Need to become more agile

// Katharina Brauer

James Rees, President of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) since November 2018, on the first 100 days of his presidency.

James Rees, Executive Director im ExCEL London, ist seit November 2018 ICCA-Präsident.

CIM: Mr. Rees, what is your personal experience of the first 100 days of your ICCA presidency?
James Rees: It was such an honour to be voted as the new ICCA President. I must admit, my focus until that point had been on the campaign, rather than the immediate aftermath if I was elected. It has been a hectic time since, meeting with the team at Head Office, liaising with Dennis Speet and his team and working on the plans for 2019, in particular the commercial innovations we are developing.

What are the most important strategic goals of ICCA?
The key strategy for me and for the Board this year is to focus our energy on ICCA’s finances which underpin the wider strategic goals set out in our 5-year plan. I am pleased to say that good progress is being made. This will allow the Board to build its strategy and develop new services and support for our members worldwide.

“Decentralization of services” has been mentioned as one goal in your campaign. What exactly does it mean?
I am convinced that the “one size fits all” approach to provide ICCA services is no longer enough. We need to provide customized solutions which are appropriate to the regions we serve. During my campaign, this was a clear message from members. I will work with the Board to give our regional offices the resources they need to provide enhanced support to help their business needs in their region. ICCA needs to become more agile in its structures so we can act and react to changing client demand.

What impact does the digitalization have on ICCA’s work?
With the launch of our new CRM, we are in the process of using digitalisation to maximise member-value, personalise services for members and centrally coordinate member-recruitment. We are working on funnels for member recruitment, sales and business development.
We are putting more effort into our online knowledge hub to extend the life-cycle of valuable content shared by our global community at ICCA events and elsewhere, by publishing educational takeaways, interviews and case studies presented at the ICCA Congress or AMP. We aim to be the true global knowledge hub on association meetings.

ICCA has appointed Senthil Gopinath as the new CEO.
The most important part of my first 100 days was to work with the Board to coordinate the interview process and I am delighted that we have now made that appointment with the selection of Senthil Gopinath. Senthil is someone who understands the ICCA culture and the ICCA family but is also ready to embrace change and drive through the innovations that we on the Board and our members are demanding. ICCA has been too slow in adapting to the new realities of the association events market. I feel confident that the new CEO and the teams are ready to take on that challenge.

Your predecessor, Immediate Past President Nina Freysen-Pretorius, has as well acted as an advocate for Africa. What do you think of the future of the meetings destination UK?
The UK and Ireland market remains very strong. We have one of the most active Chapters, driven by a fantastic Chair and Committee. I will be playing my part to ensure our voice of advocacy resonates with Government through the unknown challenges presented by Brexit. We have a highly-skilled and experienced industry across the whole of our Chapter. We are ready to adapt to whatever the political landscape provides.

Thank you very much, for the interview Mr. Rees.