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by Padraic Gilligan, VP, Industry Relations MCI

How things change in 1000 years

The Danes have come a long way. From marauding, cultureless philistines who raped and pillaged all over Northern Europe to laid back, uber-cool independent types with an eye for razor-sharp design and a sincere  commitment to sustainability. It may have taken a thousand years for the change to happen but hey! that’s evolution. Whatever about its dark past – and maybe the Vikings were actually Swedes and Norwegians and not Danes – the present reality of Denmark as a nation and Danes as a people is extraordinarily positive. They’re just not very good at telling people about it.

Bella Center

I was back in Copenhagen last week for the MCI Global Sales Leadership Summit and stayed midway between the airport and the city centre in the Oresund neighbourhood where there is a convention cluster pivoting around the superlative Bella Center and some large convention hotels, notably the 800+ roomed Bella Sky. Our 100 person event was drawing to a close while preparations for a 10,000 person event were in full flight: such is the scale, scope and flexibility of the Bella Center. As a Convention Centre it is well known to MCI having hosted 2 of our organisation’s recent large mandates, the COP15 conference on climate change and the 15,000 delegate EULAR Conference.

Bella Sky

Since then the Bella Sky Hotel has opened bringing to the complex over 800 rather chic guest rooms, a penthouse bar on the 23rd floor featuring a bird’s eye view into neighbouring Sweden and significant additional meeting and banqueting facilities. The guest rooms are a hymn to Scandinavian design with hardwood floors, super-efficient storage, effective, intuitive technology and great bathrooms with showers that rip the bones off your back (Bruce Springsteen would like that one!). The floor to ceiling windows ensure rooms are bathed in natural light and, depending on your orientation, your view takes you towards Malmo in Sweden or over the extensive Amager Faelled, a magnificent bird sanctuary with labyrinthine trails and pathways providing a little piece of wilderness in an area of concrete, glass and steel.

Global Sales Leadership Summit

We were lucky to have Shakeel Bharmal of the Summit Group as facilitator for our Global Sales Leadership event. While business in this brave new world of technology may appear to operate at lightening velocity Shakeel emphasised the importance of personal relationships, authenticity and integrity: “Sales conversations”, he said, “move at the speed of trust”. He also worked with us to craft, and refine compelling value propositions from the vital perspective of the customer taking the starting point from “what our customers care about”. MCI worked with Shakeel for the first time 2 years ago when we were introduced to “Third Box Thinking”, an innovative sales process that is centred on first understanding the customer’s universe. Our sessions with Shakeel in Copenhagen built beautifully on this platform and helped us re-orientate our sales so as to achieve “intelligent relevance”.

Copenhagen by boat

Lene Mortensen of the Bella Center and Anders Duelund of the Bella Sky were joined as sponsors of our event by Steen Jakobsen of Wonderful Copenhagen who took charge of our 2nd night in the city. Steen transferred us by motorcoach from the Bella Center to The Royal Library from where we embarked on a wonderful boat ride through the city’s waterways, past the City Opera and Theatre, the Royal Residence Amalienborg and Copenhagen’s world famous icon, Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” (little being the operative word). We disembarked at Amerikakaj (America Quay) in the Northern part of the city, so called as it was the point of departure for emigrating Danes in the 1950s, and enjoyed a wonderful professional barbecue at Grilleriet (by Weber). Grilleriet is a perfect example of experiental marketing – owned by global brand Weber, the venue is both a showroom for the company’s famous barbecues and an appealing venue for functions and parties. Steen was the perfect host his personal penchant for fine wines ensuring that only the best was served – I particularly enjoyed the Argentinian Malbec.

7th Ovation Summit

The MCI Global Sales Leadership Summit was followed immediately by the 7th Ovation Summit when the Destination Services experts at MCI were joined by our strategic alliances and partners for another day and a half of education, planning and networking. Word perfect Frank Gooding and the team at the Bella Center (seriously, have you ever heard a Scandinavian speak bad English?) helped us create an informal lounge setting for our summit which encouraged connections and conversations, a core objective of the annual meeting. Ovation destinations from as far west as Panama and as far east as Thailand were present and, despite the gathering cloudy of on-going economic uncertainty, there was a palpable and gutsy determination to  keep going regardless and to use our collective creativity to identify and secure new business opportunities.


In deference to Copenhagen’s unrivaled credentials as a sustainable city we undertook to use public transportation for our final evening event at Nimb Terrasse in the magnificent, world famous Tivoli Gardens in the downtown area.  We boarded the Metro at the Bella Center and, with one simple change, quickly found ourselves at the gardens, all beautiful and resplendent in late summer glory. We were joined for an eminently memorable dinner at Nimb Terrasse by our good friend Tage Rosenmeier, late of IBM and enjoyed a repast rich in Omega 3: a salted salmon starter followed by warm salted cod. The salmon starter was served with smoked cheese, micro-sliced German turnip and watercress and accompanied by an earthy Castillo de Jumilla while the cod came with ventreche, charred onions and peas and a grenache-heavy Saint-Cosme “Little James’ Basket Press”. There was quite a discussion about the “ventreche” which, finally, in perfect English, was explained to us by the waiter – it’s the French version of Pancetta.

As is customary at Ovation Summits the singing started around about dessert time and Tage distinguished himself by knowing that it was the Crystals and not the Ronettes or the Shirelles that recorded the “Da Doo Ron Ron”. The singing continued in the train all the way back to the Bella Center leaving the quiet and bemused locals to wonder where all these hooligans and vandals were coming from?

Padraic Gilligan is VP, Industry Relations at MCI, a globally integrated association, communication and event management company with 47 offices in 23 Countries. He is also VP of Ovation Global DMC, the destination services division of MCI. He can be contacted on [email protected] Views expressed in these blogs postings are entirely his own.


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