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August 8, 2008

Martin Sirk:The search for relevance

I'm just back from a record-breaking Destination Marketing Associations International (DMAI) convention, which attracted over 1,300 to Las Vegas and am about to set off for MPI's sure-to-be record-breaking WEC (more than 4,000 anticipated!) in the same city

The global financial crisis certainly isn't keeping meetings professionals tied behind their desks. The big theme at DMAI was how to make destination marketing organisations as relevant as possible for their communities – there's a palpable worry that as the economy continues to struggle the role of destination marketing professionals and their economic potential are somehow being ignored or undervalued by key stakeholders amongst politicians and business communities.

MPI is certain to pick up the same theme with regard to meetings professionals – how can we ensure our skills and economic impact are adequately recognised and translated into real gains for our profession.

DMAI and MPI are both keen to ensure that their members elevate their own perceptions of what it means to be in the meetings business. We shouldn't be in the business of selling commodity products like hotel rooms and meeting space, or simply handling the logistics side of organising events, but should strive to be valued partners who are intimately involved in achieving the objectives of the event we're hosting or planning. I'm sure that's the key reason why MPI is making such ambitious attempts to change the way its own meetings are structured and run.

The hunt for relevance reminds me of some advocacy themes we've been stressing recently in ICCA: the powerful impact of international association conventions on issues such as knowledge transfer to developing countries, accreditation and advanced education, scientific and medical advancement, economic development, finding new solutions to global social and environmental challenges, better cross-cultural understanding.

I believe our industry needs to promote these wider issues and not simply focus on the direct economic expenditure of delegates, significant though this is in itself. I'm sure that DMAI and MPI are going to pick up on these themes as well, and that the major industry associations are going to work even closer together in the coming years to promote how relevant we really are.

Martin Sirk is the chief executive of ICCA

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