IACC (previously known as the International Association of Conference Centers), is the only global organisation that represents the interests of small- and medium-sized venues. I caught up with its CEO, Mark Cooper, to talk networking, training and copper skillets.
How long have you been involved with IACC?
I have been working for venues that have been IACC certified since 1993, so for quite a long time now. I first became actively involved directly with the association in 2010 and joined the board in 2011. It was in 2012 that I became CEO of the association.
Can you outline the mission?
IACC’s mission is to bring together the brightest industry minds to promote the best meeting venues delivering exceptional meeting experiences. It is important for us to raise quality within the sector as well as to recruit members of the highest quality – the gold standard. In summary, we want to represent the top 1% of meeting venues in the world.
What quality criteria must a venue meet?
One of the core criteria is that member venues must be designed and operated for small- to medium-sized meetings and conferences. Venues cater for, on average, meeting sizes of 100 delegates, though are flexible in their offering. Room space should be specifically for meetings and no other purposes.
We have 60 criteria that members must fulfil, ranging across design, facilities, hospitality and service, as well as technology and sustainability. Meeting planners understand the importance of each of these elements in ensuring a successful meeting. IACC member properties are designed and operated to ensure their clients have the most productive environment, supported by the best staff, with a commitment to help the client achieve the outcomes they are seeking.
How many UK venues are affiliated with IACC, and is there scope to grow in the UK?
Currently there are 44 IACC affiliated venues across the UK. There is always scope to grow across the UK, however at the moment our focus is to grow across the Asia Pacific market.
Does IACC run any training sessions or professional development courses?
Absolutely! We run a variety of programmes for the purpose of professional development for our members. These include E-learning: a line-up of online courses offering valuable training which will help develop sales, marketing and customer service skills; Training courses, which focus on face-to-face training and educational opportunities available in a member’s region; Interactive webinars covering a range of topics to develop members’ knowledge and improve the way they do business; A host of IACC conferences around the world where members can meet like-minded members, learn and seek global innovation.
Then there is the IACC Sales solutions, where we have partnered with Master Connection Associates (MCA) to deliver bespoke training that is designed to address every nuance of the meetings industry at members’ properties. We are also connected with Meeting Professionals International (MPI), offering IACC members a suite of training and learning opportunities.
For many years IACC has granted scholarships to deserving students in hospitality programmes globally. We also support a number of initiatives aimed at educating the next generation of industry leaders about the possibilities that exist in the conference centre industry. IACC’s chapters work hard to deliver a range of initiatives, such as student scholarships, partnering with global hospitality schools, student participation at conferences, events and volunteer groups and a global internship programme.
How does IACC engage with its members?
In addition to the educational programme, we engage with our members by delivering conferences and events that bring together members, where they can learn from each other and gain inspiration and share knowledge.
What is IACC’s target over the next 12 months?
At the moment we’re very much focused on building our presence and members in South America, Asia and the Middle East & Africa. Our goal is to achieve 500 global members by 2020.
A key part of IACC’s activity is the Meeting Room of the Future research. We plan to launch our latest research in this field in two phases, with the first phase focusing on views of meeting planners and launched at the MPI World Education Congress in Las Vegas.
The second phase will be focusing on the views of suppliers and we aim to launch that at IMEX America in Las Vegas in October.