CEO of Mayvin Global and BEAMer Deanna Varga highlights the value of the ICCA AES programme at IMEX 2023.

Image Credit: IMEX

I had my first ‘real’ interaction with International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) back in 2003. It was when I was working for Sydney Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Business Events Sydney) and won the Qantas /Association of Australian Convention Bureau (AACB) Young Professionals Scholarship. I had been nominated to attend the ICCA Annual Conference held in Busan, Korea, as part of my research on the growth of Korea in the business events market.

Fast forward 20 years, and this business events peak industry body continues to shape the sector globally. Once again, I have the opportunity to work with and be involved. Interestingly, even though 20 years on, it’s another ‘first’ for me associated with my IMEX23 experience.

As part of ICCA’s involvement in IMEX23, I was invited to facilitate a session at the ICCA Association Expert Seminar (AES) programme on Revenue Diversification and Generation for associations. ICCA has been running the AES programme for 20 years for association professionals and ICCA members to connect, exchange knowledge, and collaborate to help the ecosystem of international association meetings.

Those in attendance were from diverse associations, from medical, academic, trade, technical and community backgrounds. They range from highly commercial operations to volunteer-run bodies. Many were looking for ideas for a pathway to financial sustainability. Also attending were diverse members of ICCA, from convention centres to bureaux to industry partners that are all instrumental to the business events sector. They, too, have various organisational structures and financial imperatives.

Within these diverse mindsets and structures, there were commonalities. To start the conversation, we discussed the ICCA 2023 Association Survey results about the Main Sources of Revenue (illustrated). That was a thought provoker, particularly if the main source of revenue for associations was not identified as a potential revenue stream within their operation. If not, why not? Would it have potential?

Source: Association meeting needs ICCA 2023 Association Survey

As a result of attending the AES 2023 session on revenue, these were the ideas I heard the associations say they wanted to explore linked to revenue diversification and stability:

  1. Recognise the inherent value (financial) of their data and leverage their audience ecosystem
  2. Consider new membership categories tailored to targeted audiences, from the commercial sector to developing countries, while striving towards social impact goals.
  3. Capitalise on existing stakeholder networks, monetise relationships with high-profile speakers, researchers, and other influential members; and
  4. Expand education programs to encompass certification opportunities, catering to the ongoing demand for professional development.

While some unique revenue generators exist amongst these international associations, the main drivers of revenue (or profit) continue to sit with major congresses, meetings, memberships, and sponsorships. For some associations, one or two revenue (and profit) sources were seen as sufficient. In addition, there appeared to be a limited risk assessment around revenue streams. These were both of concern and something I’ll continue to address with the associations we support.

In my opinion, having this education forum for senior association professionals and ICCA members to kick off IMEX week was an ideal springboard. It laid the foundation of the education programme run by ICCA at the trade show (on their stand) and in the dedicated education area. For the ICCA members – and me – it reiterated the importance of community. That’s ultimately one of the benefits of being a member of an association.

So, did the numbers add up? We often calculate the time, money and opportunity cost of getting involved. For me, being part of the ICCA AES programme was a highlight of my IMEX2023 visit. For many, the programme provided education and networking. It allowed people to connect in a comfortable space and facilitated authentic, serendipitous conversations well before the trade show started (and their scheduled appointments). So, for the association professionals and ICCA members – and me as a speaker – this is where the numbers truly did add up.

Deanna Varga is CEO & Founder of Mayvin Global an Australia based consultancy specialising in capability building for the business events sector and revenue generation and diversification for associations.

Connect with Deanna Varga on Linked In @Deanna Varga (MBA, MAICD)

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Deanna Varga

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