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September 16, 2009

Marcel Ewals:Deliver the meetings message

The managing director of AsiaCongress makes a case for the power of meetings and events, and encourages the industry to work together to spread the word.

The global meetings industry is facing strong challenges during the 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.

Making meetings work
Long-haul air travel is one of the most seriously affected of all travel industry sectors, as companies and individuals seek to contain expenditure. But 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 the past, business deals were done on a handshake, without the intrusion of lawyers, regulations, borders, etc. That basic premise is still alive today. 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.

The meetings industry, by its very nature, is a 360-degree influencer. The thousands of jobs created, the services utilised, the positive image inspired and the overall generation of goodwill cannot be underestimated.

Business benefits
If you calculate the cost of a single page of print advertising in a major regional or international publication and equate that cost to the price of exhibition space or the travel expenses of delegates to a congress, there is not contest. There are few industries where success is so measurable as the meetings industry. Nowadays, several recognised matrix can define the return on investment and key performance indicators of any meeting or exhibition.

Business-to-business (B2B) communication is the foundation of the meetings industry, because by bringing like-minded and sector-specific experts and operatives together you have made the strongest links possible. The meetings industry provides a platform for this.

Winning ways
Every country with a meetings industry capability is aggressively bidding to host events, and it is the concerted and united effort of the meetings industries in the respective countries that is holding the day.

Thailand, which boasts some of the most competitive meetings industry venues, attractions and infrastructure, has reached out to the global community more than ever before. Recent setbacks have not stopped numerous headline events being scheduled for Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and elsewhere.

One of the most daunting challenges for a city, country or venue is the bidding process for meetings and other major events. The requirements are myriad and detail is exhaustive, but it is possible to gain advice from professional congress organisers (PCOs) to help structure a winning bid.

While these recessionary times mean cost up front is high on the agenda, the overall return on investment should not be overlooked. PCOs are best-positioned to assess the opportunities, factor in risk management procedures and also ensure flawless execution of arrangements.

Don’t go it alone.

Marcel Ewals is managing director of AsiaCongress and director of Kenes MP Asia.

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