Breaking the rules of mathematics

Date: 01/04/2024


When AIPC and the Convention Centers of Canada (CCoC) decided to join forces and co-create a venue specific training for the Canadian community of convention centers, the objectives were multiple: value creation, increased reach, sustainability and the testing of a new format which could be rolled out in other continents. All the boxes were ticked, but more importantly it demonstrated how much can be achieved by working together.

The global community of convention centers is facing a number of challenges, and it will not come as a surprise that resources are top of the list. Attracting and retaining talent has never been as difficult as it is today. Therefore, it is very important to foster the talent we have, amongst others by providing them with high value professional education, taking into account some of the key values of the upcoming leadership: sustainability, inclusiveness, challenging and a sense of purpose.

But creating a tailored training for Canadian convention centers is not that straightforward. The variety in terms of size, service offering, and features of the Canadian venues is only paralleled by the variety in landscapes you can find in the second largest country of the world. And it is exactly at this point that AIPC and CCoC broke the rules of mathematics, demonstrating that 1 + 1 = a lot more than 2.

The unique insights into the Canadian venue landscape, provided by the CCoC leadership, combined with the global perspectives provided by AIPC allowed to create a programme which was a cocktail of lectures, workshops, games and networking, all focusing on bringing the participants to the next level of convention center management. The attendance level was higher than expected and so was the level of engagement of both the participants and the “teachers”.  We were delighted with the outcome.

So, was this a walk in the park? No. We don’t think co-creation ever can be, especially if you’re trying to create a programme which has the ambition to be inspirational for upcoming leaders.  That is why we would like to share three key lessons learned for anybody trying to co-create an educational programme.

First of all: agree from the start to disagree. Some of the most fabulous inventions have found their origin in the combination of very different points of view. Disagreement is something to embrace and treasure – within a framework and a sense of timing, because the programme needs to be delivered.

Secondly: be very clear on who is doing what. When you’re doing something by yourself, you’re the only one to blame. When you’re on a journey together, you might be tempted – in the very exceptional case something actually does go wrong – to start finger pointing. We found it very useful to agree as soon as possible on each other’s qualities and to stick to a division of roles which mirrored this determination. One additional point of attention: there might be qualities needed which are not readily available – just make sure the list of qualities of the parties involved matches the list of qualities needed.

Thirdly: share the creative experience. Both of us have a certain experience when it comes to building educational programmes and both feel very strongly about involving other persons in the creation process, preferably persons who can bring a touch of “wasabi” to the mix. Listening to people outside our natural bubble is always enriching, but it is even more so in a creative process. Inspiration might come from unexpected sources, from artists to architects. It’s just a matter of keeping your mind open.

Both of us had great fun in delivering this unique programme and both of us had to put in a lot more work than we ever thought. But as they say at L’Oréal: you’re worth it.

Barry Smith, Executive Director, Convention Centers of Canada
Sven Bossu, CEO, AIPC

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