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Strength in Unity: Crafting Vibrant Communities

The pandemic has left a fragmented world in its wake. Despite increased global connectivity, organizations now face greater challenges in fostering a sense of belonging among stakeholders. Associations play a crucial role in meeting this essential human need, but the question remains: How?


This session will explore how to go beyond the conventional tools like websites, newsletters, and flagship events and start thinking of how to upgrade member experiences through trust, support, connections, empathy, and awareness.


27 February 2024


3:55 pm - 4:45 pm


  • Martin Sirk
    Martin Sirk
    Sirk Serendipity

    Martin Sirk founded the strategic consultancy Sirk Serendipity in 2019. His areas of expertise and interest include meeting design, association strategy and development, social and economic impact of meetings, destination marketing, networking theory, and the future evolution of the meetings industry. He is a frequent media commentator, event designer and moderator on these topics. Major clients include Global Association Hubs Partnership, (advising Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC how to assist international associations in achieving their strategic goals), tech start-ups and international associations and meetings industry companies including IMEX, Destinations International, International Association for the Study of Pain, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, SITE, UFI, and AI-driven interpretation company Wordly. From 2002 to 2018, Martin was CEO of ICCA, the International Congress and Convention Association. Prior to that he held senior positions with Hilton International and the British Tourist Authority, working and organising meetings in all regions of the world.

  • Mike van der Vijver
    Mike van der Vijver
    Conference Facilitator

    Mike van der Vijver is a Meeting Designer, Moderator and Facilitator, as well as an Advisor, Trainer and Coach in Intercultural Management. Since 2003, he has operated as a free-lance designer of international meetings for a wide variety of international clients through MindMeeting, the company he co-founded with Eric de Groot. MindMeeting specialises in the design of effective meeting programmes for international organisations. He provides advice on programmes and formats, and designs sessions and full conference programmes. In connection with his design works, Mike presents, moderates and facilitates on average about 40-45 meetings a year. He is also a regular speaker at international gatherings on topics such as meeting effectiveness, innovative meeting formats, and especially Meeting Design. In addition to his work on meetings, he advises on intercultural management, ensuring the effectiveness of organisations and individuals in the international business environment. Mike is a native of the Netherlands; he also works from a second home base in Taiwan. Mike is the co-author of Into the Heart of Meetings, the first book on Meeting Design, published in January 2013. He has also published a variety of articles and book chapters on intercultural management. Late 202, Eric and Mike’s second book saw the light: Meetings by Default or by Design.

  • Sharon Ashton
    Sharon Ashton
    Open Academy & Events Director
    EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe

    Sharon Ashton is a creative, accomplished and exacting event management professional whose passion is to design and deliver interactive events and training programmes that motivate and connect participants and provide platforms for genuine exchange and learning. The arc of her 20+ year career spans conferences, capacity-building workshops, training programmes, symposia, weddings, award ceremonies and fundraising gala dinners of all sizes in North America, Europe and beyond. Sharon has worked in the non-profit and association markets for the past 13 years and has experience delivering online, hybrid and in-person events and training programmes with measurable deliverables and proven return on investment. She recently completed a certification programme in online meetings from the Meeting Design Institute. Sharon is an Expert Contributor to AMI magazine and Co-Chair of the Events Management Community for the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE).

  • Tina Marolt
    Tina Marolt
    Managing Director, European Hydrogen Week
    Events Director, Hydrogen Europe

    Tina Marolt currently works as the Event Director at Hydrogen Europe, steering a broad portfolio of events and other activities. Since her arrival in 2021, Tina has played a pivotal role in conceptualizing, developing, and leading the European Hydrogen Week—an esteemed flagship event renowned as one of the largest congresses dedicated to hydrogen, organised by the Hydrogen Europe, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, and the European Commission. Before joining Hydrogen Europe, she held the role of the Senior Project and Event Officer at the European Banking Federation. There she orchestrated dynamic events and fostered strategic international partnerships. Between 2015 – 2018 she worked as Head of Events at SolarPower Europe, where she grew and developed multiple highly successful and award-winning business events, webinars, and projects. Before moving to Brussels, she worked on different event portfolios and project activities in her native country of Slovenia.

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