IACC Americas Connect reinforces value of face to face

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IACC Americas Connect reinforces value of face to face

By Rich Luna | Jul 21, 2021

Add a successful IACC Americas Connect to the growing list of in-person conferences that are reinforcing the value of face-to-face business meetings and helping fuel recovery for the meeting and event industry.

Utilizing a pod system for a hybrid one-day conference, nearly 250 meeting professionals—mostly IACC members who represent small to medium-sized, globally certified venues—gathered in person Tuesday in Chicago, Dallas and Wilmington, Del. (along with a digital audience) to focus on education and much-needed face-to-face networking.

The event, originally scheduled to be in Dallas last year before being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic—the first time the conference was canceled in the 40-year history of IACC—added another chapter to the comeback of a vital business sector brought to a halt in March 2020.

IACC Americas Connect, following recent successful in-person conferences by MPI and Destinations International, added momentum for the return of face-to-face business meetings and events.

“Today promises to be a very different Connect,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC, who was at the Dallas event at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center. “If you’ve been to our event in the past, forget it. It’s going to look nothing like Philadelphia, nothing like Toronto and all of those that came before it. But most importantly we’re back together again to put the heart back into hospitality—and boy, doesn’t it deserve it. I’m already seeing that heart.

“We’re back together again to put the heart back into hospitality—and boy, doesn’t it deserve it. I’m already seeing that heart.”

“We had one design goal when we put this event together and that was to get as many people together live as we could and to put digital and technology at the heart of everything we do.”

Cooper himself was representative of the spirit and determination to get back to face-to-face meetings. He left England on July 1 and traveled to Bermuda, where he stayed for two weeks to meet the requirements to enter the U.S. before arriving in Dallas late last week.

“I would jump through every hoop to be back in this environment,” he said. “I’ve missed it so much. From my first hug yesterday when someone walked through the door from our group…I held back the tears. This actually is emotional.”

Once of his goals with the conference was to demonstrate engagement on multiple platforms, aligning with the conference theme, “Let’s #ReimagineNotRebuild.”

All the education and speakers, along with the popular Copper Skillet competition, were live for the in-person and digital audiences, the only exception being the first part of keynote Daniel Fox’s presentation.

IACC members adhere to a set of quality standards in physical meeting room design and food and beverage service-related standards to enable meeting planners to have a greater understanding of venues.

“It’s our responsibility to see the opportunity to create connections, to draw lessons from experiences and create what I call eureka moments.”

With live audiences in Dallas, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington and at the Summit Chicago, IACC Americas Connect’s education platform allowed for seamless transitions and interaction, beginning with the opening education session, “Goodbye Yesterday, Hello Tomorrow,” where attendees in each pod broke into groups for discussion, then came back to share findings with the full audience.

“We didn’t want to just stream what we’re going here,” Cooper said. “We wanted everyone to be involved. We wanted to show a many different formats as possible.”

A similar format was utilized for the IACC Invention Room education sessions, facilitated in Dallas by Jessie States, director of the MPI Academy.

Each destination implemented duty of care protocols based on local and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Attendees also agreed to a code of conduct as part of their registration.

The Dallas audience included several industry leaders, including Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI, and Amy Calvert, CEO of the Events Industry Council.

In addition to Fox, a wilderness explorer, author and founder of Feel the Wild VR, the other keynote was Gregg Offner, a disruption expert. Offner was a corporate sales and insurance executive who also was a professional musician and dueling piano player whose vocal cords were severely damaged. He told the attendees he believes life is “just one big mashup.”

“It’s our responsibility to see the opportunity to create connections, to draw lessons from experiences and create what I call eureka moments,” he said. “Those are the moments we’re looking to create for our clients, for ourselves, for our families.”

Marco Bahena from the David Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago; Antonio Costagliola from the Ridge Hotel in Basking Ridge, N.J.; Brandon Hartel from the Arden Shisler Conference Center in Wooster, Ohio; Shane Hawkins from the Texas A&M Conference Center in College Station, Texas; and William Pfeiffer from the Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Center for Learning in Armonk, N.Y., competed in the popular Copper Skillet competition, designed to highlight the artistry and skills of IACC-member conference venue chefs from around the world.

Hawkins captured Senior Chef honors after preparing pan-seared duck breast with cherry gastrique, pork tenderloin with Dijon mushroom cream, thyme fried potatoes and asparagus with fresh herbs.

Hartel received the Junior Chef award. He prepared bourbon pork tenderloin medallions and raspberry balsamic duck breast over mushroom, arugula and rosemary risotto, topped with a warm tomato and fennel salad.

IACC in-person attendees also participated in a community service project for Feed the City, making more than 2,300 meals that will be distributed in Wilmington, Chicago and Dallas.

Cooper announced that the 2022 IACC Americas Connect will take place at the Park MGM in Las Vegas, a property that features the Ideation Studio and Madison Meeting Center.



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.