AIPC OPINIONShare thecollective visionOne of the most interesting and, atthe same time challenging,conclusions to come out of ourrecent AIPC Annual Conference (inLiverpool, July 2010 - ed)was the idea thatthe expansion, redevelopment and updatingof convention centres may be moving froman occasional undertaking to somethingthat is continuous and ongoing. The essential challenge centres face is thatthey are long-term investments in anindustry that is changing rapidly. They mustremain relevant and competitive for manyyears even though they are constrained bythe fact that, once built, they have limitedflexibility in their structure. Changing marketexpectations are connected with not justthings like programmes and services, butthe size and arrangement of spaces - noteasy things to address when you're dealingwith something as solid as a building.In addition, there are a host of newdemands to be met, ranging from newtechnology to sustainability. Sometimesthese can be satisfied with changes tooperations; often, it requires a lot more. Even if the new demands can be satisfiedin an existing structure, they can beexpensive and demanding to implement.A big issue is the fact that there is a greatdeal of convention centre product out there- in fact, supply in many areas hasincreased faster than demand has beenable to keep up. This means lots ofcompetition, and no centre can afford toremain behind in that kind of situation if itwants to remain competitive. It's easy to say that if there is more supplythen the business can just spread itselfaround. But that's not how things work.There are a lot of other reasons whyorganisers choose to go to a particulardestination, and if a centre is fortunateenough to have good customers, it must doeverything it can to avoid driving them awaythrough a lack of appropriate facilities.That's why we will always be working toupgrade our centres regardless of how manyalternatives may exist.What this means for many managers is alot more work: a need to become anongoing project manager as well as anoperator. What it means for the customer ismore of an opportunity to shape thefacilities they use.Greatest imperative - flexibilityThe greatest imperative in convention centredesign today is flexibility - on the basis thatin knowing we will never be able to predictexactly what future demands may be, thebest approach is to design in the ability toadapt to changing needs as they arise.Multi-purpose spaces and moveable wallscan go a long way toward helping centresrespond to changing meeting requirements.It helps to have the best possible idea ofwhat the future demands are going to be.This is where the customers come in. Eventorganisers are in the best possible positionto anticipate the new directions that meetingformats may take, and in communicatingthis to centre managers, they help not justthe centres but themselves as well. The more managers know about futuretrends (and can then communicate todesigners), the more likely they will be to getthe kinds of facilities they want and need.Centres should be designing their post-event surveys to better capture the insightsclients have about how building changeswould create a better meeting environment,not just how they felt about the service. Asfor the clients, they should look on theinput process as an investment intheir own future and what changesAIPC President, Edgar Hirtsays we can all shape the convention centres of the future.AIPC is a global network of over 166leading centres in 53 countries, with the active involvement of more than650 centre management professionals.Visit www.aipc.orgOctober 2010Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net would make the most sense for their needs.The same thing applies to centre suppliers,whether they be food and beverage, securityor AV. These are the people who often knowthe limitations of a centre and theexpectations of clients as well as, or betterthan centre staff themselves - yet who mayoften focus more on day-to-day activitiesthan sitting down to organise this knowledgein a way that can be used for decision making.Let's take advantage of this trend towardmore regular updates as an opportunity foreveryone, and all take a part of theresponsibility to get the best possible input to designing the convention centre of the future.