A driving force

Sarah Markey-Hamm, IAPCO's new president, is working towards developing a robust Advocacy programme to help deal with the global talent crunch, and elevate the association's activities across the Asia-Pacific region

Congratulations on your new appointment as IAPCO CEO. How do you feel about heading IAPCO as the world continues to recover from the pandemic?
Thank you, I am honoured and excited to be leading IAPCO over the next two years. The Council and the Headquarters team have done a magnificent job in guiding IAPCO over the last three years and as custodians, our role as the new Council is to ensure that IAPCO continues to grow the association, offer members opportunities to meet and learn from each other, while upholding the quality standards that we hold so dear.

You’ve also previously served as ICCA chair, as well as a board member of BECA and past president of MEA. How did you come to join these associations and what did you learn from those experiences?
We joined ICCA in 1975 as a way of becoming part of the global meetings community. Becoming part of ICCA was invaluable for our business in the early years.

We were members of MEA for over 20 years and I chose to become involved in the MEA committee before my children were born so that I could give back to the sector and create my own pathway early in my career when I could. That was because when my children were young, I prioritised spending time with them and our clients’ needs.

Working with and participating on committees for the last 30 years, I have learnt how to work on a committee and how not to work on one. There have been many instances of good and bad situations that I have learnt from and hopefully, I will not intentionally repeat the bad ones.

What are some of your immediate to-do items?
At our Council meeting in Dubai in November, we identified five strategic pillars that we, as a Council, will be working on in the short term. Some of these pillars are internal and some are external.

We are investing a lot of time in developing our Advocacy programme. The task force led by Sissi Lignou is going to develop strategies for internal and external advocacy programmes globally. It is a case of “watch this space”!

In addition, one of the messages I feel that is important to impart is that the business events world is not back to 100 per cent staffing capacity. Attracting talent that is either new or returning to the industry is still a challenge globally. It is a challenge for all of us to “talk up” the industry, so that we are seen again as an attractive career to enter.

You mentioned that you’ll like to highlight IAPCO’s activities in Asia-Pacific (APAC). Could you share some of your plans?
IAPCO was established in Europe, and therefore, there are naturally more members in Europe than in other parts of the world. We are active in APAC with our hosted Edge programme and we are actively looking for a host for our Edge programme in the region. Further in 2025, our Annual Meeting and General Assembly will be held in Taiwan.

What are some of the challenges you foresee over the next six months to a year for PCOs and how will joining IAPCO help them?
PCOs have a terrific opportunity in the next six to 12 months! We are challenged to inspire the next generation of PCOs to enter the industry and we need to lead and guide them to become our future. It is up to us all to advocate for what we do as PCOs and to “get loud” about it.

Unfortunately, what we do is not known to those outside of the sector; even some within the sector do not quite realise how much PCOs do for their clients and the responsibilities we undertake on behalf of our clients. IAPCO is working towards changing that perception with our Advocacy programme to get the message out. Our recently launched Jobs Board is quickly becoming the place globally to look for work within the PCO world.

What do you envision APAC’s business events industry will look like this and next year?
I see more movement between APAC countries which will hopefully lead to larger international participation in meetings. Hopefully, the cost of international travel will rationalise over the next two years so that there will be one less barrier to participation.

Sponsored Post