What is an IAPCO PCO?


An IAPCO PCO is a Professional Congress Organiser or Meeting Planner who administers and brings to fruition the organisation of a congress, meeting, event or convention in a professional manner. Such a professional manner will include timeliness, efficiency, financial responsibility and good management.

An IAPCO PCO has achieved a professional standard as judged by their peers and their clients. Each member has had to undergo rigorous entry criteria:

  • Proof of organisation of 10 international meetings, of which 5 must be of over 400 participants
  • Confidential references received from past clients
  • Site inspection of a selected international congress
  • Successful interviews by peer review of international client, local organising committee, delegates and exhibitors of a selected international congress
  • Inspection of offices and audit of procedures

Once accepted into the Association, an IAPCO PCO has to maintain their membership by participating in an annual quality assessment including:

  • Statutory returns to prove on-going trading and notification of management changes
  • Submission of Congress Check Lists to ensure continuous activity in the international meetings market
  • Quality Self Assessment to position oneself against one’s competition and peers and to provide a benchmark for improvement
  • Attendance at the annual Quality Seminar at least once every three years

As a result of the above, an IAPCO PCO offers a unique quality assurance recognised by congress clients and suppliers all over the world.

Why do you need an IAPCO PCO?

An IAPCO PCO will bring added value to the organisation of a congress or event providing their clients with the highest quality standards.
As well as:

  • Proven experience and expertise
  • Professional well-trained staff with exclusive dedication
  • State-of-the-art congress management software tailored to the specific needs of the congress
  • A more professional outcome
  • Full PCO services freeing the client from all organisation, administrative and operational tasks
  • Relief from many of the everyday concerns and stresses involved in the organisation
  • Excellent value for money by maximising income/profit for the client
  • A code of conduct, ethics and quality practice
  • Understanding and knowledge of the international meetings industry, demands and its players involved
  • Knowledge of changes and trends in the international meetings industry and how to integrate them into the organisation of the congress or alternatively avoid the pitfalls that might otherwise occur
  • The benefit of a network and sharing of experience amongst members

You will work with a PCO who has met with IAPCO’s strict entry qualifications – including reference checks from past clients and industry colleagues – to confirm a high level of professionalism.

  • IAPCO entry qualifications include documented proof of successfully organising a minimum of ten international congresses.
  • IAPCO members’ activities are monitored on an annual basis with members meeting on a regular basis to discuss best practice and to exchange ideas and experiences.
  • IAPCO members have to undertake annual quality assessments and reviews.
  • All IAPCO members must respect the IAPCO Code of Conduct. Any breach of this Code is submitted to the Committee of Ethics for investigation.
  • IAPCO membership shares a pool of experience in terms of worldwide destinations, professional competency and technical know-how. The PCO has immediate access to the IAPCO membership network to collect information on preceding congresses and to provide a continuity of quality service.
  • IAPCO members are at the forefront of training in the congress industry through the IAPCO Training Academy. The Academy provides a comprehensive international and regional educational programme for senior and middle management involved in managing congresses.

What is the difference between an IAPCO PCO and a non-member PCO?

A non-member PCO may differ from an IAPCO PCO in one or more of the following ways:

  • Core business is not professional congress organisation
  • Level of expertise is not ensured through continuous quality control and assurance procedures
  • Not under review by a Committee of Ethics in case of a dispute
  • Not stimulated to take part in annual educational programmes
  • Not part of an international forum exchanging ideas and expertise.

This does not mean that non-member PCOs are unqualified to do the job to the highest level; it means that, when engaging or employing a PCO, careful attention should be paid to the level of expertise and quality assurance to ensure that the right PCO is selected.

IAPCO is a worldwide sign of quality and the solution to congress organising is to appoint an IAPCO member.