Convene On Site

COCAL Goes to Brazil

As one of the world’s blazing-hot emerging destinations, Brazil was the perfect location for the annual meeting of one of the meetings industry’s up-and-coming organizations: COCAL (Federación de Entidades Organizadoras de Congresos y Afines de América Latina).

Held on March 5–7, the 2015 COCAL Congress drew more than 500 mostly Latin America–based meeting professionals to the Costão do Santinho resort in Florianópolis, an island city about 400 miles south of São Paolo.

The meeting — for which Convene was a media partner — began with an opening ceremony at which officials from Florianópolis, the state of Santa Catarina, and Embratur, Brazil’s national tourism organization, welcomed attendees. The reception included fresh local seafood as well as German-influenced music, reflecting the immigrants who settled in Florianópolis in the 19th century.

Conference programming began the next day, organized around the theme “Innovation and Creativity” and conducted in Portuguese and Spanish, with simultaneous translation available in those two languages as well as English. Facilitator Zezo Carvalho, the CEO of Lisbon-based Trendz Corporate Energizing, began by directing everyone in the audience to reach under their seat and find a plastic baggie containing a blank lapel pin and a marker, and to write their total number of years in the industry on the pin and attach it to their name badge. That served as an icebreaker throughout the Congress, giving attendees something to discuss or bond over.

Each badge also had a number written on it — from one to 32 — and during a workshop later that morning, attendees gathered in groups based on their number, and worked together to create an event based on certain parameters. The next day, each group’s event was displayed in the back of the main conference room for judging. Members of the winning group received free registration to next year’s COCAL Congress in Guadalajara.

Guadalajara was also the theme of the reception at the end of the first day, as the Mexican city hosted a launch party for the 2016 Congress under a sprawling tent next to Costão do Santinho’s pool. There was Mexican music and food — and, of course, tequila, since Guadalajara is in the Mexican state of Jalisco, birthplace of the liquor.

Programming on day two included sessions on Brazilian meeting certifications, what the creative economy means for events, and how destination-marketing and meeting professionals can work together. PCMA helped organize a panel on cooperation between CVBs and PCOs, moderated by COCAL President Alisson Batres and featuring Bruce MacMillan, executive director of Bandwidth Management, and Paul Vallee, executive vice president of Tourism Vancouver. The final session of the Congress featured Roger Tondeur — founder, chairman, and president of MCI — discussing major trends in the meetings and events sector, including pricing pressures, shorter lead times, and a limited talent pool.

The Congress ended that night with a closing reception at Il Campanário resort — offering one final, perfect mix of professional networking and Brazilian hospitality.

Michelle Crowley