ICCA: 2014 – What Conference Planners need to know

ICCA: 2014 – What Conference Planners need to know

Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA gave a peek into the ways that MICE is changing, the growing trends, latest technology and what the planners need to keep an eye out on

ICCA | MICE INDIA | January 2014

2013 changed the way we looked at the Conventions Industry, what with there being a marked difference in the way, the industry operated. Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA gave a peek into the ways that MICE is changing, the growing trends, latest technology and what the planners need to keep an eye out on.

His valuable insights:

  1. Sharing his views on Marketing strategies, Martin Sirk said, “I think that 2013 was the year when the Concept of marketing your destination based on intellectual advantages and business arguments finally became mainstream rather than cutting-edge. The formerly dominant approach of selling based on tourism and cultural assets have now moved down into a supporting role”. He cited the examples of Melbourne and Copenhagen, two of the four finalists in ICCA’s 2013 Best Cities which had used this strategy to promote themselves. Sirk added, “Having been talking about this issue for most of the last decade, my audiences now have so much understanding and are already applying the principles that I’ve had to start writing some genuinely new material for my speeches”.
  2. For Sirk, “Hybrid Meetings” are an unavoidable reality for any event, even if the organizer isn’t planning for it. Unless delegates are forced to hand in their tablets and smart phones before entering the meeting, whatever happens onsite is going to break out of the physical surroundings at an ever-increasing speed. What we need now is a more sophisticated psychological understanding about the differences between participating online and in person, since all too often organizers simply record and broadcast material in the same format, so that a stimulating live experience turns into an indigestible bore.”
  3. When questions moved towards the Importance of China as an ever growing economic power, it was agreed that China was attracting more and more visitors at conferences too. Martin Sirk noted, “We attracted record-breaking attendance at our Congress in Shanghai last November and it was clear that one of the primary driving forces was that delegates wanted to really understand what was happening there, as a competitor destination, as a source of meetings and delegates, and as a macro-economic engine of worldwide growth”.A research conducted by one of ICCA’s member universities among the Association’s global membership found that most had strategies based on China , more and more China originating events were being organised and even China centric policies were being created. According to Sirk, “We knew that there was a lot of interest in China, but we were really surprised by the levels of engagement and strategic investment, which are only likely to accelerate.”
  4. The world watched when Congrex, the world’s biggest and oldest PCO company collapsed. When asked about his opinion on this fall, Martin Sirk said,” We will have long-ranging repercussions for the industry. Whilst there were undoubtedly local and unique issues involved, it has introduced all kinds of doubts into the marketplace for association meetings regarding financial models, risk management, and the relative merits of in-house event management versus outsourced services.”For Sirk, the current economic does not allow any safe harbours. “Any organisation, company or destination is going to have to keep reevaluating its business model and value proposition to survive and thrive.”
  5. Sirk highlighted some developments in the Convention Industry which are here to stay. He observed that Wi-Fi was a mission critical requirement but there is lack of knowledge about availability and requirement. “At our Congress in Shanghai last year, we took specialized advice—we upgraded the bandwidth in our main venue (on top of the upgrades they’d already put in place), and even arranged a switching system within the venue to divert capacity to the areas that were busiest on an hour-by-hour basis. But there was a drawback. “When some of the massive companies neighbouring our congress centre hit their uploading and downloading peaks, our pipeline got squeezed. For really big citywide events, understanding the macro-Wi-Fi issues beyond the venue is going to become vital, and cities now even have the chance to compete on the basis of their overall capacity.”
  6. Sirk says that ICCA has been following the trend of dietary restrictions of the participants. “What used to be an issue for the occasional individual is now becoming a mass-market phenomenon, as more and more people demand customised solutions to their dietary needs. Buffets in particular are becoming a complex signage operation as well as a catering exercise!”
  7. Sirk reflected on the new and sudden changes and shocks that would affect the Convention industry. “Some countries will face extreme political and economic turmoil, since we’re clearly still in a period of global turbulence and uncertainty.” He predicted that smaller and newer companies would challenge and try to elbow out the bigger ones, lesser known destinations would gather interest and overcharging by the big sharks would take a knock down. “It’s also certain the pressure on government budgets at national and local level will continue to rise in most regions of the world, and it shouldn’t be underestimated how critical this is to our industry. Public servants don’t just attend their own meetings; they are big players in association and corporate meeting alike, not least because these are events where policy issues are debated and formulated, and government money has traditionally underwritten many events which incorporate public interest objectives.”
  8. So what would be the new norm for the industry? Sirk mentioned that the fact that markets in Asia Pacific were booming and Africa was also showing vertical economic growth, could knock down the current trend of already popular destinations.
  9. The ICCA would in future contribute to the industry by finding,” every way possible to help our members become more competitive and to win more association bids. It’s also certain the pressure on government budgets at national and local level will continue to rise in most regions of the world, and it shouldn’t be underestimated how critical this is to our industry,” Sirk said. “Public servants don’t just attend their own meetings; they are big players in association and corporate meeting alike, not least because these are events where policy issues are debated and formulated, and government money has traditionally underwritten many events which incorporate public interest objectives. The biggest ongoing challenge is to expand the number of our services that each member makes use of, since many members don’t think beyond our database,” he added. “Only half of our members are actively using our PR Kit, for example, and that’s a resource that I believe could annually save them the full cost of ICCA.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog post / article are solely those of the author in his / her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of MICE INDIA

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