Column AIPC: Inspired by David Byrne

Despite the age difference, my co-writer Dawn Lauder and I both love David Byrne and his capacity to transform something we know so well into something completely new and inspiring. For those who do not know David: he used to be the singer of Talking Heads and we recommend watching his 2020 theatre show ‘American Utopia’, where he ditched pretty much every convention relating to concerts.

At a time when convention centres are diversifying and rethinking the way they do business, they need the right level of expertise to support this change. The good news however is that they are equipped with the best resource to make that happen: their own upcoming talent. To quote research done by McKinsey on dealing with the big resignation: “The easiest talent to source is the talent you already have; the answer to sourcing the right skill sets lies in redeployment, reskilling, and upskilling.” It also means stepping outside comfort zones and even jumping overboard.

This was demonstrated during the first edition of AIPC Future Shapers, a talent programme specifically designed for upcoming management talent in convention centers. A global group of fourteen participants took that ride: a nine-month elevated management programme, built around three axes – learning, connecting and shaping.

Burn down the house

One of the key deliverables was to come up with a business concept which would address a key issue in the world of convention centers and present it on the main stage, facing an audience of over one hundred convention center CEOs. The first concept (EventShaper) focused on drastically enhancing the communication between client and venue via the creation of a client portal. The second concept (Optimum) focused on yield management, applying artificial intelligence and deep learning. Both teams pitched the ideas in such a professional and dynamic way, that they almost burnt down the house.

And now the most amazing thing: at this very moment, both ideas are being translated into actual products – with a first version of the Optimum concept being delivered in December. Once in a lifetime? We definitely don’t think so. Instead, we believe talent programmes like Future Shapers must be the place to give talent the time, support and framework to develop their vision and ideas.

What a ride it was

Let’s be clear: the investment done by the participants, the organizations they work for and AIPC was substantial. But we don’t need to wait for one fine day to see the result: it is already there and it addresses real issues. This group of talents seized the opportunity to show their potential, and convention centers demonstrated their belief in their talents by giving them the opportunity to participate to the programme. What a ride it was.

The application process for the 2023 AIPC Future Shapers Programme is open. You can thank us for sending you an angel later.

P.S.: This article contains six references to songs by David Byrne.

Sven Bossu is CEO of the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC), that connects exhibition and congress managers worldwide. He wrote this column with Dawn Lauder, Head of International Conferences of Scottish Event Campus (SEC) and ‘Future Shaper’. Comments? Send an e-mail to