In times of unrest and uncertainty, the immediate response for many in the business world might be to avoid things until the situation stabilizes. But J. David Rozsa, CEO of U.S.-based associations-management company Metacred, called upon his peers in the meetings and events industry to help change that negative narrative.
"People and markets chase hype," said Rozsa during a panel discussion, "Brave New World of Meetings," held at M&C Asia Connections 2019 on Aug. 20 in Singapore. "If you and I feed into the positive hype instead and go out there saying, 'Hey, there may be minor problems, but we're going to get through it,' clients will follow, meetings continue to be successful and all of sudden, you've played a part to make that a reality."
The session, moderated by Northstar Meetings Group's vice president, content director, Loren Edelstein, also surfaced the need for businesses to be resilient in an industry where the only constant is change.
Referencing the recent political instability in Hong Kong, the CEO of ECG London, Les Sinclair, said no one could have predicted 12 months ago that there will be civil unrest in the territory. "We need to always be prepared for what happens when things go wrong, think on our feet and have a contingency plan," he noted.
A useful tip Sinclair suggested to all planners present was to include an addendum to contracts, as many large hotel chains tend to be resistant to changing standard contracts, which usually do not include provisions for civil unrest.
"When we look at placing a meeting in a destination, before even getting to a venue, we want some good advice."
J. David Rozsa, Metacred
Agreeing with Sinclair was managing director of Singapore-based DMC World Express, Darren Tan, who said, "In some sense, we are almost immune to shock. When there are demonstrations that have led to airport closures, bookings will plunge, but within a matter of months, things will bounce back. The industry is more resilient now."
Another topic that was brought up in the conversation was destination marketing -- more destinations are now promoting themselves as knowledge hubs to align themselves with planners and delegates who are looking at destination appeal beyond its meetings infrastructure.
"When we look at placing a meeting in a destination, before even getting to a venue, we want some good advice," said Rozsa. "Is it a good fit for the client? In much more practical terms, what we want is for CVBs to work in full partnership with us to maximize local participation in our international events. For instance, if we put a meeting in Singapore, we want the Singapore Tourism Board to connect us with local professionals, be it panelists for conferences or speakers etc. That's where we find the real value of putting a meeting anywhere but online."
"Things will bounce back. The industry is more resilient now."
Darren Tan, World Express
This is in line with changing delegate preferences, of which Tan noted, "More and more groups want to mix conferences with educational elements and experience these outdoors instead of in a meeting room."
In Singapore, for instance, the city-state has referenced its background as a country with finite resources and journey to water self-sufficiency to tailor educational tours offering foreign visitors insights into its expertise in water treatment.
Another important aspect that people expect to see, Tan said, are Insta-worthy moments and connectivity -- especially so for Chinese clients who have noted that they want to be able to post trip updates on the move "so the guy who didn't qualify for the incentive would want to be there next year."
A caveat, however, warned Sinclair, is that "social media on its own is merely a tool." He added, "We have an adage: old values, new technology. It's how you blend it with what [our industry's] about: relationships and community."