Meetings Industry Forum report

International event management agency Grass Roots staged its third Meetings Industry Forum (MIF 2010) last month. Paul Colston reports.

One procurement specialist said she was pleased to have cut meetings spend by 60 per cent at the Hotel Booking Agents Association recent annual forum in Stratford, so it was good to hear the case for events’ ability to boost business being made eqaully strongly at Grass Roots’ recent annual Meetings Industry Forum 2010.

Over 130 delegates attending the agency’s big event at the Hilton Tower Bridge heard HSBC Chief Economist Dennis Turner declare the recession over. It was a barnstorming presentation which set the economic backdrop for high-level discussions involving leading corporate buyers and suppliers to the industry.

Themes discussed included: how to inspire new talent, how to realise the Olympic legacy and how to interpret hotel sector trends.

In a case study, Big Bang Show Director Jeremy Buckle explained how his event had used the exhibiting format to raise perceptions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a career for graduates. He told CN: “The UK leads for creative events talent. We couldn’t have developed Big Bang in any other country.”

Grass Roots Events Production MD Charles Moyle shared details of his Get Connected experiential campaign developed for Curry’s Group, a roadshow which, he claimed, dramatically halted staff churn and resulted in electrical product owners underwriting the costs. The event even turned a profit for Curry’s staff training programme.

Ernst & Young Director Christian Mole revealed research showing budget branded hotels and those venues in prime London locations were best at navigating the economic climate. “Unbranded three- and four-star hotels and those dependent on conference trade,” he said, “were losing ground. Nevertheless, the consensus is for RevPAR growth in 2010/11.”

Delegate Alastair Stewart, MD of etc.venues, told CN the research showed a two-tier market had emerged, “with London performing strongly and the provinces struggling, albeit with pockets of development”.
“Recession,” Stewart said, “has changed buyers’ behaviours.

“Just as budget hotels are changing the accommodation market, so I believe non-residential meetings venues are similarly taking market share from hotels in city centres.”

Visit London and Greater London Authority speakers banged the Olympic legacy drum, with Dan Hawthorn, London 2012 Unit Head at the GLA, urging delegates “to start planning now” for a Games that would, he believed, “cement London’s place as a world events capital”. 

Visit London’s Mark Howell could certainly win a gold medal for PR optimism, but one couldn’t help think the transport bogeyman lurks. Howell’s assertion that the “infrastructure will be better” clearly has not factored in the reality of the rush hour tube journey, government budget cuts or Bob Crow.

Castrol Special Projects Director David Whale picked up on a new industry ‘buzz term – Events Relationship Management (ERM), saying that corporates were no longer interested in putting on one event, but wanted to join up the dots with year-round conversations. He delivered three powerful case studies showing how lubricant manufacturer Castrol used international roadshows to get key messages embedded in its staff culture over a nine-month campaign.

Hoteliers expressed the mood of the times, with De Vere’s Jason Gutteridge saying the key to doing business was simply “to find out what the client wants and deliver it”.

The accent on going the extra mile was underlined by the host venue GM, whose advice for dealing with meeting clients on a site visit was: “Listen to the story, then say, ‘Yes’.”

Grass Roots Chief Executive David Evans’ analogy of his and his agency’s function seemed particularly apt: “I always say I am a butler; people like butlers. You trust them.” 

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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