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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua & Chief Marketing Officer SITE

Joint Meetings Industry Council

This week I was privileged to accompany Annamaria Ruffini, SITE President for 2018 to the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) summit in Hannover, Germany. JMIC is an organisation which I’ve been aware for a long time but, to my embarrassment and shame, not one that I paid a whole lot of attention to!

Over two days Annamaria and I dialogued, discussed and debated key issues around the very identity of our “industry” with the executive and volunteer leadership of some of the world’s most powerful “MICE” associations and organisations. I use the much reviled MICE acronym advisedly in the full knowledge that it’s anathema to many of the participants at the JMIC summit. However, in the room were folks concerned with meetings, incentive travel experiences, congresses, conventions, conferences, events and exhibitions. Somehow “The Meetings Industry” seems far too plain and reductive as a catch-all term to describe such a cohort. The “Business Events Industry” is probably better but the use of the word “business” can be as distasteful to a medical professional staging a research-based congress as MICE is to Claire Smith, my great friend who currently serves as President at PCMA. So, for now, let MICE stand.

Impressions of a JMIC Virgin – 1

Here are a few stand-out impressions from the JMIC Summit. First of all, our “industry” spans a wider spectrum than most of us can stretch our minds across. Over the 2 days of the Summit in Hannover I chatted with folks for whom the distinction between destination development and destination marketing was a huge concern. I also interacted with folks who stay awake at night because of regulations in the finance sector. There were also professionals for whom a key element of interest is the generation of energy in convention centres. A wide spectrum, indeed.


So what do we share in common? In that hypothetical, many circled Venn diagram representing all our individual associations, where’s the point of intersection? Is there any over-riding, abiding concern that we all share? ICCA‘s Martin Sirk shared a statement with me that a bunch of JMIC members had come up with informally. It suggests that we’re all in the business of

“events that create / support / advance communities of intellectual / commercial / societal interest”.

I like this very much but does it work for SITE, for instance? SITE members are certainly in the business of events that support commercial interest. But we’re also in the business of events that advance societal interest because travel experiences make us better citizens. What about PCMA? I don’t think any PCMA member would argue that the association is not in the business of events that support communities of intellectual interest. And so on.


However, what would our dear mothers say if we told them this was what we did for a living? I imagine it’d be something like “why can’t you get a proper job in a bank or be a teacher or an accountant?”  So fine as an internal statement but not so fine when it comes to helping the world at large – and our mothers – understand the value that we create. And therein the rub – this is what we must, somehow, produce.

Impressions of a JMIC Virgin – 2

A second abiding impression from our JMIC encounter is this: individually and collectively, we’re a bright, passionate and fun bunch. If it’s a little challenging to capture our commonalities in terms of what we do, it’s patently obvious in terms of who we are: brain power to beat the band, deep empathetic engagement around the cause, folks you’d willingly get stuck in an elevator with.


Also in evidence was an ability to look, Janus-like, back into our respective associations / organisations and forward towards a common mission and vision. But that doesn’t mean we agreed about what that mission might be or how we might express it. This was a greater task than could realistically be achieved within a 48 hour period.

In his much quoted book for business leaders, Good to Great, Jim Collins highlights the importance of having “the right people on the bus”. The eclectic cohort that rallied around the JMIC flag in Hanover was certainly “the right people on the bus”. If that bus’s ultimate destination is not yet clear then what of it? Tasking the wrong people to get you to an agreed destination will never, ever work but the right people will get you anywhere.


Impressions of a JMIC Virgin – 3

A third, related impression from Hanover is how much we learn from each other – justification alone for investing the time. My early AM walks with Nicky McGrane of Conference Partners (representing IAPCO at the JMIC events) were hugely instructive around vitally important matters like health, work / life balance, values in the workplace. SITE President Annamaria Ruffini, meanwhile, whom I have known since the 1990s, had great perspective from Italy of how associations can engage in meaningful “co-opetition”. In fact SITE’s annual conference in 2018 was a joint summit with MPI. James Latham, a towering presence across our spectrum for well over a decade, highlighted the supreme value of content and the depth of content available to us via platforms like The IceBerg. For Jurriaen Sleijster, my ex-MCI colleague representing IAPCO I had a quick audit of SoolNua’s progress and a short list of “must read” business books.


Final Word

I’ll leave the last word to Sherrif Karamat of PCMA, however,  from whom I picked up an astonishingly simple process tool:

S + S = S.

Let me explain. The answer or outcome in this equation is the third S for SUCCESS and defining success is where you have to start. So, to use the cliché, start by asking what does success look like? What’s the desired outcome? Once that’s known then the first S for STRATEGY can be tackled – what’s the plan? how do we get there? Finally the second or middle S for STRUCTURE slots in – who or what structure will take us there? So structure follows strategy but both follow a clearly defined picture of success. A painted picture. Just like SITE’s own 2020 vision.


In sharing these random thoughts on JMIC I’m mindful that many of us in Hannover were newbies and blow-ins, not a wet week around an organisation that already has a proud legacy. This proud legacy is bequeathed to us by true pioneers who, in pioneer fashion, have ended up with occasional arrows in the back. In this regard I’d like to pay tribute to the extraordinary work of Rod Cameron, a true MICE visionary, who had led the JMIC initiative for many years. I’m really looking forward to being part of the on-going evolution of this organisation as it evolves into the global voice for a spectrum of events related activities that enable transformational change within communities and societies today.

Post Script

Massive thanks should also be given to Joachim König, Director at the Hannover Congress Centrum and our host for the JMIC Summit – all images reproduced here were taken at venues where Joachim calls most of the shots.

Also big thanks to Martin Gilbraith of Martin Gilbraith Associates who facilitated our discussions over the 2 days – great job!

Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney & Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and sales.








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