As the meeting and event industry matures, there are many discussions of its societal importance within national tourism organizations, convention bureaus, companies in our industry and MPI.
All meeting professionals feel pride in their jobs and industry. MPI is growing and enthusiasm and energy are booming. A desire for respect and attention is high on the agenda—to boost self esteem, attract talent and influence politicians who frame the conditions in which we work. But in our attempts to gain this respect and attention, we occasionally shoot ourselves in the feet.
What is the Problem? We are all offenders because of one basic industry challenge: a lack of trustworthy statistics. Neither national statistical bureaus nor Eurostat include our industry in their statistics, so we have to rely on estimates, ad hoc surveys and research.
Studies forget what lies behind—the determinant variable—the activities of our industry. We are nothing on our own. We reflect activity in society. In their eagerness to report high numbers, studies often miss this important point: The connection between the turnover generated and the jobs created mirrors the activity in society—nothing else.
We only generate turnover and jobs because conventions are being held. Companies launch products. Employees get trained. The demand side is forgotten.
This is not only wrong, it is counterproductive.
From discussions with friends and professionals who work in finance, life sciences and government, I know that the claim that the meeting industry generates turnover and jobs “on its own” and quotes of high figures are not taken seriously. Less is more. Exaggerating reduces respect.
And an analysis failing in its basic assumption (forgetting the demand side) fails in an academic perspective. So, we produce studies and we argue hard, but we risk not being taken seriously.
Less is More A more productive approach would conclude that it is not necessary to boost figures and claim credit for an exaggerated number of jobs and turnover. In academic terms, the meeting industry has a great deal of power as an intermediate variable.
The industry does not and cannot exist in isolation—yet the industry in itself contributes to the growth and prosperity of the world economy. In other words, professional meeting planners enhance and accelerate the output and ROI of meetings.
If the presentation involves the participants, ROI increases compared to boring, monologue meetings. If the planner has coached and challenged clients on the content of the meeting, ROI increases. If F&B is healthy, it can increase energy levels and delegates won’t sleep after lunch. If smart IT solutions are integrated, participants expand their networks with all the benefits that brings.
The possibilities are numerous. In Denmark, the meeting industry has developed several involving and innovative meeting concepts under the headline Meetovation, which incorporates participation, flexibility, evaluation and relocation. The concepts engage participants actively and break with one-way communication.
The concepts help planners to transform the traditional, one-way communication format into a creative forum in which participants are actively involved in obtaining the tools and knowledge they need to strengthen their companies’ or associations’ overall objectives and strategies.
There is scope for new research in how to quantify the effects of how skilled meeting planners work. How do we, on a societal level, measure the accelerated ROI from meetings?
In other words: The meeting industry does contribute to society. And in times of crisis, we can confidently claim that meetings are part of the solution. But remember: Less is more! One+
LARS RAMME NIELSEN is director of business development for Wonderful Copenhagen CVB and vice president of finance and president-elect for the MPI Denmark Chapter. Contact him at [email protected].
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