Why venues need to meet the challenge of reinventing themselves

Why venues need to meet the challenge of reinventing themselves

AIPC CEO Sven Bossu says venues need to meet the challenge of reinventing themselves.


Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, described his institute as “a laboratory of learning, a place where the most challenging and difficult art of our time can be measured against the achievements of the immediate past”. This must sound very familiar to any manager running a convention centre, with the art of bringing people together being both difficult and challenging at this time and whereby measuring achievements needs to be re-invented to be meaningful.

The challenge event venues have is to build upon their past without being constrained by it. This is by no means a simple task. To re-invent yourself is difficult and goes beyond getting out of your comfort zone. 

Venues have already done some amazing things over the last 12 months. They have supported health care systems close to falling apart, setting up hospitals from Washington to Singapore. They have offered their key asset – physical space – to the ones in need of it, from the Parliament in Dublin to the Court of Justice in Copenhagen. Melbourne became a centre of the local movie industry, being both a film studio and a drive-in cinema.  And I could go on listing examples, demonstrating how much venues have indeed become a laboratory of learning.

Now, it is time for the next step and become inspired by a rapidly changing ecosystem. For instance, we need to have a careful look at the Sustainable Goals (SG) set forward by the World Health Organisation and make organised events the most efficient way of making those happen. Who is better placed than venues and their partners to achieve SG11: ‘Sustainable Cities & Communities’? Where will SG13 (Climate Action) be discussed in more depth than at the COP26 in Glasgow? And how will SG7 (Affordable and clean energy) be agreed upon, other than via organised events gathering the key stakeholders? 

At the same time, we must reach out to our immediate community and connect the dots. SG3 (Good health and wellbeing) could be partially achieved by using venue spaces in a different way, supported by local governments doing the impact assessment when it comes to health economy and funding the effort made by the event venues. Similar to the Sustainable Goals, which are interconnected, venues have touch points in, and impact on many areas within their ecosystem. Each of those touch points offers an opportunity for inspiration. An inspiration which will become our next normal.

Making it to that next normal will ask for venues to do things never done before. Teams are facing quite a few challenges: new skills are needed to meet new requirements, flexibility has moved to the next level and uncertainty is a certainty. But we are fortunate: venue teams – and event teams by extension – love challenges, and they are extremely good at turning them into opportunities. That is why AIPC is now launching a Future Ready Leaders initiative, bringing together venue management talent from across the globe to shape the future of venue management. As Gandhi said: the future depends on what we do in the present.

The previous normal no longer exists and it will not come back. And we all knew this would happen – it simply came a bit faster than expected. The same happened to the MoMa in New-York, which went through many transformations in its 90 years existence. During those years, MoMa clung on to its ambition: to be a site of narration, where stories can be developed and realised – and does so very successfully. Event venues worldwide will do the very same.

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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