Making connections count

The Union of International Associations’ (UIA) Asia-Pacific Round Table was held in a hybrid format for the first time in 2021, prompting the organiser and host to embrace fresh ways to bring about an impactful event

An in-person presenter, as well as an overseas presenter dialling in via iPresence. Photo: Kathryn Wortley
An in-person presenter, as well as an overseas presenter dialling in via iPresence. Photo: Kathryn Wortley

Event brief
In October 2021, Tokyo played host to the inaugural UIA Asia-Pacific Round Table, a non-profit, independent research institute documenting the current and historical work of international non-governmental organisations and intergovernmental organisations. The association is the world’s oldest and largest source of information on global civil society.

Organised annually, the Round Tables are intended to provide an opportunity for members of the association to learn through networking and practice while meeting fellow members. Through keynote speeches, presentations, panel discussions and networking, attendees gain experience and knowledge to help them run their organisations better.

The 9th Asia-Pacific Round Table, in 2021, was held in Japan for the first time. More than 70 overseas attendees from 29 countries and domestic participants based across Japan took part virtually, while some 40 local association executives and industry partners joined in person.

Destination partner, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB), welcomed the delegates and supported the in-person and online aspects of the meeting. Services provided to attendees included educational content via virtual cultural experiences, networking opportunities and easy access to the online platform, all as part of efforts to offer an engaging and rewarding experience for all delegates.

Event highlights
The event saw the pre-launch use of Panasonic’s Anshin Gate, a system that, in one motion, checks a guest’s temperature and sanitises their hands and feet. Other technology tracked attendees’ movements and gauged congestion in the foyer using a series of cameras. During designated break times, in-person attendees could mix or get drinks in the foyer without crowds or lines forming.

Telepresence avatar robots provided by Japanese firm iPresence allowed presenters to have a more physical presence on stage than if they were joining remotely, as they were able to interact with in-person attendees during breaks. This technology is designed to “provide more complete interactivity to remote participants, creating truly hybrid experiences”, said Chris Christophers, founder and CEO of iPresence.

Online delegates joined the event via OnAIR, a dedicated virtual conferencing platform for speakers and attendees. From the portal app, attendees could visit the Auditorium or Virtual Exhibition, access the programme, receive live support or join the meeting hub for calls, chats or scheduled meetings. The Australian-made system allowed delegates to watch presentations and workshops in real-time and submit questions and comments. It also hosted content provided by TCVB.

The TCVB-produced content focused on videos introducing Japan, including one presenting nihon buyo, a Japanese classical dance; one showing how and why sushi is beloved in Tokyo, with insight from a fourth-generation sushi chef; one introducing iaido, the martial art of the sword; and one called “Tokyo in a Day,” which showcased five of the capital’s neighbourhoods.

At a virtual green teatime session transmitted live from Tokyo, delegates could also learn about green tea, one of the most consumed beverages in Japan. Among the topics covered by the host were why green tea is so healthy, how to brew the perfect cup, and where to enjoy green tea across Japan once international travel resumes.

Kazuko Toda, senior director of the business events team at TCVB, expressed hope that all delegates would be engaged and interested in the online Japanese cultural experience about “the magic of green tea, which has long been the centre of our culture” and the online exhibitions, which featured details on Tokyo’s meeting venues, cultural experiences and must-see spots.

Given the 15-year history of holding Round Tables in-person, some virtual attendees were saddened not to be able to attend physically and Europe-based speakers had to deal with time differences, but the event was a resounding success.

Kana Nomoto, director of sales of the business events team at TCVB, said her team had “explored the best ways to make the event fruitful for everyone”, and the video content was prepared so delegates could “get a feel of the city”.

In closing the event, Cyril Ritchie, UIA president, thanked TCVB for delivering on its brief – to provide a safe, inspiring and engaging event that conveyed the culture of the host city and country – even amid the challenges of the pandemic.

Event UIA Asia-Pacific Round Table
Organisers UIA and Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Venue Congres Square Nihonbashi, Tokyo
Date October 21–22, 2021
Attendance 70 online and 40 in-person

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