The IUCN World Parks Congress is like no other in terms of content delivery and outcomes.

ICMS Australasia general manager, Emma Bowyer, says she has never worked on a conference of this type before, and is quick to point out that she is planning to adopt some practices for future events she is involved in.

“When you talk about a normal conference you have a plenary, people sitting in a room, receiving the content, and then going back to their work when the conference is over and reengineering what they’ve learnt at the congress into their own environment,” she explains.

“This event isn’t like that at all. The organisers don’t want people to have didactic conversations, they want people to make new contacts, engage, form an alliance, build a legacy plan and then come back in 10 years’ time and report on what they’ve done.

“This congress is a launch pad for so many thousands of hours that they are asking individuals to contribute from this point forward.”

Aside from the standard conference plenary meetings, IUCN World Parks ran something like 230 separate events throughout the week on subjects and topics that were being run by delegates.

“In June this year we made a call out to everyone who was on the database saying if you would like to have an event but don’t wish to be part of the actual program then submit an application to us for a congress event. We had something like 400-odd applications which were then reviewed, and around 60 per cent of those were approved.”

The application process not only asked what the content was on but went deeper, asking applicants to explain what they hoped the outcomes of the event would be, what their contribution to the congress was, and how they would manage the event. IUCN wanted an action plan after the meeting to ensure that what was discussed would result in change.

Ms Bowyer said one example is The African Leaders World Dialogue, which was a roundtable event held in the RM Williams Stables that discussed the challenges Africa has with bushfires. Apparently 70 per cent of fires in the world are in Africa. Their strategy was to discuss and formulate a plan for reducing fires in Africa.

Every presentation was captured – 24 concurrent sessions each day – and that content was uploaded by midnight on the same day onto the IUCN system that included a report on the outcomes that were agreed upon at each session.

Delegates who missed the session could watch it online at a later date. Staging Connections was the key technology partner.

Similar to the conference streams and presentations, Ms Bowyer said the exhibition was also very different to the standard one.

“At a typical exhibition you have exhibition stands where people sell products. There’s none of that here. There are exhibition booths operated by people who are running programs. Their aim in exhibiting is to educate people about that program and then forming an alliance with delegates.

“At this exhibition, the pavilions, or what you would call custom exhibition stands, are actually theatre spaces where talks are held; where people learn about what it is they do; and make those alliances.”

Record attendance figures

More than 6000 delegates attended IUCN World Parks Congress, a record for the organisation. m