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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

The proliferation of content

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 16.37.55The extraordinary proliferation of easily accessible content for meetings professionals makes it harder, rather than easier, to keep up to date with news and trends. You’re so overwhelmed by the sheer breath and depth of available data that you’re often caught, motionless, like a deer in headlights, so dazzled and delighted by its rich allure that you don’t know how to interact with it.

Sometimes you need a long plane ride on equipment without internet connectivity to catch up with all that stuff that you diligently clipped to Evernote but never got around to reading. At least that’s how I managed to catch up with the rather excellent Skift on-line magazine on Mega Trends Defining Travel 2015. Amongst many rick pickings are 3 insights that have particular application for the MICE and Business Events sector.

1. Hospitality: driving innovation

Skift owner and editor-in-chief Rafat Ali kicks off the on-line publication with an insightful take on how the hospitality sector is driving innovation in travel. He naturally references sharing economy stalwarts airbnb as the prime disrupters but also name checks  newer, smaller brands like Rosewood, Z hotels and Citizen M for their exciting innovations.

The SoolNua team stayed recently at Citizen M and was really impressed by the many ways they’ve turned hotel keeping on its head. It’s run on a mean | lean headcount model –the night we stayed there were up to 400 people in-house and a staff roster of no more than 6 – with each team member an ambassador, fully empowered to make crucial decisions and totally on board with the mission, vision and culture of the brand.

Michael, an entirely impressive young ambassador (save for the fact that he supported Glasgow Rangers!) showed us around the meeting facilities and spoke intelligently and authoritatively, like an owner, about the Citizen M brand and its value proposition. Earlier he had helped us check-in and then, later, served us drinks at the bar. He also favourited a positive tweet that I posted about the hotel. Citizen M completely deconstructs the traditional silo-ed way that hotels organise their operations in favour of a factotum model where everyone does everything.

Society M – a new kind of meeting space

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 15.19.05The meeting product at Citizen M called Society M is also fresh and new and stems from a ambitious brand value proposition that unambiguously sets out to fulfil the needs of a new target market, profiled as follows:

SocietyM is an enterprise based on fulfilling the needs of a new group of people … mobile citizens of the world, travellers at ease crossing vast distances for shopping, cultural or business purposes.

It’s philosophy is displayed clearly at the entrance to the first floor suite of 7 meeting rooms, the largest of which can accommodate 30 persons, theatre style:

We, the people, swear to take the work out of work. We, the people, believe that working new starts with thinking fresh. We, the people, welcome all: slick suits, entrepreneurs, scruffy designers, big time CEOs and small time start-ups. We, the people, surround ourselves with style and inspiration, because where you are reflects what you do. We, the people, stand for idea-making, not paper-chasing. Innovating, not note-taking. So let the thoughts flow free as the coffee, speak your mind, and enjoy. After all, we’re all citizens of the same society here …

The meeting rooms mirror the philosophy perfectly: one wall is a white board, another is a black board, a third is shelved, holds the Nespresso machine and is crammed with inspiring books and art pieces as well as a fully integrated LED screen, the fourth is a glass wall looking out onto a spectacular light filled atrium. These are certainly “meeting rooms you’ll want to meet in”.

2. Creative Renaissance in Conferences and Events

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 15.54.07In another article from Mega Trends Defining Travel 2015 Greg Oates writes about the “creative renaissance” in conferences and events focusing, naturally, on the seismic shift occasioned by technology  and its dramatic,  disruptive impact of conventional notions of time and space in meetings. He also mentions, however,  the re-alignment of Destination Marketing Organisations with their respective Economic and Foreign Direct Investment agencies and the focus on now presenting nations, regions and cities as compelling knowledge hubs  rather than appealing tourist spots.

Leading DMOs around the world are now re-positioning themselves in this way and will find “Intellectual Capitals”,  the newly launched on-line portal, hugely beneficial to their cause. Led by CAT Publications, the UK based media specialist across all MICE sectors, Intellectual Capitals directs itself to ” … institutions, corporations and talented individuals …” offering them “new insight and a new resource that will help … to identify where best to meet, invest, work and live”.

3. The Rise of the Boutique Destination

Finally Mega Trends Defining Travel 2015 highlights the rise of the boutique destination. Jason Clampet’s article is great news for tier 2, 3 and 4 destinations who have long ago thrown in the towel, believing they could never compete with New York, Paris and London. Clampet describes the current zeitgeist as the Bilbao effect in reverse. Now destinations don’t need iconic infrastructure to attract visitors, they just need to figure out what is it that only they can do and then build their story around that.

He mentions Belfast as a case in point where the city’s recent troubled past has become one of the key storylines that draw visitors there today. Today’s visitor craves authenticity, wants to visit destinations that are real and has a broad framework of cultural reference to contextualise and validate the experience.

So Bratislava, Ljubljana, Antwerp, Zagreb, Bordeaux, Koln, Cork, Liverpool – take heart. This is YOUR time, this is YOUR moment. Figure out what it is that only you can do and find a way to tell your story, warts and all, in all its gloriously perfect imperfection (thanks John Legend!) because this is what today’s conference delegate or incentive qualifier wants.

Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a boutique management and marketing consultancy enterprise working with destinations, venues, hotels on their strategy for MICE.


















4 thoughts on “Brand New Horizons in Meetings and Events

  1. Michael Lyons says:

    Great post, Padraic. Indeed, there is change in the air and much of that is being introduced by our younger industry colleagues who are looking at the world and our industry through a different lens than us “old timers”. It is refreshing and it is also nice to see that some of the traditional “secondary” destinations are now being considered more seriously.

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks for the comment Mike. I must say I find the changes around our industry both astonishing and exhilarating. After many years of same old, same old we seem to have hit a purple passage of immense innovation and change. And I love it!

  2. Aike says:

    I love to stay at the Citizen M as well. But did you have a word with them on the”cutting out the middle man means we´re able to pass on the savings directly to you slogan?”

    1. padraicino says:

      Interesting point, Aike. I guess their business model doesn’t allow for agencies or intermediaries.

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