Skip to main content

Who we are

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) is a participatory organisation with members in more than 65 countries. As a professional association, we set internationally accepted industry standards, provide accreditation, support a community of practice, advocate and educate on the power of facilitation and embrace the diversity of facilitators.

Global Flipchart



May 2016
| Issue #3

Insights: the meeting industry

What if facilitation innovated the meeting industry?

After last year's synergetic collaboration, IAF EMENA again promoted the power of facilitation at IMEX, the worldwide exhibition for meetings, incentive travel and corporate events - in brief: MICE industry.

Sean Blair facilitated Association Day on April 18th and Nathalie Berthier-Ortmann, Helga Brüggemann, Christian Rieckmann and Anja Ebers (picture from left to right) of IAF Germany hosted a stand during the exhibition (April 19-21, 2016).

Fieldnotes from the booth team – Facilitation anyone?

Many introductions to marketing mention the parable of a 19th century shoemaker who sends two salesmen to another continent in order to find out if there’s a market for shoes. One salesman cables back: great market for shoes – everyone barefoot. The other: no need for shoes, everyone barefoot.

Our version after three days on the show floor, promoting the power of facilitation at IMEX, could go like that: Great need for facilitation, hardly any meeting designed in a participative way! But also: No need for facilitation in an industry that has become so strong without hardly any design of group interaction.

In marketing literature, the story introduces the need for market research in order to better understand potential customers. So here are our observations after immersing into the MICE industry for a couple of days, promoting the power of facilitation.

Evangelizing participation

We’re the experts for participation was one of the openers in conversations with visitors to our booth on the first day. Soon it dawned to us that what people heard was: Facilitators are the experts to keep the number of attendees stable. Which is also kind of true, but leaves wide room for interpretation on how exactly we’re doing it.

We worked with this insight and used provocation as a conversation starter on how a facilitator works and the mindset we are operating in:

Even though it was just a handmade illustration on an easel pad and some sticky notes to capture questions that came up in our conversations, it changed a lot:

We became evangelists for participation the way facilitators understand it. Many conversations ended Where can I learn more? and of course we happily answered that question!

Guerilla marketing

The IMEX Inspiration Hub proved to be a great filter to meet people who are looking for facilitation without knowing it yet. So we took to sessions like “Seven meeting design hacks to increase interaction at your event“ or „Honey, I shrunk the talking head“ or „interaction for millenials“. Like that we quickly learned about the needs of the industry and the way they are framing them. We gave our input when it fit and comfortably could share our card and invite them to our stand.

Innovating the business events industry

In his keynote at the IMEX opening, David DuBois, President & CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events said: “The business events industry provides the catalyst for transitioning towards a knowledge and creative society. Indeed governments themselves acknowledge that it takes a meeting or a summit to solve global issues and to avoid catastrophe… and when scientists, medics and technologists meet, they too change the world.”

We should build on that insight and innovate the meetings industry with a new, participative mindset – what do you think?

Judging from billboards like this one, it might be still a long way to go ;-)

Further impressions here.