Interview Marta Gomes
„We are not afraid of the unknown anymore“
Marta Gomes has been elected as President of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) at the 61st ICCA Congress in Kraków on 6 November 2022. Photo: ICCA
Marta Gomes has been elected as President of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) at the 61st ICCA Congress in Kraków on 6 November 2022. Foto: ICCA
Marta Gomes is the new President of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and Deputy Executive Director Sales at Viparis. In the interview she talks about listening and a needs assessment, legacy and measurable data, a question that men are not asked and role models.
tw tagungswirtschaft: Congratulations, dear Marta! Four weeks ago, you have been elected ICCA President. Your campaign was called "Ready to serve as the next ICCA President". Please share your three hacks with us: How did you win? Marta Gomes: Thank you, I feel very honored to be chosen by the ICCA members to be their leader for the next few years, and I hope to be a worthy successor to James Rees. As for three hacks? Perhaps three guiding principles for my campaign might be a better term! First: listening. I took time to speak to members and have one-to-one conversations with them. Second: action. I committed to acting on what they told me by launching a ‘needs assessment’, so we might adapt our offering to what they think is important, and what matters to them. Third: talking. I share this with my fellow candidates, Daniel Palomo and Gregg Talley – colleagues I work closely with and consider friends – and that is a sincere belief in the need to talk about the value of our industry. We must advocate for it and have a bigger voice for the meetings and events industry worldwide.
During your campaign, you encouraged members to ask questions about how ICCA can meet their needs in a changing world. Which needs did you identify?
Needs are very different in different sectors, different countries, different regions. But one thing remains fundamentally the same: people want to be heard. By listening more intently, we might find we have to adapt our proposition, because the days of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ might be over.
How will you satisfy them?
By understanding them and delivering what benefits them in the short, mid and long-term. I think it is time to review some things and think about giving our members more options so they can choose the services that matter to them, and not necessarily buy a whole bundle that might not be so useful. A ‘needs assessment’ will help us identify the priorities of our members and customize our offer to meet their needs. We will also continue to deliver amazing content because people want to learn about best practices and innovation. One of the unique offerings of ICCA is the power of community in our association… and that members really want to network, to meet each other, and want to talk and have an exchange on a peer-to-peer level. ICCA is about sharing with, and learning from, one another.
What do you want to achieve in your presidency? Legacy is hugely important to ICCA. Along with Sustainability; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Legacy forms one of our key pillars and shapes the way we think and work. If I have to apply my own personal ‘Legacy’ to my tenure as ICCA President, I’d like it to show more measurable data of the levels of engagement of our members. We have this feeling, this intuition, that our members participate a lot, and that they engage with our association and value our services. But I would like to use our new digital tools and CRM to better measure this, and to be able to compare the before and after findings. I’d also like ICCA to really engage with the next generation, the young leaders of tomorrow. It is something we are keen to grow. And finally, also to engage more with our Association Community and strengthen our relationships, to continue to learn from each other and discuss important topics together for the overall advancement of the industry.
Who is Marta Gomes?
Marta Gomes is Deputy Executive Director Sales at Viparis. Viparis operates 12 major event venues in the Greater Paris region: CNIT Forest, Espace Champerret, Espace Grande Arche, Espace Grande Arche, Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, Jam Capsule, La Serre, Les Salles du Carrousel, Palais des Congrès d'Issy, Palais des Congrès de Paris, Paris Convention Centre, Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris Le Bourget and Paris Nord Villepinte. Photo: ICCA
You are Deputy Executive Director Sales at Viparis, a mother of three children and now President of ICCA. How do you balance everything?
It’s interesting that you ask this question – I’m not sure you would ask the same to a man who was elected president? My answer is the same as a man’s would be – that I’m lucky to work for a company who believes in my potential and has encouraged me every step of the way, and to have strong support from my family including childcare solutions that allow me to balance all my commitments. I had a strong role model in my mother who is a doctor and was always committed to her career, I hope I am giving the same example to my son and two daughters.
In upcoming interviews, I may ask men about the compatibility of work and family. In your case, I asked this question, because quite a few women shy away from such a high voluntary position. Not you …
At a recent Congress break-out session about women in our industry, we asked the women present: ‘what is it you want to see to address both perceived and actual inequalities in the workplace?’ The most popular answer in the snap survey was women having role models and mentorship opportunities to show what can be achieved. I’m not calling myself a role model, but I think my journey is worthy of sharing. Whether ascending to ICCA President – and my senior role at Viparis – I am living an interesting story, and my experiences can hopefully show others what is possible. Again, DEI is an important ICCA pillar, so our industry must be committed to opening doors – and keeping them open – for women at whatever stage of life they are at.
„Marta is a big personality in the ICCA family and liked and appreciated by the ICCA Community. Her positivity, enthusiasm, and commitment to improving the way ICCA thinks and works is an exciting prospect for us all.“
Senthil Gopinath, CEO ICCA
Staffing shortages, supply chain issues, rising costs and, of course, the ongoing pandemic and the worsening climate crisis … what do you consider as the biggest issue for the industry and how do we deal with it?
Indeed, we will continue to face challenges in the future, and we can’t go back to doing things the way we did before. But we are nothing if not resilient. We proved this during the pandemic by continuing to innovate, to find solutions to keep meeting in person, virtually, a combination of both. It is a testament to our ability and desire to face all challenges head on. I’ve heard someone say that if we survived Covid we can survive anything! We will face our future challenges with the same strength and spirit, by joining forces, sharing ideas and innovating together.
In the pandemic, many event professionals have left the industry and staff shortage has become more severe. How do we win skilled workers back and the best talent as well?
By telling our story better. By showing how our industry is at the cutting edge of so many things that impact humanity. Sustainability, climate change, legacy, inclusion, economic development and innovation… we are changemakers, policy influencers, disrupters and doers. Yes, there was a brain-drain during the pandemic, but we hope innovations like ICCASkills – the first global certification program for the events and meetings industry – will contribute towards attracting, retaining and developing talents. Especially the young talent. The future leaders and young professionals, those who have grown up with the confidence of having and using their voice, we hope they see our industry as a tremendous and worthy platform for their energy, commitment and desire to make the world a better place.
“We need to tell our story better and to show how our industry is at the cutting edge of so many things that impact humanity. Sustainability, climate change, legacy, inclusion, economic development and innovation… we are changemakers.”
Marta Gomes, ICCA President
What is your forecast for the events industry in France in 2023? And in Europe?
It’s still a little too early to tell but I think 2023 will be an important time to consolidate and talk about the many issues facing us. We have experienced and learnt much. We are not afraid of the unknown anymore, and I think adopting a strong collective mindset is essential to take into the coming year.
After a few difficult years, you believe there are “blue skies ahead and events are coming back strongly”. This is good news. What makes you think that?
Many cities around the world have seen a strong comeback to live events in the last few months: venues hosting events back-to-back, high hotel occupancy and visitors and exhibitors excited to meet again in person. It feels good to be in the same room… talking, listening, learning, sharing. Our congress this year in Kraków is a great example of this. The genuine affection we have towards the concept of an international community makes me feel very positive about the next few years… but the overriding sense I got was people were happy and excited to be able to do this together.
What question did you miss? What do events need to do to achieve more impact and more relevance to meet the needs of those attending?
And your answer?
Delegates rightly demand more, and it is our role to deliver more. The most successful events are those who are adapting to the new attendee expectations and rethinking their event design and purpose. Delegates want to come and be part of a shared experience, a gathering of intent, they want to be inspired by what is happening in front of, and around, them. Increased time pressures, budget reductions and sustainability concerns impact us all, so when someone commits to attending an event, more than ever, it has to be worth their considerable time and effort.
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) is a global leader for the international meetings industry with more than 1,100 member companies and organizations in nearly 100 countries. As a community and knowledge hub, ICCA offers data, education, communication channels, business development and networking opportunities. Launched in 2020, the ICCA Association Community assists international associations in organizing their meetings. Since its establishment in 1963, ICCA has represented destinations and experienced suppliers specializing in handling, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events.