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downloadConference organisers are going to have to challenge clients to look at innovative ways of delivering conferences if they want to stay in the game, says Barry Neame, president of the PCO Association.

A panel discussion was held at the recent Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) to debate the issues facing the meetings and events industry now and for the future.

Neame says technology is posing a threat to the industry with the younger generation coming through now as delegates and professional people that use social media as a medium for communication. ‘I think if we don’t challenge our clients to enhance this technology, then we’ll find that people will develop their own online networks and their own educational experiences within the technology that’s available to them, they wont necessarily come to the conferences that we want.

‘That’s where as PCOs we’re going to have to lift the level of sophistication in the world in which we operate by engaging with people who understand these industry sectors and understand how to put these conferences together, how to make them interactive, how to make them knowledgeable for people in a different way to what we have been doing and probably will do for the next few years. ‘If we don’t challenge ourselves, we’re going to just fall off the radar.’

Martin Sirk, CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) backed up this claim with an example of a speaker at the ICCA Congress in Turkey last year who created the world’s largest conference on social media, which attracts around 20,000 people and takes place simultaneously over 12 cities, all of which are packed full of ICCA members. ‘I’ve got about 2000 connections on Linkedin, the majority of which are our members, this guy has got 3000 connections on Linkedin and we did not share a single first tier person. So there’s a whole generation of people organising events who are entirely bypassing the traditional meetings industry infrastructure.’

Sirk says while this is a massive opportunity, it is also a huge threat. ‘I heard recently that the world’s biggest photo sharing social community are now entirely self-creating their own live events using volunteers, and before you know it they’ve got an event of 500 people taking place that is nothing to do with our industry. ‘Of course in terms of economic development it still has an impact on the destination, but if we’re not involved in shaping it in any way, we have no ability to maximise that value.’

Other issues discussed by the panel included the need to adequately communicate the benefits of the business events world to government officials and the community, developing tools to measure the efficiency of an event rather than focusing too much on the menu, and working out how to collaborate – not just for the three days of the conference but also for the next five years.

By Aleisha Moore
New Zealand’s Meeting Newz