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Ian Milsom is Consultant Gynaecologist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, where he leads work in female and paediatric health. Ian is also the initiator and chairman of the 49th International Continence Society (ICS) Annual Meeting which was held in Gothenburg at the start of September. The congress was visited by almost 2,000 people from around 70 countries and many of the delegates are well-renowned international experts in incontinence and pelvic floor disorders.
We had an opportunity to ask Ian some questions about his experiences of the congress. 

Ian Milsom och Daniel Snowdon, Executive Director ICS
Ian Milsom and Daniel Snowdon, Executive Director ICS. Photo: Anna Hylander/Göteborg & Co

Hello Ian! Tell us a little about the conference …

There were roughly 2,000 delegates at the conference from many different occupational fields, including urologists, gynaecologists, geriatricians, and general practitioners, as well as researchers and physiotherapists. The largest proportion of delegates came from the US, but there were also many from Japan and other parts of the world. Because the congress was held in Sweden we also saw more Swedes visiting the congress than in previous years.

So now it’s over, are you pleased with the results?

During the congress lots of people came up to me and said they felt the congress was really good and that the programme content was useful and relevant. It was nice to hear that. And we also had full audiences in the lecture halls.

We had worked hard on the congress for a couple of years and very intensively in the final year. When we brought the congress to Gothenburg it was in competition with around ten other destinations. In the end it was between us, Paris, Glasgow and Prague. So it was naturally great to hear positive feedback on the congress. Many people were also impressed by the way that the conference halls, exhibition and everything else were integrated with the hotel. Often you attend the congress until 17.00, then there is a social event at 19.00. So it’s good to have everything on the doorstep.

We got a great deal of help from the congress organiser, Kenes, and they were also impressed by Gothenburg as a city for meetings, and extremely pleased with the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre and Gothia Towers, just like us. We also got a lot of support from Gothenburg Convention Bureau, especially Anna Hylander and Annika Hallman. Andreas Wiktorsson was the project manager in charge for the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre, and we were also very pleased with all the aspects relating to planning and premises.

It feels as if we have done something worthwhile for Gothenburg – that we have helped to make more people fans of Gothenburg as a city of meetings and events. The only improvement we could have wished for was some better weather during the week of the congress.

How do you think Gothenburg compares to other European cities?

Gothenburg compares very well! Many people noticed the benefits, and for example took the airport shuttle bus instead of a taxi. The journey from the airport was short and it gave you a chance to talk to colleagues on the bus. Many visitors were also impressed by the hotels and restaurants in Gothenburg and by the choice and quality of food.

Some congress delegates also brought their partners along on the trip, and even their children, and they found there were plenty of activities for them. Some shopped, while others visited the museums. Poseidon was obviously an attraction and because ICS uses Poseidon as a graphic symbol lots of people wanted to visit the statue. All the flowers around Poseidon, in Götaplatsen square, made it a beautiful sight.

Some people also decided to come here before the congress started and use the opportunity to visit the fantastic coast and islands.

A dinner was held in the congress hall at the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre. How important is it to have social events during a congress? By the way, I heard it was a big success …

Yes, it was a success. Many people were impressed by the way a congress hall could be transformed into a banquet hall in that way and I had to explain how it was done.
The main point of a congress is naturally to exchange knowledge, but yes, I believe it is very important to have social activities that enable people to network. It’s a chance to get to know others in your profession.

The City of Gothenburg and Region Västra Götaland also gave a fine presentation during the welcome speeches. It was also a good opportunity to make contacts.
A number of smaller social events were also arranged.

What do you hope visitors took home from the congress?

That they felt the scientific content was good. We had a scientific committee that advised on the content to ensure it was as interesting as possible. I naturally hope that the delegates learned something and feel encouraged to test new treatments and offer new treatment advice. And that they got to know others in the same occupational field and have the opportunity to exchange knowledge in the future and drive the research forwards.

I also hope that people want to come back to Gothenburg. In fact I know one delegate from Cairo who is planning to come back to go canoeing.

Next year’s congress will be held in Las Vegas, US.