“Sustainability goes hand in hand with technology as a key trend driving the evolution of the industry”
ROGER TONDEUR, Chairman and President at MCI Headquarters Worldwide
Roger Tondeur is the founder of MCI, the world’s leading provider of strategic engagement and activation solutions in the meetings, events, association and congress industries. Roger founded MCI in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1987. The company grew in size and reputation to become the leading event management company in Geneva, and a second office opened in Zurich in 1999. In 2010 Roger handed over the reins to his son, Sébastien Tondeur, who now leads the company as CEO. Today, as chairman, president and member of the Executive Committee, Roger continues to play a key role in the strategic direction of the group. Over the course of his career, Roger has played an influential role in many industry associations. He is a member and Past President of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE) and a member of Meetings Professional International (MPI), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the International Special Events Society (ISES).
Q: What are the dynamics driving the meetings industry?
If we’re talking about meeting trends, we’ve got to start with the ever-growing influence of technology.
A few years ago, many event organisers worried that new technologies and the possibility to host virtual meetings would significantly reduce the need for live interaction. In reality, what we’re seeing is that digital engagement is actually fuelling the desire for people to meet face to face. An interesting example of this is the world of e-sport, where huge online communities have sprung up and are now being taken offline with great momentum, and both small festivals and huge stadium events are springing up around the world.
So actually, face-to-face meetings and events are becoming more important than ever. At the same time, technology and digital are completely reshaping their structure and life-cycle, as well as attendee expectations of what an event should look like and how it should engage them. Today’s digital savvy attendees are looking for a full 360° experience, combining online touch points and engagement before, during and after the event with their physical experience onsite.
Event organisers must cleverly create a pre-, during and post-event buzz on social media, build up engaged communities who are excited and motivated to meet in real life, who love sharing their experience of the event on social networks, and who continue to engage with each other in between events.
Onsite, mobile event applications, live quizzes and social media walls are growing in popularity, engaging attendees in real time and transforming them into active participants rather than passive spectators. Of course, closely linked to trends in digital and technology are trends around millennial engagement, and how to inspire and activate a millennial audience.
Millennials and their particular styles of learning, interacting and engaging will impact on events more and more in the future, as they soon become the main target audience for many meetings, events and congresses (if they’re not the main target already). Making sure that an event has a mobile friendly website and a strong social media strategy will help attract and engage millennials, as will a focus on sustainability and ‘giving something back.’
Sustainability in fact goes hand in hand with technology as a key trend driving the evolution of the industry. And while sustainability is definitely about making an event more environmentally friendly – for instance reducing printing by using a mobile app instead of a printed programme, and sourcing local, organic, vegetarian food for lunch – it goes much deeper than just being green. A sustainable meeting is also about creating a positive, lasting impact and being as accessible and inclusive as possible. Examples include offering a hybrid possibility for people from low and middle income countries who would otherwise have been unable to access meeting content, and ensuring that speaker panels are diverse. Hybrid events are a great example of where the industry is heading, and of technology and sustainability driving innovation together. What’s really interesting here is that research shows that adding a hybrid element actually increases face-to-face attendance. So online attendance is not detracting from onsite attendance, but rather extending the value and life-cycle of an event by enabling both attendees and non-attendees to access content digitally after the event.
Finally, experiential events are another important trend that will continue to grow in popularity. Experiential concepts are all about involving the attendees in the story an event is telling. For instance, instead of guests just looking at a new product during a product launch, they need to live it, touch it, experience it. With so many similar products on the market out there, brands are going to need to differentiate themselves more and more through brand experience – and experiential live events are the perfect way to stand out from the crowd.
Q: Why is the meetings industry important?
Meetings and events not only play a key role in supporting other businesses and industries, the meetings industry is an important – and growing – industry in its own right.
Meetings create jobs, fuel economies, and deliver key economic benefits. They also attract global expertise to destinations, bringing education and professional development opportunities to local and regional communities.
At MCI, we always say that ‘when people come together, magic happens’. This magic is especially powerful when people come together through meetings and events to address the key issues affecting our planet and the global population. A successful meeting or event can create and communicate important knowledge, promote global cooperation, focus public and media attention on today’s key development issues, and build engaged communities of people who work together to make a better and more equal world.
Q: How can we make the meetings industry more effective?
There are a number of ways that the meetings industry will become more effective and efficient.
The first will be by more quickly and more effectively embracing available and new technologies, such as hybrid meetings and content dissemination, in order to extend the life-cycle of meeting content and continually reach new audiences.
Transformation and fragmentation will also be key. Companies and associations will need to do away with the status quo and start rethinking their entire approach to events – from size, to number of events, to locations. We’ll definitely see more event fragmentation, with huge global events that have existed for the last 20 years split into a larger number of smaller, regional events.
Innovative partnerships between meetings and events companies, travel and tourism companies and collaborative technology platforms will also help the industry become more effective.