Friday, December 28, 2007

In 2007 I was impressed by: (part 2)

One conference got 9.2 out of 10 in 2007
Are congresses boring? Some are, the ones that are not organized properly. Where poor speakers are given a chance. In 2007, I have attended two fantastic conferences. And that means a lot, because a convention or conference has to be really good before I say: ‘This was a wonderful meeting’. Well, I’ve only had two of that standard this year: the IFLA (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) opening session in Durban in August and the two-day Holland Association Symposium in Amsterdam in November. I even award Eric Bakermans and his team a little more than 9 out of 10. Not only did I enjoy this symposium, I really had a great time. And do you know what these two meetings had in common? Three things: excellent speakers, great debate leaders and ‘out of the box’ subjects!

Malaysian Etiquette People often say that all hotels and all conference centres are the same. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I always say: nothing is the same. I discover new ideas and initiatives whenever and wherever I go! In Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre I noticed a little leaflet that told about ‘Malaysian Culture Protocol Etiquette’. Directors, Senior managers, staff of international organizations running events in Kuala Lumpur and organizers of all types of events can benefit from various workshops like ‘Business & Social Etiquette’, ‘To Know Malaysia’, ‘Royal Protocol & dignitaries’ etc. In my opinion, that’s a great initiative by a Convention Centre. And during my update walk through the Centre, I discovered a fully-equipped hospital room with a separate entrance. Where in the world and in which other congress centre can you still find that?
(to be continued)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In 2007 I was impressed by: (part 1)

The oldest guide in the worldWhen I visited the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa halfway through 2007, I got the oldest guide in the world for one day. Thomas Rudolo is 81 years old, he is quick-witted, knows a lot of places, names and dates by heart as if he’s still a young student, and once in a while he says: ‘which year was that again, I’m getting old’. He drove me at 120km an hour to the Battlefields and the Midlands. Near Pietermaritsburg in Howick he made a pitstop. ‘At this place, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962. That was the beginning of his 27 year detention’. Thomas blinked away a tear and so did I. And we drove further through the hills with green farmlands... I’m still grateful to Syavayatours for letting me spend some time with the oldest guide in the world for one day.

A new profession in the meetings industry: Welcomer Can our industry still invent a new profession? I was convinced not. Until that day that the first Pullman hotel in ParisParis Rive Gauche – opened its doors, and I encountered a well-dressed young man with an orange tie. I hadn’t had the chance to report myself to the reception or he began to speak to me as if I was his personal guest. He reminded me of warm Asian hospitality on cool Parisian territory. I asked him about his function: ‘Welcomer,’ he replied very politely.

Girl with moon settingHotel visits can sometimes be a little bit annoying. Always the same dull stories about the number of hair driers in each room and which drinks are available in the minibar. Ugh! And then all of a sudden, this young trainee appears in front of me in the recently opened Hilton hotel in Reykjavik. Very confident she says: ‘in this conference room, 35 people can be seated in moon setting.’ - ‘What did you say,’ I ask again. ‘Moon setting,’ she repeats. ‘Who invented that,’ I inform. ‘I did,’ she says very convincing. Edda Hrund, I would like to compose a new conference jargon with you in 2008! Half-moon setting, full moon setting, first quarter setting and even meet in lunar eclipse! Down with all the dullness of theatre, school and all these tedious schoolish settings.

(to be continued)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A wish for 2008: a brain exercise

‘Too busy, no time’, those are the words I’ve heard most in 2007. And which remedy can I present to this problem for 2008?
Until recently everyone assumed that all people, regardless of their language or culture, visualize the past as ‘behind’ and the future as ‘ahead’. This would be linked to the human physiology - the eyes are located in the front of our head - and our way of moving - forwards and not backwards.
The Aymara Indians of the Andes have another notion of time. They picture the future as behind their back and the past as ahead of them. Can you imagine? I think they ‘re less bothered by ‘time flies’ or ‘I’m too busy’ like that.
That’s why I wish you this brain exercise in 2008.

Brazilian Greetings

Richard Lengsfeld, founder and director of B.I.T. (Brazilian Incentive & Tourism), based in Rio de Janeiro, sent me the Season’s greetings that left the most lasting impression on me. Just read his message, and you’ll know what I’m talking about:

Christmas in Rio

If you look at the world as a village with 100 inhabitants…

57 were Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 Americans and 8 Africans
70 were colored, 30 were white
70 were not Christians
89 were heterosexuals, 11 Homosexuals
6 people had 59% of all the wealth of this world
50 would depend from another person
1 would be dying
2 would be born
1 had a PC
1 had a Diploma

So, if you woke up healthy this morning, you are in a better situation than 1 million people that will die the next days.
If you never suffered of war and hunger, you are in a better situation than 500 million people today.
If you can go to a place to worship your religion without being stopped or risk to be killed for that, you are happier than 300 million people.
If you have food in the fridge, a roof over your head and you are dressed, you are better off than 75% of the population
If you have a Bank Account and some spare money on it, you are part of 8% of the rich.
If you can read these lines you are part of the happy few because
1. Somebody thinks about you
2. You are not part of the 1 billion people that cannot read
3. And… you have a PC!

There is no imminent conclusion in these lines, but maybe the guy is right who once said:
Work – as if you wouldn’t need the money
Dance – as if nobody was watching you
Sing – as if nobody was hearing you
Love – as if nobody ever hurt youLive – like in paradise

Friday, December 7, 2007

France awards me with a gold medal

I never really liked getting a medal. It makes me think too much of war veterans or soldiers who walk around with weights on their chest during ceremonies. Until the day that Maison de la France celebrated its 20 years of existence in Brussels. For the occasion, gold medals were awarded. I received La Médaille d’Or du Tourismefrom Mister Serge Mucetti, Consul General of France. Before that, Mister Thierry Baudier (in photo in the background), General Director of Maison de la France (Paris) and Mister Pascal Saint-Père, Director of Maison de la France (Brussels) had already expressed their appreciation of my journalistic articles on the French Meetings Industry that I have been publishing for many years now. An infrared ray of emotion went through my ribs when Pascale Saint-Père solemnly said: ‘Mister Marcel Vissers is the founder of the professional magazine MIM (Meeting & Incentive Media), which is the bench-mark in Belgium and Luxembourg for business tourism. This magazine has a circulation of 6,000 copies and reaches 10,000 readers. Every two months numerous articles are dedicated to France. And the Pan-European magazine HeadQuarters has published various special supplements on French convention cities: Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes…
‘In 2005 Mister Marcel Vissers received the prestigious ‘Belgian Meeting Industry Award’ from BAPCO (Belgian Association of Professional Conference Organisers).
‘For his prime contribution to the tourism sector on the one hand, and his valuable help for the promotion of France on the other (France has a 25% market share in business tourism), Mister Vissers deserves ‘la Médaille d’Or du Tourisme’.’
And I felt like a good schoolboy when the Consul General pinned on the gold on my collar.
What can I add to that myself? Just this:
‘It gave me much joy to put France on the Belgian and Luxembourg map as a meetings and incentive travel destination and for the last five years I’ve also awarded France a special place on the world map as international convention destination in HeadQuarters Magazine, because France is worth gold in the Meetings Industry. That’s why I’m so thrilled to receive this gold medal of La République Française. And I have a little something extra: a while ago I’ve written a small text about ‘l’Auberge’, the most beautiful French word I know. Maybe Maison de la France could be named Auberge de la France as well…’

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hypersonic Santa

As a child, people made me believe that St Nicholas and Black Peter came from warm Spain. I stopped believing that a long time age because I’ve never seen St Nicholas walk around in shorts. Now someone is trying to trick me into believing the Saint’s residence lies in Lapland. That sounds better. But I’m mistaken, that should be Santa Claus because his official address is in Rovaniemi (Santa Claus Village). And now the Stockholm based consultancy bureau Sweco sent me a message about a hypersonic Santa Claus. A serious study shows that Santa has to travel at 5800 km/sec to deliver all presents around the world on time - which is within 48 hours. If he starts in Kirghizistan in Central Asia in opposite direction of the earth’s rotation, he has 34 microseconds for each visit. Come on, who still believes in Santa Claus? At that speed no one could be able to see him! That's why we only have a picture of him after his crash...

Monday, December 3, 2007

How to turn fair visitors into little children when Santa’s coming

Gadgets, they practically throw them at you when you visit a fair. But once in a while someone offers you a surprising one. We did the test and went out to find the most original gadgets at the EIBTM ’07 fair in Barcelona last week. Maybe we didn’t notice them all, but we had to choose from a legion of pens, lanyards and USB memory sticks - although we saw some interesting designs in that department, like the ones from Visit London (shaped like a credit card) and the Austrian Convention Bureau. Here is our top 3:
1. You might wonder, what’s so special about an umbrella? But this is not your ordinary umbrella. Holland sports its Fresh Dutch Views and this handy instrument that can withstand the power of a genuine storm is certainly the product of such a view. Students at the Delft University designed this product and Time Magazine included it in its list of the Best Inventions of the year 2007. The Netherlands Convention and Visitors Bureau handed out this storm-proof umbrella to the first 100 people who picked up their copy of the first issue of the Fresh Dutch Views Magazine. Eric Bakermans, Senior Project Co-ordinator Congress Acquisition at NBTC, is singing in the storm with his original Dutch umbrella.
2. We didn’t know that you could find the best Belgian chips in Liège. Pierre Alderson, co-ordinator of Liège Congrès, gave this plastic cone with the tricoloured and sweet fries to the people that sat at his table for a talk about the meeting possibilities in his favourite Belgian region. He was happy to pose for our camera with his original gift and with his MIM Magazine cover shoot in the background as well.
3. Usually, the last day at a fair brings nothing new but then I opened the Show Daily newspaper and saw the ad of the austrian business and convention network, which said there was a special Euro 2008 pack waiting at their stand for the first ten people who showed that same ad at the abcn booth. Unfortunately I was too late to be one of those first ten but the nice people at abcn were so kind to show me what that mysterious pack was. It contained a football shirt of the Austrian national team and a football, certainly something you can make the people at home happy with.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sex & the Fair

The closer we get to the holidays, the more I tend to hand out presents. It already started at the ICCA Congress in Pattaya where I awarded three meeting people for their nice golden clothes during the Royal Golden Night. And now I suddenly stumble upon a few pictures I took at last year’s EIBTM fair in Barcelona. Some way or another four images with, in my humble opinion, a high content of sex appeal, appealed to me. I’ll list them all and explain what fascinates me in them.
1. The naked man of Norway. I’ve heard that this strong image is a personal invention of a woman who has spirit and humour. That would be Bente Bratland Holm, convention director at the Norway Convention Bureau. Bente, why on earth didn’t you participate in the ICCA Best Marketing Award? With such a healthy man you certainly would have won first prize. And I have to ask something else. A lot of ladies (and a few gentlemen) have asked me if you have the same picture from a different angle as well? After all, the blog has a sexy title! Present No 1 goes to you. I will personally drop off a gift at your stand!

2. Adam & Eve. So delicate, tender, fragile and seductive. The World’s Sexiest Hotel. I’d certainly want to spend the night in that hotel. Who else? That’s our second present.

3. The aquarium boy of [destination unknown]. A nice, fresh, youthful and exotic image. Almost a painting titled ‘Like a fish in water’. That’s our third winner. Would the winner step up during next week’s fair?

[Update:] It turned out that the Jamaica Tourist Board was the proud owner of this aquarium boy.

4. And there always has to be a public award. This one goes to all the visitors of the fair over 60 who still feel young and sexy. My blog readers can decide for themselves if I meet those requirements. Everyone can come to our stand (H156) and tell me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I would like to have a good chin-wag about Paticca, excuse me, about ICCA in Pattaya. First of all, I have to mention that HeadQuarters Magazine has become a member of ICCA. That has cost a lot of effort because basically I don’t want to be a member of anything, I always prefer the role of observer. But OK, sometimes a tree has to be moved before it starts growing better. The initiative of the organisers of the 46th large ICCA meeting in Pattaya to donate a Pho Tree to the Thai king for his 80th birthday on December 5 - with written messages by the delegates on the Pho leaves - created some nice, touching moments.
I asked the illustrator of HeadQuarters Magazine to design an ICCA tree. The first leaf that hangs from the tree has something written on it, but unfortunately it’s too small to read it. The writer wishes to remain anonymous because he fears that criticism is not allowed in the meetings industry. “Because meetings industry people are touchy,” he claims, “and they’re often ego trippers.” I will copy the text here so you’re able to read it.
He starts like this: “Last year I didn’t experience ICCA in Rhodos. Curious as I am, I asked a lot of delegates in Pattaya: how was it like over there? Almost everyone answered “not good” or even “bad”. Especially the venue left much to be desired and that ruined the atmosphere completely. Of course I was astonished to hear from the organisers during the ICCA Congress that Rhodos was the best congress ever. How is that possible? Who’s fooling who here? Why do congress and exhibition organisers blow everything up to American proportions?”
“In Pattaya I had to notice that people are still - almost all the time - teaching ex cathedra. Most speakers are still using the ‘old college professor’ style. A lot of subjects that were covered were squeezed completely dry, new programmes were announced à la “The ICCA Delphic Oracle” that turned out to be deadly boring and should be wearing a sign “Delphic Disaster”. “Out of the box” thinking is only done with a lot of hesitation. And newcomers who barely master the English language are afraid to open their mouth.”
Wouldn’t it be better to introduce training sessions like “Speaking in Public”? But for the rest, no complaints. Pattaya has made up for a lot of the bad things in Rhodos. Thai people are born to serve guests , are born to be friendly, are born to pamper delegates. When I read in a Dutch newspaper that a survey has shown that service in Holland is often minimal and rude, I think: do a teaching practice in Thailand. Whoever wants to hang another leaf on the ICCA tree, feel free, there’s plenty of room.

The ‘Dress to Impress’ Prizes

And the winners are? Let me start by telling this: I enjoyed the theme colour a lot at the ICCA Gala Dinner in Pattaya: a ‘touch of gold’. Spontaneously I asked a few people to keep their weather-eye open and look out for how people were dressed during the Royal Golden Night. By experience I know that people are anxious to try something different with their clothes. Since HeadQuarters Magazine stands for designer layout, use of new colours and especially sharp content, I felt the sudden urge during the Gala Dinner to award an annual HQ prize for the best dressed women, men or couples of the evening. Because people love to communicate about clothing and dressing up. Daring to wear something conspicuous is often the reason for spontaneously making contact. You know what I mean: ‘Oh miss, you look great tonight!’ - ‘Oh really? How kind of you. What a charming gentleman you are!’…
And again I have to use the word ‘spontaneous’. Together with a small group of insiders I’ve awarded the first HQ ‘Dress to Impress’ prizes to three people. I promise everyone that next year I will call an international fashion jury into being for the theme colour in Victoria, Canada. And for this I will dutifully ask permission to Martin Sirk. So these are the spontaneous winners of this year’s event:

First Prize: ‘The Have Flair Prize’ goes to Christian Mutschlechner. A golden swallow’s tail, well combined with a Vienna Ballroom flair and Thai hand gestures. Just look at the delicate motion of his left hand. Which Thai girl gave him private lessons to flex his fingers like that?

Second Prize: ‘The have Humour Prize‘ goes to a fresh Meetings Couple. Golden masculine horns combined with a tempting lady’s look behind a Venetian mask. Just look at the naughty twinkling eyes of Henrik and Ulrike von Arnold!

Third Prize: ‘The have creativity prize’ goes to Cécile Koch because she used the Pho leaf - which is meant for the king - in a bold fashion. Simple chic. And all Thai people that were there praised her for this nice gesture. Cécile has promised me that she will donate this necklace back to Thailand.
Has anyone else seen a lady, gentleman or couple that was dressed in a special way? I can always add another public award. Watch out for next year’s event in Victoria, Canada, to see who will be victorious then.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Who invented DMC?

It’s always been my dream to do something special for DMCs! But I don’t know what exactly. Do you even remember who came up with this name? Destination Management Companies. And what do these people actually do? EUROMIC has sent me a nice text about the sore point ‘de-intermediarisation’. Are DMCs and professional conference and incentive organisers even necessary? Can’t a corporate client just do everything by himself? In the cover interview for the upcoming MIM 95 magazine, Christophe Verstraete, SITE Belux Chapter President and Executive Director EUROMIC takes a strong stand. Definitely worth reading! But I also owe you a lesson Meetings & Incentive History. In 1982 EUROMIC’s Swedish member – Tom Risbecker – came up with the word DMC. He wanted to distinguish the function of its members from those of ‘Ground Service Operators (tourism). The Destination Management Company specifically aimed to serve the new – not yet named – Meetings Industry. So it all began in Sweden. Couldn’t there be an annual Nobel prize or Risbecker prize for DMCs? And who knows where the term Convention Bureau was invented? But that’s for another history lesson.

Indian Puja in Brussels

Just look how closely and respectfully an Indian man and a Belgian woman greet each other. The man is Naresh Goyal, number 36 on the Forbes list of the richest Indians and the (young) lady is Freya Van den Bossche, number two in the Belgian political scene, or (retiring) Vice Prime Minister. Mister Goyal called Freya the most beautiful female minister he’s ever met. I can imagine. And what would Freya have thought when she was shaking hands with Naresh this week for the opening of the world’s most luxurious airport lounge? By that I mean Jet Airways’s lounge in Brussels Airport, the airline of which mister Goyal is the founder and chairman, or rather the owner. I think she must have thought: ‘Oh God (or Vishnu), that Naresh really is a roguish, fun business dad!’ That’s what I think. During the press conference I was poised on the edge of my seat twice. Once for the ritual blessing by a Hindu priest (see photo). I have resolved to find out more about Puja, because that’s how they call this blessing. And the second time I didn’t only spring to my feet, but my ears were burning as well. In his speech Naresh was telling that there are 30,000 wealthy Indians and 300,000 upper-middle class people. Meanwhile, I’ve learnt that India has one billion citizens since May 11, 2000 at 8:44 AM. In the meantime that number has grown to 1,051,000,000. What potency and what economical power! Now I understand Naresh’s vision: creating a global Indian brand. And Brussels is also reaping the Indian fruits because Jet Airways’s hub is Brussels. I can hear Bernard Guisset and Michel Van Caster saying: ‘That orange-blue bird is already perching on Brussels ground six times a week now. And it keeps on going!’ A fun detail: Naresh started out as a help in a travel agency!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Just your regular autumn day last week in London. People are dressed according to the weather: grey, dull, sad and incredibly hurried. Luckily I wasn't prepared for rain so I was wearing my Indian Summer costume for the occasion. And the second happy moment comes from Sue Etherington (middle), international sales manager of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. For the Master Class of John Graham IV (right) she had picked two sky blue conference suites with a lovely view on the Westminster Area. For the first time in my life I saw two presidents of two continents who treat each other as equals, heartily and respectfully: Luc Maene (left), president of ESAE (European Society of Association Executives) and John Graham IV, CEO and president of ASAE (American Society of Association Executives). John was invited to give a Master Class on ‘Adapting to the new Leadership Imperative’ for an exquisite group of European Association Executives. It didn't take long before the entire room was all ears for 'What Remarkable Associations Do That others Don’t'. An exposé based on the book 7 Measures of Success, published by ASAE. Everyone was full of praise afterwards. The listeners got to know John as a CEO, more accurately, as a Broker of Ideas. But also as a scouts boy - John used to be very active in the Boy Scouts of America - who loves ‘Great People and Great Ideas’. And little sister ESAE can use the latter very well: ideas to grow. By means of his Master class, John has coloured the day permanently warm for me. And I think that after ESAE's Board Meeting - of which John and Susan Sarfati form part now - a few ESAE people started dreaming. Luc Maene dreamt of an ESAE with 23,000 members and an annual budget of 40 million dollar, and Rachel Frankel of ESAE secretariat dreamt of a 2008 ESAE Congress in Brussels with 1/100th participants of a normal ASAE Congress in Washington. I don't dream. I merely hope that John repeats his Master Class in Brussels (16-17 January 2008). European and International Association Executives, mark your calenders for the ESAE Annual Congress: Working together in Partnership. Don't miss it!

My Stay With The Zulus

A few of my loyal blog readers know I went to stay with the Zulus for a few days in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Yes, that's true. And they absolutely want me to write about it because their fantasy world ran wild. I even heard something about the adventures of Tintin with The Great King Shaka Zulu. I'll tell you about my experiences.
I was in Durban for a good cause, to attend the opening of the 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council in the new ICC Durban Arena. One of the world's most impressive new convention facilities. It was Nadine Williams of Durban Africa and Linda Ngcipe of Tourism KwaZulul-Natal who convinced me to travel to the north of the province for a few days after the congress to visit Shakaland, among other things. The Zulus make up the largest community in South Africa and nowhere else in the country is a traditional culture as pronounced as it is in this region.
Do you remember the TV series 'Shaka Zulu' from 1984 that was filmed here? In Shakaland you can still see the set and witness demonstrations of traditional Zulu custums. Initially I thought 'another typical tourist attraction', which it is, but the director of Shakaland Protea Hotel made me change my mind. He had something in store for me: a new programme for incentive groups. A Shakaland Teambuilding programme, completely customizable, under the watchful eye of the village chief (photo right). I've learnt how to seduce young water carying Zulu girls, but a lot more than that. Umlabalaba: an ancient Zulu strategy game whose team members themselves become the ‘pawns’… Trust your instincts: a blindfold game born of hunters having to make judgments in pitch darkness… Running rabbit: a hunting game that requires judgments to spear a moving ‘mock rabbit’ running down a hill… and a lot more. And believe me, I didn't hit a single rabbit! But I kinda felt like I was in heaven. After all, Zulu means 'heaven'.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A new life for magazines

How often I've heard that the magazine era is over. The future lies in the internet, the digital newsletter, people say. Let's be clear, I'm talking about meetings industry magazines that are often looked upon as boring, poor in journalism and above all reservoirs of advertisements. In short: not good. So, not many people in our industry really read those magazines.
I was very pleased to read an interview with creative prodigy, style guru and the person who thought up the cult magazine 'Wallpaper': Tyler Brûlé. Earlier this year, he launched Monocle, the most debated magazine of the moment. To magazine fetishists it's a collector's item and I'm part of that group. Brûlé's team has launched a magazine in an age where everybody is talking about the demise of the print media. Today Monocle is the magazine everyone's talking about, designed for educated people who especially don't have time to read, except in airports, taxis and hotel rooms. Aren't those the same readers of meetings industry specialist journals? Monocle brings very good journalism and the paper is good quality. It's designer, colourful and it supplies stories for which people do want to make time. Touching something that feels good is unbeatable, says Tyler.
In the interview he admits that print media can never compete with the other media when it comes to 'breaking news', but there is no other medium that can rival the feeling of sitting down somewhere and reading an analysis. And that's exactly what I want to achieve with the upcoming EIBTM issue of HeadQuarters Magazine. Have a seat and read the pages 'Statistics make the Meetings Industry'. Lose yourself in the numbers and comments of UIA and ICCA for a minute. And maybe you'll read the IFLA portrait afterwards? And we are especially proud that we were also able to publish the results of ‘The Monocle Quality of Life Index’ in this issue. Because there's more to the Meetings Industry than just numbers, it has a lot to do with ‘branding’ as well.

Read all about meeting statistics and subscribe to HEADQUARTERS magazine.

Red Ocean Thinking

Sorry, I have to clarify myself. Of course it has to be Blue Ocean Strategy. But you will understand why I started like this in a minute, because thanks to - MPI’s President and CEO - Bruce MacMillan's exposition on MPI's new strategy in Brussels, Blue Ocean Thinking has drawn the attention of the meetings industry journals. MPI has made a huge leap forward by inviting the European Meetings Press for a special press conference. That's a recognition for the profession of 'writing'. During all those years, the press has given a lot to MPI, by writing selflessly about the association that's also a very successful and profitable company. Meetings Magazines have been MPI's sponsor for all that time, without ever asking too much back. This kind of recognition that MPI is showing towards the Meetings Press is also part of Blue Ocean thinking: dealing with a naturally loyal partner in a different way!
Let me return to the essence of the story. What is Blue Ocean Strategy? Blue Ocean Strategy is a strategical approach developed by Kim and Mauborgne, both working for INSEAD. The central idea is that you shouldn't fly at your competition because that would produce a value destructive effort. No, the best way to face the competition is to outrun it. "Don´t compete with your rivals, make them irrelevant". Because the battle for growth by means of competititive advantage, more cost reduction, a better market share and/or differentation, only leads to a 'bloody red ocean of rivals who fight like sharks'. They illustrate their theory with organisations like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and Cirque du Soleil. Blue Ocean Strategy is based on the analysis of 150 large and smaller companies that realised such strategic value innovation. And who knows, perhaps they forgot about MPI? For the first edition of the book 150,000 copies were printed. To everyone in the meetings industry who wants to change his mind, I'd say: read the book!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What's business chic?

Honestly, I've never heard people using the expression 'Business Chic' in the meetings industry. Until I met Paola Casolari from the newly opened Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel in Paris. Paola is from Italy, from the same town where the late Pavarotti was born. You could read the emotion off her pretty Italian face when she pronounces the name of Modena. But I didn't merely come to Paris to admire Paola's beauty, I also wanted to know who were the 'founders of business chic'. I won't explain you how and what, you just have to look at I just want to tell you that Business Chic is a 'mindset' of how one conducts business. It is about being ‘au courant’, not ‘passé'. During my animated conversation with Paola, I noticed the uniform of the waiter in R'Yves, a comfortable and stylish bar and lounge. That's not how I remember the Marriott Hotels. He was wearing a special black and white jacket with black stylized patterns in the sides. His name tag gave away that he probably spoke Dutch. And indeed, Rik van Baar is a trainee from Hotelschool The Hague, in Holland. His French is shaping up but those cheek muscles can hurt like hell at the end of the day, he told me. From now on, the list of Business Chic examples can include the uniform of the staff. I adore uniforms. 'Designed by Bragard, a stylist who occasionally works for Chanel', told Paola. And I will add Paola and Rik to my own list of ‘business chic’.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cycling conference delegates in Paris

At first you're a bit at a loss. How on earth can I get this bike out of its storage? It won't work without a credit card and you shouldn't be put off by a 150 EUR deposit. But apart from that you can have a ball riding a bike in Paris. Every congress participant or incentive traveller should use a bike at least once while staying in Paris. Now there are over 10,000 bikes available in 750 Vélib stations, where you can pick a bike out of a storage at a bargain price, ride anywhere you want and leave the bike in whichever station you prefer. You have to keep track of your Vélib ticket (a contraction of 'vélo' and 'liberté') because the system might display some growing pains now and then. During the quiet month of August I've done some cycling in Paris myself: over 70 km. I've pedalled down the Champs-Elysées and I couldn't live without it now. There were two types of drivers I feared: taxi drivers and bus drivers! But I've been able to experience that cyclists have a calming effect on traffic and make a valuable contribution to the battle against pollution. Hats off to the Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë who aims to have 1451 stations in Paris by the end of the year - that's about one every 300 meters - with a total of 20,600 bikes. The bicycle has made its appearance in London as well but Cyclocity in Brussels proved a fiasco! Cities with bikes, I dream about them!
Last week I had an animated conversation about this dream with Paul Roll, General Manager of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau: 'Oh, Monsieur Marcel, the bike has changed Paris a little. Parisians are talking more to visitors and have become more helpful. And the cyclist could experience that Paris isn't such a flat town after all. Paris has its little hills and that might demand a bigger physical effort now and then.'
I have a nice detail for Paul Roll. A new study of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel about bikes showed that cycling makes you stronger on a psychological level as well. While you're riding a bike, stress is disappearing, you're taking in fresh air, you're not stuck in traffic and you get home with no worries on your mind. Having people riding a bike makes them withstand the daily stress better. A subject for a new world congress in Paris!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If I were a meetings doctor

Yes, indeed, if I were a meetings doctor, I would prescribe one hour of Christian Mutschlechner’s ‘bid book-therapy’ to everyone who is involved in association congresses.
I won’t negotiate about his fees though. I’ve already shed my thoughts on bid books on my worldwide meeting blog (see other entries).

This time I’m writing about my extraordinary experiences in Tallinn during the 21st edition of the EFCT Summer School last August. To me, this summer course is still the best basic training for young people in our industry. I was glad that Tuula Lindberg refreshed my memory and told me that the first Summer School had 16 registered attendants and took place in Gmünden in 1986.
In Tallin they were 66: 16 boys and 50 girls. Does this natural division confirm the statistics that the meetings industry is a female industry, although led by a male industry?
The syndicate discussion on the Summer School’s closing day gave me the greatest pleasure: The students were split into 4 groups and had to practise what they had learned during the seminar, using their old or news skill to prepare “Bidding for a congress”.
For this edition, they had to dig into a tough case study. The assignment of the always committed course leader Tatjana Radovic sounded like this: “You represent the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau and are to present a bid for the 11th OWHC World Symposium in 2011 (Organization of World Heritage Cities)."
By what I’ve heard from these reporters, Tallinn - exploiting its medieval look - could score here.
And I think the jury agreed. Afterwards, Andrea Bauer (photo left) - who chaired the jury - told me that she experienced the bid presentation as if it was the real thing. And I have never seen such a full happy smile on the face of Association Guru Christian (photo right). Even for the old industry dogs (they were all there) it’s good to be confronted with the fresh honest views of young people on meeting industry stuff, …once in a while.

I myself enjoyed it to be surrounded by young people and learn. And there is so much more to learn: bid books are all too often trapped in tight touristy alleyways and much training is needed for young people to give decent presentations. The one thing missing at Summer School is a course in presentation techniques. Count me in next year, I’ll keep a free spot in my agenda. European Cities Marketing scored again, as I might add. It’s been a while!

And I think the brave reporters deserve a place on my worldwide meeting blog:
Cocoon group:
Kristina Kuznetsova: Project Manager Eventus Group DMC/PCO (Tallinn)
Georgios Drakopoulos: General Director SETE (Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises)

Georgios is a distinct leader, which was confirmed by all the female students.

Charlotte Brynger, Project Manager Gothenburg Sweden. Someone told me that she speaks seven languages. Next time I'll talk to her in French.

Made Pandis: Frens Ltd, Tallinn

Dreamers (winning group!):
Anja Loetscher: the new director of the Geneva Tourism and Convention Bureau. I’ve named her the hip matriarch of all students.

Annely Alteberg: Destination Marketing Manager of Estonian Air. I had to include a picture of someone with blond hairs rustling in the wind. But also because she represented the local suppliers in the bid process with flair.
Ivanka Lukic: Project Assistant for the Slovenian Convention Bureau.

Bad Boys:
Lidia Gabriela Herciu, International Conference Centre Bucharest, Romania and Vilma Šlajerová, Prague Congress Centre. They can share a picture as they pointed their noses in the same direction during the presentation.

Just because boys were in the minority at the Summer School, I reward too extra photographs:
Panagiotis Arkoumaneas: Managing Director Athens Tourism & Economic Development Agency. According to the female coinaisseurs, the most handsome of the bunch.

Daniel Svarc: Sales Representative Prague Congress Centre. The most charming one, say the female and male experts. Wow, what should I think of that!, he must have thought.