While attending the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) general assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I discovered that many of the meeting challenges faced by U.S. companies are shared by our colleagues in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Among them: increasing competition and the need for more reliable information within the meeting industry.
Corporations that use outside event- management firms will undoubtedly see their role evolve in coming years. That's because these firms are shifting from operations-centered companies to organizations that place greater emphasis on research activities. Several event managers at the conference described how they carefully evaluate the value of a new corporate client before solidifying an agreement to manage their event. Others reported they sometimes assume part of the financial risk of an event in the hope that they would reap a financial return afterward.
There was some discussion at the ICCA meeting about how event managers charge for their services, which varied significantly depending on location. Some rely on commissions, others on professional fees, and still others on a combination of both commissions and fees. Increasingly, however, firms are charging for specific services, such as for setting up an Internet discussion group following a conference.
Getting Our Arms Around This Industry ICCA, which has adopted the moniker, "The International Meetings Association," certainly has earned that title: In one session, there were representatives from more than 20 countries. As each of them learned, there are still basic steps we must take to unify the meeting and event planning industry globally.
Through the publication of The Dictionary of Event Management (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996) and other glossaries such as the Convention Liaison Council Glossary (Convention Liaison Council), countries are working together to approve the common usage of specific terms and words. The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into an agreement with Mexico and Canada to identify occupational industry titles acceptable to each country-a first step.
Some attendees suggested that the time has come to consolidate key meeting industry data from a variety of organizations, including the World Travel and Tourism Council. The congress center members of ICCA are working with The George Washington University Event Management Program to identify key definitions for specific data that will be collected in a worldwide study later this year.
It's essential that major meeting industry organizations, such as Meeting Professionals International, the American Society of Association Executives, and the International Association for Exposition Management, involve their international colleagues in gathering data and providing input for analysis of this information.
Dr. Joe Goldblatt, CSEP is the founding director of The Event Management Program at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. His new book, Special Events: Best Practices in Modern Event Management, was recently published by Van Nostrand Reinhold.