by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolElla
Give a dog a bad name
My late mother was a great one for the pithy sayings. She had wise words at will to sum up any situation and would frequently quote the proverb “Give a dog a bad name and it’ll stick to him” whenever I’d report negative hearsay about people in my childhood world. This proverb has an ironic application with the use of the acronym MICE as a category label or descriptor for “The Meetings Industry”. Most of us agree that MICE is a bad name but, based on recent evidence, not only is it sticking, it’s actually going forth and multiplying, maybe as prolifically as the furry little rodents themselves.
Following extensive debate in the 90s about MICE as a worthy term to describe our industry, the Pied Piper worked his magic in Europe and North America and merrily piped the term into oblivion. We quickly adapted to the newly agreed term “Meeting Industry” with the media and industry associations all re-enforcing the decision. We always knew that MICE wasn’t quite exterminated in Asia and Latin America but we believed we’d eventually prevail, Europe and North America being the stronger markets for the very segments from which the acronym was formed – meetings, incentives, conferences, events / exhibitions.
But MICE never really went away. The Asia, Latin American and Middle Eastern markets where its usage thrived grew strong and robust and became source markets as well as destinations for meetings and events. So MICE crept back under cover of darkness and suddenly at Site’s annual conference in Orlando last December a new slogan was born with Site as the association that represents the “i” in MICE. MICE was back at the very heart of the Meetings Industry in the US. So why did this happen and what should now be done?
MICE is eminently memorable
MICE thrived as a term simply because it’s easy to remember. It’s an acronym but also a mnemonic that immediately facilitates recall of the 4 industry segments that it represents. The fact that the acronym also represents a real word adds to its memorability as our minds conjure up all sorts of weird and wonderful images of tiny rodents queuing to register for conferences or engaging in team building activities. Yes, it may be a bad name but it’s so good for recall!
MICE has been used consistently in academia
Thanks to the work of our associations, our industry has matured immeasurably over the past 20 years with more and more universities and academic institutions offering under and post-graduate qualifications across the widest possible spectrum of its segments. This has resulted in a growing body of academic research at Masters and Doctoral level with MICE popping up everywhere for its sheer, easy convenience. They may spell out Meetings – Incentives – Conventions – Events at the start of their papers but quickly thereafter they revert to the acronym and this is what the next generations of graduates in travel and tourism, event management and meeting planning are learning.
MICE represents the full industry spectrum
Truth be known many of us felt “The Meetings Industry” didn’t adequately describe our metier. As a term it works well for Meeting Planners and Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) but less well for Destination Management Companies and Incentive Houses. If we add events and say “The Meetings & Events Industry” it’s already better but still doesn’t properly recognise the importance of incentive travel or motivational experiences in the mix. MICE, on the other hand, is all inclusive, even allowing for the ambivalent “E” which can signify “events” or “exhibitions” or both. When you examine the membership of the Convention Industry Council (CIC), the pan industry association of associations based in the USA, you’ll find 33 different associations there many of whom don’t bear the name “convention” in their title but all of whom bear one of the 4 or 5 names included in MICE.
So what should be done?
Events of the past 5 years have demonstrated unequivocally our need for unity and cohesion as an industry and, in that regard, for an acceptable name to call ourselves and rally support around. I’m not sure any more that “The Meetings Industry” can fulfil that brief. It doesn’t resonate across the full spectrum of our activities and neither do all geographical markets embrace it. Is it conceivable that we’d get alignment around “The MICE Industry”? Somehow I’m not sure of that either. But then I think of Shakespeare’s Juliet:
O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
and I wonder.
What do you think?
Padraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney recently launched SoolElla, a boutique agency offering another viewpoint for meetings and events – www.soolella.com