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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

From hands-on execution to hands-off strategy

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 17.41.16Following decades as a DMC and MICE agency, Patrick Delaney and I are now working as consultants / advisors on meetings, incentives, conferences and events under our new brand, SoolNua. In a short time we’ve moved from hands-on execution to hands-off strategy. We’ve been learning how to distil 20 years of MICE experience into potent measures of digestible insight to help our clients in hotels, venues and destinations.

But one thing we’ve now realized is that intuition and gut-instinct is not sufficient when dispensing advice to a client. Many business owners – ourselves included when we were running Ovation – make important decisions based exclusively on intuition. It feels right or our gut tells us it’s the better of two options, so we go with it. When working as a trusted advisor to a client, however, intuition and gut instinct is simply not enough. These have to be backed up by evidence, by empirical data points, by incontrovertible proof – as well as by the intangibles of trustworthiness, but that’s another blog post!

5 places to go for great MICE research

Our industry has made immense strides in recent years at creating a formidable repository of knowledge from which we can draw to devise strategies, validate decisions, benchmark for best practice. This repository has been enriched more recently still with crucial data points around the economic impact of MICE, its financial contribution to both source and destination communities, the number of jobs it sustains and so on. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of 5 places to go when you need proof that meetings mean business.

MPI Foundation – the M in MICE

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 16.46.15Meetings Professional International is the world’s largest association dedicated to the meetings industry with over 20,000 members worldwide.  MPI and its related Foundation have long played a seminal role in commissioning research into all matters related to meetings – purpose, architecture, future, economic impact etc. Check out the MPI Foundation landing page for links to amazing research on Meeting Design, Hybrid Meetings, Virtual Meetings, Corporate Social Responsibility as well as detailed economic impact studies conducted specifically for Canada, the UK and the USA.

2. Site Foundation – the I in MICE

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 17.20.43Like meetings, incentives are a management tool used to enhance results-orientated performance within an organisation or enterprise. Being involved in travel incentives means playing an integral role in an enterprise-wide project aimed at improving business performance based on the theory that an extraordinary travel experience is significantly more “motivational” than a cash or any other non-cash reward.

The mission of the Site Foundation is to tell this story compellingly and thereby increase the use of travel incentives worldwide. The Site Foundation also collaborates with other Foundations and Organisations to create research and studies with an industry-wide application such as the Economic Studies mentioned above.

Check out the landing page on the SiteGlobal website for an impressive archive of major and minor studies, white papers and other data of immense use to DMCs, hotels, Incentive Houses, CVBs, NTOs, Cruise Lines. And the good news is that according to the latest Site Foundation research, incentive travel is on the crest of a wave following some years in the doldrums.

3. ICCA – the C in MICE

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 16.57.28The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)  has long been the go-to association for global consultancy firms like Accenture, Deloitte and McKinsey when they are retained by governments to evaluate the potential of capital investment in big infrastructural projects such as Convention Centres. The annual rankings by number of conferences staged at country and city level has become as highly anticipated within the MICE industry as Michelin’s star rankings are for the restaurant fraternity. Check out the ICCA website for a veritable treasure trove of research, white papers, reports into what’s happening in the C-world of MICE.

ICCA was the first organisation that we joined as SoolNua in January 2014 because it provides us with access to essential data for the city and country destinations with whom we are working.

4. ISES – the E in MICE

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 17.27.00The International Special Events Society (ISES), like MPI, Site and ICCA provides its members with great data around the economic impact of what they do but this time in the events space. ISES plays an important role as part of the Convention Industry Council (CIC) in contributing both data and resources to important pan-industry initiatives the latest of which is called “Face Time. It matters”

And this, crucially, is the point of intersection between all 4 associations / foundations mentioned here. All exist because of live, face to face interactions between real people in real places in real time. MICE, ultimately, is an industry which convenes, assembles, unifies thereby satisfying a primordial human urge to be together, to connect, to collaborate. We’re the enactment of John Donne’s famous poem and this is a pretty lofty purpose:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;
any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.


5. Meetings Mean Business – Pan Industry Portal 

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 16.40.20Born of necessity amidst the tormenting economic turbulence of 2008 when our industry could only offer a stuttering defence of its purpose, Meetings Mean Business is now a powerful community committed to demonstrating  the indispensable power of face to face encounters between people in meetings, incentives, conferences and events. Founded initially by the US Travel Association Meetings Mean Business is funded and sustained by a panoply of US Convention and Visitor Bureaux, Corporations and Hotel Groups.

Organised under such categories as Toolkit, Industry Data Library and Newsroom, the Meetings Mean Business portal provides a vast array of resources that prove the value of what we do as MICE professionals equipping us with the appropriate language to defend ourselves from the accusations of being mere amateur party planners with no solid purpose. It’s an essential go-to source for any meetings and events professional.

Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner with Patrick M Delaney at SoolNua Marketing Ltd., a boutique consultancy working with destinations, hotels, venues and trade shows on their strategy for MICE. Having served as International President of Site in 2008, he is now a Trustee at the Site Foundation.







2 thoughts on “Prove it! Why we need organisations like the Site Foundation

  1. Hugo Slimbrouck says:

    Hi folks, excellent article, as usual… I have a sixt place to go to. Try the JMIC website for hands on samples and suggestions on how you can involve your local politicians in supporting the meetings industry.

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks Hugo and great suggestion as always. Thanks for contributing!

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