CREATING AN EFFECTIVE SPACE IN WHICH DELEGATES CAN BUILD LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Richard Barnes, CEO of Worldwide Events

About M&I Forum:

Meeting & Incentive Forums are run by Worldwide Events, a division of Big Worldwide, a global travel, technology, events and media company. The first M & I Forum was launched in 2006 in London to serve a marketplace that demanded a fresh approach. M&I Forums connect the MICE industry and focus on pre-scheduled meetings, only introducing the highest achievers in the MICE industry and have the work/fun ratio down to an art form.

Q: Why do you believe your trade shows are THE BEST trade shows in the world?

We don’t spend time comparing ourselves to others. We concentrate on making sure we do the best job we possibly can. Our trade shows are successful because we focus on one thing: creating an effective space in which delegates can build lasting relationships. For us, relationship-building goes far beyond formal meetings; we offer a rounded experience where people can have fun while really getting to know one another. When people have fun together, they remember each other, and that’s what really drives good business in this industry.

Q: Do you plan to stay a boutique event organizer or are you looking to expand?

Both. We’ve enjoyed 10 years of consecutive growth and we expect to continue this trend for the next decade. As well as increasing the size of the Forums, we are always looking to expand into new markets so that we can offer our clients a broader range of opportunities. However, the intimate feel of our events is crucial. No matter how much we grow, we do everything we can to maintain the boutique atmosphere that our delegates love.

“We don’t spend time comparing ourselves to others. We concentrate on making sure we do the best job we possibly can.”

Q: How do you market and promote the host destination and what do you believe is the real reach of such events?

Hosting one of our largest Forums is estimated at bringing €60 million of incremental business to the destination from the buyers who attend. In addition, we start work on a Forum 12-18 months before the event begins, and the destination is promoted throughout this time to our global customer base of MICE buyers. The result is enormous industry visibility, as well as the opportunity to bring together local partners and show what they offer to the industry.

Q: What are the conversion statistics for your shows (conversion rate)?

We hold 47,000 individual meetings at our Forums each year. We don’t try to track the amount of business that is generated because the lead times involved make it impossible, but we have calculated that each supplier receives an average of 24 RFPs per event, either during the Forum itself or in the weeks following.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now and how do you plan to tackle it?

Our biggest challenge is to keep getting better, and there are so many elements that go into making that happen. Above all else, it’s so important that we get the right people to attend our Forums. While the quality of the buyers is vital, we also put enormous effort into ensuring that the suppliers at our Forums are of the highest quality. Being so selective is a real challenge, but it’s what ensures that the best buyers keep coming to our events. We also challenge ourselves to select destinations which are interesting and quirky enough to motivate quality buyers to attend, while also having the facilities to host a wide variety of meeting and incentive trips.

“Relationship-building goes far beyond formal meetings – when people have fun together, they remember each other, and that’s what really drives good business in this industry.”

Q: Can you share with us one of your client’s success stories?

One that really stands out for me is The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. During one of our Forums, they received a $500,000 group booking which actually confirmed during the event. What’s more important to me though is that we have regular clients who come back year after year, and they only do that because they secure good business time after time.

Q: Do you offer any post-show activities like sharing the data base, further marketing in scope of the event, etc?

We’ve actually just launched the M&I Network, which is all about allowing delegates to communicate and exchange RFPs long after a Forum has finished. Any client who joins the M&I Network gets industry visibility through our online venue finder, as well as the benefits of our account management system.

Q: Last but not least. To which event in the meetings industry do you look up to and why?

I think probably IMEX America. Based in the UK, they launched in the States and blew the competition out of the water. They knocked out the established trade show and saw off competition from much larger organizers. They are now the leading show in the States, and to achieve that from Europe is hugely impressive.