Viewpoint: Face Time More Critical in Challenging Times

The global meetings industry is facing strong challenges during the prolonged economic downturn, but now, more than ever, is the time to make carefully calculated investments in corporate meetings, incentive schemes, conferences and exhibitions.

Above-the-line and through-the-line advertising and promotion has been hardest hit by the world recession, as corporations big and small seek to rein in their expenditure and get maximum return for their marketing budgets.

The knee-jerk reaction by many has been to downscale meetings and other forms of corporate congress, yet this is possibly the most unwise and short-term reaction to a long-term challenge.

Long-haul air travel is one of the most seriously affected of all travel industry sectors, as companies and individuals seek to contain expenditure.

Much has been said about the cost of travel, the waste of time and the questionable effectiveness of the global meetings industry. Many companies have cut back on spend in this sector, and yet the momentum continues.

Fewer delegates, exhibitors and presenters might be on the bill, but the fact is the meetings industry is still thriving in these chastened fiscal times. And this is the time to make the meetings industry work for your company. By being completely focused on the potential of exhibitions, conferences and others forms of congress, a corporation can best channel its marketing investment and gain not only measurable results but also cut costs in the long-term.

In times past, business deals were done on a handshake, without the intrusion of lawyers, regulations, borders, etc.

That basic premise, the handshake being the contract, is still alive today, and in times when many are doubting the wisdom of industry leaders and captains of the financial sector, that handshake and face time is more important than ever.

Risk is a huge factor in planning an event of any kind, and minimizing that risk has to be at the forefront of every planner's mind. There is not a country in the world that is immune to political risk, from the United States, to China to the tiniest archipelago, which means the meetings industry has to be ahead of the game in terms of mitigating risk.

There always has to be an alternative, a plan B. The investment in the events across the globe that take place daily is immense, yet few organizers see the real threat of the unraveling of the best laid plans of MICE and men.

Thailand, which is at the leading edge of the meetings industry in the region and the world at large, has had several setbacks to confidence in recent months and years. That said, the country has made bold steps to guarantee the meetings industry, and tourism in general, can continue to prosper and offer some of the best value per marketing dollar available.

The meetings industry is about people, ideas and places, and putting them together. The only way to ensure success is that the best people share their best ideas in the best places. It is a simple equation that leaves most people motivated and excited about progress.

Originally published Sept. 21, 2009