The primary goal of the international convention of Lions Clubs is to give members from all over the world the annual opportunity to meet and share motivation, objectives and experiences in person, as well as to elect the new international board of directors. Discovery of the destination has also become an integral part of the event.
AIM Group International, which planned the event, set a goal “to guarantee the smooth organization of a complex event, lasting 20 days and including multiple sidebar events; to shape those with a high level of customization and personalization, and to establish a deep emotional connection with the destination.”
In exploring the destination, members were encouraged to share the “true spirit of Lions” with the local community.
AIM secured hotel-room blocks five years out for more than 5,000 people in the host city of Milan, Italy. Most other challenges were related to the sheer size of the event, with 25,000 members attending. AIM needed to source or create massive meeting spaces to suit a variety of events. It also managed transportation to and from those events, as well as external service trips and charity activities prior to the event.
Lions made visits to other parts of Italy, participating in cooking classes, photography excursions and other cultural activities, which AIM helped to facilitate. Another major challenge was coordinating and planning logistics for a huge parade through the Milan city center, heart of the busy northern Italian city.
“It was quite complex, since we had to manage the flow of thousands of participants, define the path, and deal with security issues and bureaucracy,” says Rosangela Quieti, managing director for the Congress Division of AIM Group.
Managing a vast number of attendants over the course of several weeks involved taking advantage of the location’s resources. “We developed a personalized program, leveraging the varied cultural, artistic and gastronomic assets of Milan. Gala dinners, entertainment, experiential activities, cooking classes, photographic safaris and cultural visits were among the events offered to the guests,” Quieti says.
Comprehensive travel management included keeping track of all arrivals and departures to and from many international airports, transfers from hotels to the congress center, as well as local transfers to and from events. Overall, 85,000 transfers were made. AIM also coordinated special assistance (wheelchairs, medical walkers and scooters) for disabled and mobility-impaired guests.
The focal point was the International Parade of Nations, a display of pride by the Lions family and the many countries represented. More than 15,000 delegates marched through the city center, wearing traditional national costumes and holding their flags and club banners.
The parade also included 28 marching bands, 15 Italian classic cars, and 190 security personnel and volunteers. It wove its way past 17th- and 18th-century buildings, ancient churches and modern fountains, through cobbled alleys, and finally concluded at Piazza del Duomo (Dome Square).
AIM considered the event to be successful based on the client’s glowing feedback, as well as one internal metric, which Quieti shared: “We are really proud that we never uttered the word ‘no’ to any client or delegate. Each day, we received requests that were big and small, standard and peculiar, and we dealt with each one with a smile and the best possible solution.”
The entire team had to be totally committed and highly responsive, with a willingness to change the program and try something new to satisfy the need. Each team member fielded multiple requests, logistics changes, last-minute ideas and even crisis management. “The key to success was flexibility and problem-solving,” Quieti says.