Leslie Zeck (CMP, CMM, HMCC), Director of Meetings, International & American Associations for Dental Research talks about how working with an AEG Convention Center gives her reassurance when going into new international destinations. 

Interviewed by Rochelle Uechtritz 

“Going into new international destinations, when you have language and cultural barriers and you may not know the venue people so well, using AEG Convention Centers, it is reassuring to know I’m in the hands of global professionals, experts in their field, that are focused on the success of our event.” Leslie Zeck, IADR 

Tell us a little about International Association for Dental Research

The International Association for Dental Research (IADR), headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, USA, is a non-profit organization with nearly 11,000 members worldwide. IADR’s & AADR’s mission is to advance research and increase knowledge for the improvement of oral health worldwide; to support and represent the oral health research community; and to facilitate the communication and application of research findings.

Describe your Top 5 Secrets for Success 

The IADR General Session and Exhibition is demanding with many moving parts and on average, it attracts 4,000 participants from around the world. The requirements include a plenary for 2,500, 35 concurrent sessions and up to 20,000 sqm of exhibition space.

Our poster session is complicated with over 3,000 presenters over the course of three days. This requires an elaborate tracking system to ensure the poster boards stay in place. Local stand building and audiovisual companies who can work within our budget and execute flawless meetings and events is a significant factor to success.

During the selection process, our top five factors are:

  1. A venue that has the facilities to accommodate our scientific and technical conferences and exhibition 
  2. Accessible airlift from around the globe 
  3. A variety of hotel accommodations 
  4. Interesting sites and activities for international delegates 
  5. Dental School or World Health Organization Oral Health Collaborating Center nearby 

As you can imagine, the selection factors are hugely important, however, flexibility, development of relationships and regular communication is the key to our long-term success. 

What are your top tips for selecting the ideal venue? 

As global meeting planners, we have high expectations and look at things differently, through our own lens. We need to assess and evaluate the whole venue not only as organizers, but as an exhibitor, as a participant, as a sponsor and as a speaker. 

Our larger meetings are organized five years in advance, the flexibility for change is essential. There are so many variables in organizing congresses of 4,000 plus delegates. For example, in 2017, we added more committee meetings, events and some new session formats; with that growth, we need the ability to change spaces. 

It makes a huge difference going into a well-managed, well-run facility. Consistency of management and service that we can count on, rather than going in blindly and wondering what we are going to get, eliminates the risk factor. 

I liken choosing an AEG Convention Center to selecting a specific hotel chain. There is a level of comfort and assurance of the service standards and quality expectations that reduces some of the unknown risk with offerings such as virtual walking site tours. 

How would you rate the quality of service and standards of AEG Convention Centers?

In 2016, the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) 45th Annual Meeting & Exhibition along with the Canadian Association for Dental Research (CADR) 40th Annual Meeting & Exhibition was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) for the first time attracting more than 4,000 participants. 

This annual global meeting was our first experience working with the AEG Facilities team at the LACC and it left a lasting impression. 

We were very impressed with the hard-working and dedicated LACC staff and received service of the highest calibre. All levels of staff were knowledgeable, efficient, patient, flexible, and wonderful to work with. The passion and commitment to excellence was evident in every step of the planning and execution process and it was refreshing working with a team of professionals who truly shared our goal of executing a flawless convention. 

The way all LACC departments worked in cohesion to deliver the requested services was also impressive. Every staff member was willing to assist us, even if it did not directly fall into his/her scope of work. 

“Given our cumulative experience, we hope to return to the LACC and other AEG Facilities managed venues in the future.” 

Describe your experience as an Advisor at the PCMA Sultanate of Oman Advisory Summit at the invitation of AEG’s Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre?

Being chosen as an Advisor for the PCMA Oman Advisory Summit was an honor. The opportunity to share our global knowledge, guidance and honest feedback in a green-field convention destination such as the Sultanate of Oman was greatly appreciated. 

IADR also runs an Africa/Middle East Regional meeting. It is challenging to place our meetings with this region as there are limited options at present, with the addition of the new Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre this makes Oman an even more exciting option. 

The PCMA Oman Advisory Summit attracted the highest-level of Government dignitaries, Omani Association and Society members, academics, university researchers, meetings industry supply chain of hotels, exhibition organizers, tour and transport operators I have ever experienced. Everyone was genuinely enthusiastic, eager to listen and learn and were extremely interactive and involved in the panel discussions. 

The genuine warmth of the welcome, the incredible hospitality, their eagerness for knowledge exchange, combined with the already high level of skills and expertise in the destination is very encouraging indeed. 

With AEG’s global reputation, it gives us greater confidence in the destination. We know their level of influence will not only ensure the smooth operation of the new Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre itself, but we understand that AEG’s influence will also assist the destination in growing the infrastructure and skills of the suppliers will be in the correct way. 

What are your thoughts on the standards and service levels on your recent visit to Australia?

Australia has a wonderful reputation for holding international conventions and events, in fact our 2006 IADR General Session and Exhibition was held at AEG’s Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, however I wasn’t with IADR at that time. 

In Australia, we are assured of the quality and service excellence, therefore the hardest decision we face is, which city and which venue is the most suitable to host the meeting.

On a recent visit, I viewed AEG’s new International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) and it certainly ticks all the boxes. When we know that the Convention Centre can handle our capacity and detailed requirements, after that, it is all about location, location, location. 

For example, the spectacular Sydney Harbour has enormous world class appeal. Once again when considering a location for a convention our size we need to make sure that everything is close by and everything is in easy access

What is your advice to convention organizers when reviewing new international destinations and venues?

I highly recommend having conversations with other meeting planners and organizations who have met recently in the destinations under consideration. In our case, I seek out other scientific and medical associations who have similar meetings so that I can learn from their experiences. 

We also frequently partner with a local PCO to assist in the management of specific elements of our meetings. Having a local partner who has experience in a destination and the venue is key to the success of implementing a great meeting. 

Finally, if you have the ability to do a site visit more than once, and experience the city and the venue first-hand, you will more easily be able to map out your meeting to ensure success. 

This is not always an option for non-profit organizations and associations, but can be negotiated as part of the bid process and finalization of the contract. If you cannot tour the venue in advance, then virtual site tours such as that offered by the Los Angeles Convention Center, are invaluable tools helping to ensure the success of your meeting and convention. 

“Both Los Angeles and Hawaii are amongst our top five convention centers for memorable experiences in North America”

For more information, image requests or media interviews, please connect with: 

Rochelle Uechtritz, Director, International Market Development AEG Convention Centres 

P + 61 400 253 392 

E ruechtritz@aegworldwide.com 

7th June 2017