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Event Innovation: Leading by Example

IACC's annual meeting pushes creativity through new-idea and F&B competitions, plus a ban on wordy slides.

The annual conference of the International Association of Conference Centers Americas, held April 10-11 at Vantage Venues in Toronto, featured innovative ideas for the 230 conference-facility managers in attendance that they could use with their own meeting clients. In fact, the conference theme was "Radical Innovation: Change Everything!"

First, keynote speaker Pablos Holman—a former computer hacker turned inventor—emphasized that facility managers should not wait for meeting clients to bring innovative ideas to their venue. Instead, Holman encouraged them to keep up with new developments in related areas such as technology and behavioral science in order to become the disruptors within the events industry, especially when it comes to solving some of the industry’s biggest problems. "Pablos wants us to view the concept of change through a different lens—one which separates improvement from immediate business transformation and thus creates a culture where innovation is fully supported," says Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. "This idea created a lot of discussion among attendees."

For all sessions, conference organizers enacted a ban on PowerPoint presentations with slides that included more than one word, to force presenters to think differently about how to deliver their information and perspective as well as how attendees absorb what's presented. "The mission was to turn the stereotypical conference on its head and shake things up to create an environment where delegates could think differently," says Cooper.

In a fast-paced competition focused on event innovation, IACC members and suppliers were invited to deliver a four-minute elevator pitch featuring their innovation to a panel of judges. Janice Cardinale and Richard Emmanuel of metro-Toronto corporate entertainment agency The Idea Hunter won the competition with a pitch for the Social Roamer, a mobile photography solution that takes enhanced photos of attendees around the show floor and makes them quickly available for attendees to place into their social media feeds. 

As the final meal event of the conference, the annual Global Copper Skillet competition pitted facility chefs representing the Americas, Europe, and Australia against each other in a high-pressure scenario: Create a full meal using only the ingredients presented to them on the spot. Attendees ate their lunch while watching the chefs prepare multiple courses at cooking stations set around the ballroom, and while viewing in-the-moment interviews of the chefs via big screens. Michael Smith, a regular on Food Network Canada, was among the judges who crowned Sebastien Layen of Deloitte University | Benchmark in Westlake, Texas, as Senior Chef Champion and Niclas Jansson of Sigtunahöjden Hotel in Sweden as Junior Chef Champion. 

“I am truly impressed with the creativity from all the chefs," Smith said afterwards. "The ability to think on your feet and execute a dish only from what’s on hand is what we do every day, but once that clock starts ticking you never know what can happen.”

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