themselves.
ABPCO has for a number of years set out a strategy to begin working in partnership with universities that provide excellent event management courses with the likes of Leeds Beckett, London Metropolitan and Surrey working hand in hand with the association. The universities not only become members of ABPCO, giving opportunities to their students to engage with the professional community, but we also provide opportunities to kick-start research benefitting from the input from the event professionals we have within our membership ranks.
This link with universities, while important for the industry, also opens doors for students. One example is Noemi La Torre. Noemi, a student of the University of Greenwich, who actively joined the association and not only is she now a member of the executive board, but she has also used her new connections to secure a working placement with TFI Group. Her career trajectory to date is an example of how we can attract future professionals and set them on the right path.
But there is also the issue of motivation and ensuring that staff continue to work within the association event industry. ABPCO is now actively working on a mentoring scheme that will pair experienced association conference organisers with the next generation who will undoubtedly be the future of our industry.
Not only will this give younger event professionals an opportunity to educate themselves in the ‘real world’ but it will give their mentors the chance to share years and years of vital experience.
ABPCO is an association that feels like a close community and by adapting that ethos into our partnerships with universities and the students themselves we hope to attract, motivate and secure the future of association conference organising as a respected career.