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Just recently, Davos hosted its annual World Economic Forum —  the global platform at which the world’s political and thought leaders in business, government, international organisations, academia and civil society meet for “strategic dialogues which map the key transformations reshaping the world”.

WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab explained this year’s theme – The New Global Context.  Participants would ‘explore what are the fundamental forces at work technologically, socially and economically, which require new dimensions for our decision-making… and I think we should particularly concentrate on the opportunities, and not only on the threats.’

While the WEF does not have ambition to solve all the world’s problems, it does aim to provide input for strategic decision making by connecting different areas of interest and expertise through dialogue and interaction.

Inspired by the WEF, many conference organisers have adopted this empowering format, which is becoming the new reality for trade association meetings. In this same spirit, FINAT is reshaping its own annual congress to make it ‘The European Label Forum’.

In the ‘old days’, international conferences were the annual get-together when industry leaders met at a nice, sunny location to network, develop and nurture business friendships, and listen to expert speakers on a wide variety of topics.   The agenda included ‘something for everyone’, and simultaneous translation was a ‘must’ to facilitate communication.

At least as important was the parallel programme of social events, which enticed delegates’ partners to attend, and created lasting memories and shared experiences.  One story that comes instantly to mind is that of a conference participant who discovered that his translation headset also miraculously functioned in the hotel’s swimming pool area – the perfect combination of business and pleasure!

Business relevance in today’s global village

Nowadays, the annual industry group conference still defines the ‘brand image’ — but the attributes associated with the brand are shifting.   Networking, social contacts and personal interaction continue to determine an association’s culture:  its treasury of joint history, shared values, and common beliefs. But today it is the aspects of business relevance, peer-to-peer interaction, time efficiency and convenience which are of prime importance.

In today’s global village and connected business environment, industry leaders increasingly consider international industry conferences as a source of input for strategic decision making.   High-level business knowledge and experience are key drivers, and opportunities to engage in interactive ‘round table’ forums with fellow executives and opinion leaders from around the industry are the key to success.

FINAT 2015 — The European Label Forum

Associations in turn are satisfying this demand by selecting easily-accessible and (semi-)permanent locations;   by integrating the conference programme into their overall, year-round business programme;   by being more responsive to current real-life trends inside and outside the industry;   by looking ‘outside the box’ to predict future scenarios;   by setting up more parallel programme streams;  by facilitating industry conversations on future directions, in a single business language;  and by embracing new communication technologies that combine physical and virtual interaction.

The label industry is no exception;   and FINAT’s European Label Forum (the new title for our annual ‘congress’) aims to integrate these new practices.   In its revitalised and rebranded format, it will address relevant issues in areas such as ‘sales and marketing’, ‘new technology development’ and ‘management and corporate affairs’.

Staying hungry in paradise

Over the 55 years of its existence, FINAT and its annual congress have gone from strength to strength.   FINAT’s new ELF will build on these strengths, but focusses on enhancing the event’s business content.

In the words of bestselling author Rasmus Ankersen, who will open the 2015 ELF, the challenge for successful business leaders is ‘to stay hungry in paradise’ —  and the ELF aims to achieve just that.   In line with this metaphor, the FINAT Board and Congress Programme Committee are convinced that the menu for the first ELF (to be announced in February) will certainly raise your appetite, so watch this space!

I look forward to welcoming the European label converting community, its suppliers and media, to Amsterdam, from 11-13 June!!

Jules Lejeune, FINAT Managing Director

22 January 2015