by Padraic Gilligan
“Shall I compare thee …”
Comparing cities may be akin to comparing children or daffodils and tulips but I think it’s fair to say on the “excitement” spectrum Frankfurt and Geneva are probably west of Berlin and Zurich and far west of London and Barcelona. They are both efficient cities with excellent infrastructure but somehow lack the edgy, vibrant giddiness of these other destinations. For professionals in the meetings industry, however, this may not be the case. First Geneva and now Frankfurt are cities in which many of us have spent at least a week a year over the past two decades because they’re associated with an industry event which has become as fixed and central in our annual calendars as our Mother’s birthday. IMEX, and its legacy trade show in Geneva, have significantly altered our collective perception of the host destinations, coaxing them out of their native reserve by injecting copious quantities of meetings industry oomph into their previously flaccid veins. It’s like as if the grey suited top-of-his-class accountant has suddenly ripped off his Marks and Spenser shirt to reveal a Che Guevara tee shirt and a dragon tattoo. Such can be the radical impact, over time, of a pan-city conference and event on a destination. Go IMEX!
I was early in Frankfurt this year due to Exclusively Corporate @ IMEX, a new programme which I helped to design aimed at providing corporate meeting planners with an exclusive, private time and space for peer-to-peer networking and education. Hosted at the equally exclusive Villa Kennedy (a Rocco Forte property of which more anon) and supported by London & Partners, Fairmont, SCIB and MCI, the event was resoundingly successful on a variety of levels. The excellent Terri Breining facilitated a panel discussion, webcast live to 200+ on-line delegates (click here to view) and featuring experienced corporate meeting planners Des Duggan of IBM, Meredith Smith of Merck and Co and Alise Long of DSM. There was much consensus amongst the panellists:
- SMMP programmes are on the increase in Europe;
- Technology is more and more part of the corporate meeting planning process;
- Outsourcing can be good as it allows corporate planers focus on core competencies;
- Speak the language of business not the language of meetings;
- The virtual smile will never eclipse the physical handshake.
Steph Pfeilsticker of Thrivent Financial (USA) then presented on “Hybrid Meetings and the Art of Career Development” and explained her game-changing strategy: to convince a highly conservative corporate leadership team to adopt radically new ways of communicating she needed to make money, not save money for the organisation. Alise Long of DSM, ably abetted by Roger Long of Blue Ox Consulting, shared how she delivered a staggering 149 events in only 2 days, a key learning from which was the need to “let go” and trust others on the delivery team. A key message from these great stories was the elevation of the meeting planning role and how corporate change, creativity and profitability can all be driven by professional meeting planners.
Now in its 4th year Site Nite continues to grow from strength to strength, confirming and consolidating Site’s unofficial role as the meetings industry’s great aggregator, bringing the entire community together in an atmosphere of congeniality, openness and unbridled fun. Over 400 attendees gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel with all proceeds going to the Site Foundation and earmarked for research and education on the use and impact of travel experiences in corporations. I enjoyed many conversations over the course of the evening but was particularly struck by a discussion with Fran Rickenbach of ADME and Lana Hamarneh of Discovery, Ovation’s strategic partner in Jordan. The “Arab Spring” has caused tremendous upheaval for many Middle Eastern destinations just at a time when infrastructure and opportunity were starting to chime there. Jordan, in particular, combines peerless history and heritage, unparalleled hospitality experiences and the dizzy excitement of undiscovered exotic appeal. As a motivational destination it ticks all the boxes. I was deeply moved by Lana’s stoic determination to proceed despite the immense challenges Jordan faces as a result of the on-going instability in neighbouring Syria. DMC often bitch and moan about their lot but compared with the realities faced in incredible destinations like Jordan we have little to cavil at.
Villa Kennedy, a Rocco Forte Hotel
When it comes to hotels my rider is pretty light:
Good coffee and power,
Good WiFi and shower
I’m billeted at Villa Kennedy for the duration of my stay at IMEX and am rigid with excitement. I intend to absorb the feel and flavour of the property over the next day or two and reveal all in a later blog post.
Padraic Gilligan works for MCI. With Patrick Delaney he is VP of Industry Relations for MCI and VP of Ovation Global DMC, MCI’s destination services division.