The 37th edition of the IACC Americas Connect conference, a leader in education and which celebrates innovation, took place this week (16 – 18) at Chubb Hotel & Conference Center and The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, and saw its strongest attendance in 10 years.
The three-day conference, hosted by former White House Director of Events Laura Schwartz, included an array of educational sessions, panel discussions in the form of campfires, workshops, culinary tours and tastings as well as the annual Global Copper Skillet cooking competition. Each day key note speakers and industry leaders held sessions on topics such as innovation, leadership, IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future™ findings, food and beverage, social media, evolving technology and expanding networking circles globally.
Nick Fesperman, Customer Experience Liaison, Center of Leadership Excellence Bethesda, MD, who has been a part of the IACC community for six years said: “This IACC annual conference has been the best conference yet. The energy has been unbelievable; it’s always great to be surrounded by like minded people with a common purpose.”
Kristina Wiley, Meeting Planner at Sodexo Conferencing Alexandria, VA, who attended the Mystery Culinary Tour hosted by Brian Freedman on day two of the conference commented on her experience: “I have had a fantasist time and I'm taking a lot away with me. To sum up the conference in just a few words, I’d have to say - innovation is key. I feel that the educational sessions have given me the tools to help advise clients when they’re planning their event.”
During day two of the conference the Global Copper Skillet competition took place at the Franklin Institute, where the regional chapter finalists competed for the ultimate accolade, the winners of which were Brian Wagner from Chauncey Hotel & Conference Center, United States and Leanna Higgs from Wyboston Lakes, United Kingdom.
Lina Merchant, Director of Sales at Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre, Dolce Hotels and Resorts, who attended the event and watched the competition unfold commented: “The quality of the food created today at this competition was superb, the best of the best in conference catering.” She added: “Food and hospitality is one of the most important elements of any conference and event; yes, guests will walk away with the knowledge from the event, but they'll talk about food when they leave.”
Operations Director James Russ from CCT Venues, London, UK described the Copper Skillet competition as: “Exciting, rewarding and a fantastic opportunity for chefs and venues who take part and can showcase the high standard of their F&B offering. It's a great experience to both participants and those watching.”
The conference attracted first time attendees from both IACC certified venues and meetings planners. First time attendee Kim Ragan an Events Manager at the University of Delaware, DE said: “Working in academia, similar educational venues are very far apart, so it's great for the community to get together at a single event. It's nice to get together and discuss our successes and challenges and help one another find some solutions. This is my first of many IACC conferences.”
First time attendee and events planner, Geoff Woliner, CPCM Founder and CEO of Winning Wit said: “I’ve met some outstanding people and venues at the IACC conference. I’ve been particularly impressed by the venues I’ve met with; they’ve all shown a willingness to listen and interpret my needs, it’s going to be tough picking my next host venue as the quality here is so high.”
On the final day of the conference, Mike Van Der Vijver of MindMeeting facilitated the closing session the ‘Solutions Room’ where delegates teamed up to support one another in finding the solutions to individual challenges, enabling both venue and planners to provide helpful advice for individuals to take away with them.
IACC’s next annual European conference ‘Knowledge Festival’ will be taking place in Lisbon on 5 – 7 October 2018.
*overall attendance at the event was 293