Meetings and events industry professionals have been urged to look to the future and keep innovating, after a day of inspiring talks and debates at the annual Meetings Industry Association (mia) conference.
The conference took place on Monday 20 March at Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury, which in light of Brexit and the current economic uncertainty was entitled ‘Don’t Stop… Rethink’.
The first session of the day tackled the issue of Brexit head-on, with professor of economics and finance at Derby University and member of the Institute of Economic Affairs Shadow Monetary Policy Committee (SMPC) Trevor Williams analysing what the post-Brexit landscape will look like and how foreign affairs, in particular the Trump presidency, will impact on the UK events industry.
While Williams was keen to stress that ‘no country is an island’ and Britain’s future is dependent on a myriad of external influences, on balance his forecast was positive – the world economy is growing, global financial markets are optimistic, and the services industry is what will drive the UK’s economy. With any trade deal with the EU set to take several years longer than the actual Brexit ‘divorce’, attendees were urged not to wait for it to happen but to keep pushing forward.
Rod Gordon, founder and chief executive of BarometerofTrade.com took to the stage next to review the data recorded by miaTouchstone and discuss booking trends with Rowan Bennett from the Honourable Artillery Company. Using software from event sponsor Glisser, delegates were able to submit live questions, as well as providing feedback for the future development of Touchstone.
The conference then split for two pre-lunch breakout sessions, with the first hosted by Ciara Feely of Conference Converter and the second chaired by Jane Sunley from People Cubed focusing on recruitment. Feely shared her expertise in event booking conversions and her seven-stage programme to win business, reminding venues to always consider things from the point of view of the buyer, while Sunley stressed that businesses must have a people plan in place to ensure they become an employer of choice.
After lunch Conference News deputy editor Martin Fullard chaired a breakout discussion with Mark McCulloch of We ARE Spectacular and Emily Johnson from the drp Group, focusing on the importance of digital and social media and the importance of dedicating time – and money – to your social strategy.
Meanwhile, a lively discussion on procurement hosted by Charles Manners from Turpin Smale Catering Consultants covered issues of food waste, which is costing the hospitality industry £2.5bn per year, and the current issue of food price inflation, as well as tackling supplier management, logistics and technology.
Further afternoon sessions discussed the hot topic of Brexit in relation to inbound tourism and recruitment in hospitality with a dedicated panel discussion chaired by conference presenter Jeremy Jacobs with Tracy Halliwell MBE, director of business tourism & major events of London & Partners and Dierdre Wells OBE of UKInbound. The overriding message was that ‘resilience is key’ but Britain has to focus on improving its welcome – both literally in airports, and through its messaging.
The vital topic of venue security was also tackled with former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service and global security expert, Bob Quick, sharing his expertise with events consultant Bridget Baker and reminding attendees that the smallest security lapse could have terrible consequences.
The event ended on a high, with motivational speaker Richard Newman of specialist training company Body Talk leading an interactive demonstration of just how much your body language can say without even moving your lips, leaving guests with some top tips to implement in their next meetings.
Immediate past chair of the mia Andrew Mosely gave the closing speech, reiterating the mia’s commitment to supporting the sector and addressing post-Brexit challenges and ending on the positive message that “together we can push the industry to make it even better”.
Feedback from delegates at the conference was positive, with comments including Kat Winfield from BMA House saying: “Ciara (Feely)’s talk on 7 steps to conversion was brilliant, absolutely inspired and I wrote down many tips to take away. Ciara made it interactive and relevant. I also enjoyed the closing Bodytalk – I think we all wondered what was going to happen but everyone loved it.”