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ABPCO debate highlights failings in client, PCO and supplier relationships

Inadequate information, reticence to share project details and fundamental differences between commercial needs were all highlighted as barriers to the successful organisation of association events in the UK during a panel led debate organised by The Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre recently.

The event, which was held under Chatham House Rules, offered an opportunity for association clients, PCOs and suppliers to air their views on the supply chain process and challenges, before addressing key issues.  Following opening statements from a panel that included a cross section of the whole industry, individual groups gathered to discuss and identify solutions to specific needs including:  

• The need for associations to understand and make room for the financial realities faced by PCOs, venues and accommodation suppliers including cashflow, fixed v’s variable costs, availability, peak dates and the impact of attrition and cancellations.
• The importance of sharing information such as historic event data, opportunities for shared revenue, past failures and marketing opportunities.  As one venue participant pointed out: "We are willing to negotiate far more than people realise around certain areas - but can only do so if we are provided with hard facts."  

Jennifer Jenkins, ABPCO’s chairman, comments: "We are incredibly grateful to all those who took part, the event was a huge success and these are just a couple of the points raised during our discussion.  A full white paper will be published shortly looking at the importance of relationships across the whole conference management chain.  However, it should be noted that the final comment of the day remains the most important - we cannot think in terms of clients and suppliers but must instead focus on working relationships and partnership."  

The panel included:
• Sue Etherington, Commercial Director, QEIICC
• Michael Judd, Account Director, Associations, Hilton Hotels
• Rachael McGuickin, Director of Business Tourism, Visit Belfast
• Barbara Blow, Development Director, TFI Meeting Point
• Phil Ross, Head of Events, UCAS

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