by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, MCI and Vice President, Ovation Global DMC
I have always believed in “giving back”.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to participate in industry associations. The meetings industry space is well populated with associations seeking your membership so it’s sometimes difficult to decide where to spend your time. In the early 90s in Ireland Site was under-going quite a rapid expansion due to its international conference having been hosted in Dublin in 1991. This seemed like the obvious place for me to start and, thanks to a bursary, a legacy from the local committee that hosted the event, I was able to attend my first International Conference in Puerto Rico in 1994.
It was a dazzling and beguiling experience during which I met, for the first time, many people who went on to become life long friends. Thus began my relationship with Site which culminated with my being elected to the International Board and, in 2007, leading the association as President.
Site is now celebrating its 40th anniversary and has reached out to its past presidents seeking their input and insight around where it stands today in our brave new meetings and events world.
These are the answers I gave:
How has the industry changed and how do we ensure that Site stays at the forefront?
Padraic Gilligan: The meetings and incentives industry has changed dramatically since Site started 40 years ago, but the most radical changes have occurred within the past 10 years. Most of the change of the past decade is due to the digital revolution that, in centuries to come, will be seen as a signature moment in history like the invention of the printing presss or the industrial revolution. The digital revolution democratized knowledge and de-mythologized expertise – at least on a superficial level – and, therefore, de-prioritized the primacy of personal relationships in an industry that heretofore rotated exclusively around the quality of connections. Thus the distribution channels which had served our industry for decades were seen to be over-complex and tortuous as the Internet provided faster, better and cheaper ways to get what you wanted. Today as we move towards the middle of the 2nd decade of the 21st century we’re realizing that we may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and there’s a definite shift back towards the importance of personal relationships and the value of trust. However the digital revolution has changed the game forever and is now at the heart of how we live and move.I think Site is doing an amazing job at staying at the forefront of our industry. Personal relationships have always been pivotal to Site but Site has also embraced technology wholeheartedly and is increasingly using technology to maintain and nurture relationships between members and to disseminate knowledge and education.
How has Site evolved from being an organization focused on incentive travel to an organization for global professionals in the motivational events industry “inspiring people to perform at higher levels?”
Gilligan: I think Site has made this change very well particularly following the rebranding of the association in 2008. By the mid-90’s Site members had reached the clear understanding that change was both necessary and inevitable. The previous vision, mission and values statements of our association didn’t quite speak to the rapidly changing marketplace and demographic in which we found ourselves yet there was something special at the heart of the Site legacy that needed to be preserved and protected. I served on the Site Board at the time with a wonderful group of highly articulate, intelligent and visionary board members – Eugene de Villiers, David Hornby, Susan Radojevic, Gillian Taylor, Fernando Compean, Sean Mahoney, Bill Boyd, Patrick Sullivan, Jukka Halonen, Mary McGregor – led by an equally bright Executive Director, Brenda Anderson. I believe we left a lasting legacy in the new brand proposition that emerged as a result of our work. They were halcyon days and I believe the re-positioning of Site around “global connections / motivational experiences / business results” created the solid platform from which our growth has continued.
How have the past 40 years equipped Site for the future?
Gilligan: When we were re- branding Site in 2007 and 08 we realized that at the heart of Site there was something special. It was an intangible thing, difficult to precisely define and describe, but centered on people and relationships. Industry professionals who elected to invest in Site did so because they wanted to be part of an industry association of decent, trustworthy, welcoming people who created an air of inclusiveness at their events and absorbed new members quickly and easily into the ranks providing mentorship and friendship. In an industry landscape that is undergoing constant, seismic transformations Site stands out as a safe harbor, the repository of human values, the place where relationships still count. This was present at the heart of Site from the get-go and it is still at the heart of Site today.
Padraic Gilligan, Managing Director, Ovation Global DMC served as Site President in 2008. He is a regular speaker at industry events, seminars and conferences worldwide and was recently recognized by ADMEI as Destination Management Professional of the Year. His blog, Padraicino, is one of the most popular in the meetings and events industry. Padraic started Delaney Marketing with Patrick Delaney, Site President 1993 and currently Partner & CEO Ovation Global DMC. Before that he was a teacher at secondary and university level and is one of many “italofiles” on the Ovation team. Passionate about Italy, music and Arsenal Football Club, Padraic has been known to play guitar and sing all night (if let!).