“We need to stop looking at the symptoms and identify the source of the problem," says Oscar Cerezales, COO of MCI Group Asia Pacific and former MPI President (MPI Spain) as he zooms right into the heart of the matter. "There is no point in flocking like sheep to the same stress points and harping on the same micro issues that defeat progress in the bigger context."
The market is fragmenting, consolidating and evolving in business models. With this shifting of tectonic plates, the meetings landscape drastically changes, and Oscar emphasizes the need for meeting planners to realize they will not survive if they don't adapt and evolve. "Today, there may be thousands of meeting planners, but companies are consolidating and hiring big agencies and market niche driven agencies. Those planners that are wedged in the middle will be the ones suffering if they don't relook their business models and approach.
They have to move beyond the tactical and transactional and not harp on reduced budgets and management fees. These topics are not important at all in the overall scheme of things," he asserts.
Oscar doesn't mince his words, telling it point blank with a quiet confidence that belies a big personality on stage.
Is the concept of meetings being redefined and in what way?
When you talk about meetings, you are not just talking about meetings. You are actually talking about your communities and how to engage them. And that is becoming difficult as the market fragments. There is an explosive increase in the number of events being held, but they are getting smaller and they are turning into hybrids with virtual online platforms. How does that impact tourism boards and CVBs? For example, IT or FMCG companies organize many events and as the number increases, they are looking at market driven events to engage specific communities such as YouTube fans. Ultimately, that is the ROI. To engage the entire spectrum of their market audience.
How would a CVB then attract 500 of such hybrid events as compared to 100 conferences and exhibitions? How do you define success in this new meetings context? I don't just want to meet you once when you pay a visit to my booth at an exhibition. I want to talk to my customers over 365 days, not just one day. I want to increase my touch points and maximize my impact. In order for that to happen, we have to move beyond just that physical event and think about what it means to engage your communities.
With technology as an enabler, this is becoming a reality. What then are the challenges that stand in the way?
Rather than refer to them as challenges, I prefer to reframe the perspective and call them game changers. Market fragmentation is one which I talked about. The other is market consolidation. Vendors, agencies, suppliers, hotels, clients. They are all consolidating. There is a paradigm shift in mindsets and business models. For example, where there used to be 20 pharmaceutical companies for 75 percent of the market, there are now just a few for the same share.
There is also another important: the Chief Marketing Officer. He is the one paying for the party. He decides everything and he has this message: I want to build up communities and fans around my company and my products and services so that they will spread the message and be my brand ambassadors. They need these communities to be online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, but also offline via meetings, roadshows and conferences.
So how does this directive differ from past ones other than the fact that online platforms are now important?
What's different is in the budget. In the past, there were separate budgets. Now they have one budget for a coordinated and integrated marketing plan that includes above the line, below the line, off-line and on-line platforms. And they want to track every single dollar they spend and know exactly where it goes. They also want to track their communities and know what they twittered, what they posted on Facebook or LinkedIn, whether they visited their exhibition, what they bought, etc. With this market intelligence, they will become more efficient and effective in meeting end goals.
Meeting planners have to pay attention to this because companies now have bigger marketing budgets, but they are spending more strategically. So there is a need to align mindsets and achieve goals in a seamless connection.
How should meeting planners get their game on for the future?
Looking at what I said earlier, meeting planners then need to look at the big picture and consider the environment that those game changers are operating within.
We are constantly searching for interesting articles and hope you enjoyed this M&C Magazine interview with Oscar Cerezales by Esther Faith Lew (done a couple of month) as much as we did.
Happy summer to you! Your MPI Europe Team