Friday, March 30, 2007

Brain Fitness Center

Like there's fitness for the body, there's a virtual gym for the brain as well. The muscles of the brain also need to be trained, say the people at Sharpbrain. Their website is especially made for people who want to train their brains in an interactive way. I would like to see your comments on this subject.

Luc Hendrickx' bid book

I have the advantage of not living far from Brussels. That gives me the opportunity to have a chat once in a while with an association executive at the headquarters of some international association. And there are some of those in Brussels, as you all know. Every two months I send 1800 HeadQuarters magazines to those people. One of those people with whom I exchange ideas on a regular basis, is Luc Hendrickx, Executive Director of the International Diabetes Federation. The last conversation we had was about bid books. ‘I hate traditional bid books that look like glossy tourist brochures,' he told me. 'Those get thrown in the waste paper basket right away. To me the ideal bid book is as large as an A4 size, or rather a one-page fact sheet on each venue that we are happy with if the board will select it.' Luc also has his own thoughts on local hotshot ambassadors. Oops, I'll stop telling and I'll prepare a text about Bid Books Nowadays! And about Ambassadors of the good old days.
As a bonus Luc sent me the title of a good book, because, as it happens, we had also been talking about the art of 'presenting things the good way': Beyond Bullet Points – Microsoft Press, Washington, 2005- ISBN-13 978-0-7356-2052-0

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jenni's little rosette

Also at the GIBTM fair in Abu Dhabi, I met some people who gave me a spontaneous feel. Among them was Megh Ale with his mini-pigtail, but you already knew that.
Because I'm keen on fresh dates - Abu Dhabi has the most delicious ones in the whole world - I dropped in on the most beautiful stand in the fair. Did you guess which one? The Abu Dhabi stand of course. By coincidence fair manager Paul Kennedy of Reed Exhibitions came walking outside like a sheik. I don't think he tasted the dates. And who treated me warmly to dates and tea there? A lady who always leaves a rejuvenating impression on me. How come? I don't know. Maybe it's that little purple rosette in her hair that keeps fascinating me. Or are the leaflets of the rosette well-camouflaged mini satellite dishes with which she receives messages and communicates? Because communicating is her profession. Jenni Beggs is communication manager at the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA). If you would like to know more about the emirate Abu Dhabi, send her a quick e-mail.

About palaces, bunkers and hangars

During the GIBTM fair (the first edition of Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition in Abu Dabhi) I told a few visitors that I was inspired by ADNEC, the new exhibition and convention centre, or should I say exhibition and convention city, because there really is a meetings city shooting up from the ground. The space, the light, the statues, the beauty, the materials used, the architecture… in short, there's more than we can get through. You feel more human there. If I look at what people generally build in Europe, I must say I start to blush. Most exhibition centres - and a lot of convention centres as well - in Europe and elsewhere look like bunkers, I feel. To underpin this bold statement, I've asked Johan De Deygere, director of Brussels Fairs & Exhibitions, if he agrees. 'I would call them hangars', was his response…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cécile's little book

Whoever goes on a trip should always tell a nice anecdote or bring a present, I always say. Cécile Koch, sales & marketing director of HeadQuarters Magazine, went to PEC-E in Copenhagen. It was cold but good, she told me. She was delighted with the educational content of the Professional Education Conference Europe, which MPI organises once a year somewhere in Europe. Unfortunately I can't write down everything she has told me, but she did bring me an interesting little book. It's called ‘Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice’ by the Danish professor Ib Ravn. I remember Ib from before, when he presented me his Learning Lab Denmark for the first time. We often think that meeting goes automatically, that it's a profession you don't have to learn. That's a mistake. A big mistake. Even more than before there's a need for CONTENT that is conveyed in the right way and that sticks in the memory of the listeners for a long time. But how do you do that? Ib has 17 techniques ready!

As you can see on the picture there was also a lot of fun, and Elvis lives! ... in Denmark.

Did you attend PEC-E? Post your thoughts about it by clicking on 'Comments' below.

(photo: Bruce Taylor)

Megh Ale's tuppi

Mega-investments, billions of dollars, the construction of a Guggenheim museum and a dependance of the Louvre. It's all happening in Abu Dhabi. I was there on a short visit for the first GIBTM fair (Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition). People told me that this city will be unrecognizable by 2011. Isn't it surprising then, after all these explosions of numbers to see someone with a tuppi on his head? I got intrigued by the little pony tail that Megh Ale has in the middle of his bald shaven head. It looks like a pigtail and it's called a tuppi in Nepal, he told me with a mischievous smile. In Buddhism it serves as an aid to perform a spiritual act every morning after waking up. You have to tie a knot in the lock of hair by which you create a moment of reflection that stimulates you to do something good during the day. Be yourself and continue. Whoever looks up the name Megh Ale in Google will notice that there is more to Megh than just his mini-pigtail. In Nepal, he devotes himself to the conservation of the most beautiful piece of nature on the planet, especially to the Nepal River Conservation Trust. He's also the founder and president of The Borderlands Eco Adventure Resort. And in the political department Nepal is doing better and better, he told me, because Nepal has been down in the dumps!

The president and the miracle

Six percent of all heads of state and leaders of the government in the world are female, the highest number ever. Right now six female presidents are in office in Chili, Finland, Ireland, the Philippines, Latvia and Liberia, and the same amount of female prime ministers, of whom Angela Merkel is the most famous one. Last week I had the honour of shaking hands with Mary McAleese, president of Ireland (in the centre of the picture). After her visit to the University of Leuven on the occasion of 400 years of Irish College (now known as the Irish Institute for European Matters) she paid a visit to the new office of Tourism Ireland in Brussels. How proud everyone was to have such a distinguished visitor. And how cheerful everyone was after her warm speech! I have memorized one particular part. She said: 'I still see a miracle happening every day: those thousands of visitors who come visit Ireland every year, while they have so many other options! There must be people over there who work hard behind the scenes to make that miracle happen every day over again.' And she winked at the team of Danielle Neyts (far right in the picture).
More presidents and prime ministers should pay a visit to the convention bureaus! Mrs. McAleese set an excellent example (

A writer in residence

I'm a bit jealous of the Flemish writer Saskia De Coster. She will be the next writer in residence in the Amsterdam writer's flat near the 'Spui'. The worst way to explore a city is in a touristic fashion, she told me. The best way is to stay there for a while, in her opinion. That's my opinion as well. I'd love to live in Lisbon for a month, or in Buenos Aires, or in Kuala Lumpur. Who'll provide me with a meetings-writer's flat there? It has to be funded, naturally… Any suggestions may be posted in the Comments!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Clare Amsel's souvenir shop

I have rediscovered Athens because of Clare Amsel, a British lady who has been living in Athens for more than 15 years. She's director of conferences for Megaron Athens (International Conference Centre) and said to me: 'take the new underground train (metro) and you will see how much Athens has changed. The Athens Olympic Games 2004 have changed the whole of Greece and have certainly given Athens a new look.' Clare was very closely involved in the opening ceremony and she became fascinated by the effect a large event has on a country or city, and not least on the people that live there. Unfortunately enough, Athens is not included in the Anholt-GMI City Brands Index but I will do my utmost to convince Mister Anholt not to forget about Athens the next time.
Megaron Athens has become a city icon. They say it's the most expensive congress palace in Europe; not to rent it, but the price it has cost to build it. When you organise a convention there, the prestige is included in the package. It's a really nice and prestigious building, but it also has its small and fun sides. For example, Clare showed me the souvenir shop of the palace where I saw two frames with all the lost objects that were left behind by visitors. I believe there was some expensive jewellery in it. I would also like to mention that Claire can tell about the city's change of image in a fascinating way. She has truly shown me the light!

Günter Verheugen's Award

Günter Verheugen is not just anybody, he is the European Commissioner for Trade and Industry and Vice-President of the European Commission, or simply put, the number two of José Manuel Barroso. Last year I had the honour and pleasure to interview him in his roomy office in the Berlaymont building in Brussels. I have to phrase it this way because it really isn't that simple to get into that building, leave alone to land into one of his armchairs. I asked him straight if he knew the meetings industry and he surprised me with his answer: 'We have a commissioner for tourism and meetings industry: I am the commissioner!' Now this man received the prestigious BAPCO Award (Belgian Association for Professional Congress Organizers) during the opening day of the Brussels Meetings Week on Monday February 12th. The Award is an Owl, made out of pure Val Saint Lambert crystal. In my opinion, BAPCO made a wise decision: Wisdom. And do you know that I have such an owl on the mantelpiece of my office?
If you are interested in reading the complete interview I had with Commissioner Verheugen, all you have to do, is send me an e-mail.

(photo: Bruce Taylor)

Simon Anholt, or the world of an inspirator

I have often wondered how cities earn their good or bad reputation. Paris is romance, Milan is style, New York is energy, Washington is power, Tokyo is modernity, Lagos is corruption, Barcelona is culture and Rio de Janeiro is fun…
Since I have met Simon Anholt, I understand it a lot better. He's not a researcher, he told me over the phone, but a government consultant. He's the man who is at the basis of the famous City Brands Index, in other words: 'How does the world view your city'. In often striking comparisons and descriptions he composed a report about 60 metropolises. When I received that report, I thought: Simon, you really are not a researcher, but an inspiration. I was intrigued by that report. And, dear blog reader, if you have become interested in how the world views your city, give me a sign, and I will send you a PDF with the story that I have written for HeadQuarters Magazine (in the now famous yearbook 'Meeting Trends'). If you are nice for me, I might send you some more details about your city. I have already told Brussels that people still think that the city is equal to Manneken Pis. And all that time we were thinking that it was the capital of Europe… It's all in the game, I guess.

Ali's white kandoora

Now that I have already written about Jamal's black hat, I have to tell something about Ali's kandoora and turban. Soon you can expect a mini-report on Abu Dhabi from my part. I was amazed at everything that was happening there. I was able to take a look at the scale-model of the new exhibition and congress city (ADNEC). It's not a convention palace but a city for conventions and exhibitions. And what to say about the Middle Eastern version of the Louvre that is being built there? Someone has made me discover this wonderland, his full name is Ali A. Al Saloom and he is the MICE Development Officer of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. He is a lively promoter of his country and its inhabitants. A wonderful guide to listen to. By the way, whoever thinks that all kandooras are white, is wrong. Ali can tell about the Muslim culture, clothing, food, religion and people in an inspirational manner. He is member of the international guide association as well, although I'm not familiar with that association. It is my wish to attend the next international convention together with Ali where I would make a plea in favour of creating specialised Meeting Guides! Ali, where does the next convention take place?

Jamal Ayad's black hat

Between Christmas and New Year I travelled to the border between Morocco and Algeria to celebrate New Year in the desert with the Berbers. At the stroke of midnight the full moon was perpendicular to my head and my feet were dancing in the Sahara sand. A few days before I landed in Tanger and a civil servant of the Ministry of Tourism would be waiting there for me. 'How boring', I thought, 'but it has to be done, the appointment was made that way, I can't get out of it.' To my surprise I saw a kind man with a black hat on top of his head, very unusual for Morocco. His laugh was irresistible, his humour was contagious. I remained in the company of Jamal for a whole day. He told me the history of Morocco like I've never heard it before, for example about the innumerable cultures. At a certain point I thought that about every civilisation had passed by in Morocco, when I heard him talk like that. Teasingly I said to him: everybody except the Eskimos has been here!
Jamal is a man with a vision. He would like to see a Meetings and Incentives division arise within the Ministry of Tourism in Rabat. Speaking for myself, Jamal could start his new task tomorrow because there is lots to do in this kingdom! He knows his business like no one else. If I ever write a movie script, I will offer Jamal a part in it, of course with his black hat!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The father of travel journalism

Ryszard Kapuscinski was a Pole, and father of the journalistic/literary travel report. He passed away on January 23rd in Warsaw. But what was his message for me? He always travelled to places where people showed their worst side. I on the other hand always travel to places where people show their best side, where they always show me the most beautiful parts of their country, and where they often try to impose the non-reality of their town or country on me, for fear of a bad image. Ryszard's work has led me to discover the work of Herodotos, a Greek historian from 500 A.D. who wrote the very first travel report in world literature. From now on, I take Herodotos along as my guide, travel companion and source of inspiration.

Curriculum Vitae of a 'Founding Father'

Marcel A. M. Vissers

Owner / Business Manager of Meeting Media Company
Niche MICE (meetings industry) publishers (MIM magazine and HeadQuarters Magazine) since 1992.
Editor in chief of MIM and HQ magazines

Born in Zundert (NL) on May 4th 1946
Became Belgian very quickly and remained like that.

Primary and secondary school in Belgium
First finished higher education at the Teachers' Training College in Brussels
Teached for a couple of years
Completed further higher studies at the Social College in Leuven, specialising in Personnel sciences and afterwards specialising in industrial psychology and Human Resources Management with Professor Musschoot at the RUG

A small portion of my free time during studies was spent on radio plays for the then BRT Radio. Actually I had always wanted to become an elocutionist or presenter or at least to succeed in broadcast journalism… but it turned out otherwise. I ended up in print journalism and the talking still comes in handy when I chair debates or panels or when I give lectures. Now I have to get my leisure time out of 'travelling' (work) and 'going to the gym' (work out).

After completing my studies I immediately found a job in the business community. At first as a Human Resources employee at the AZ Leuven, and later as HR-Manager at Pleuger in Antwerp, followed by Intop in Brussels. In that latter company (the Inter Touroperaters Group) I took the initiative to participate in the 'Golden Feather' competition for the best sales letter with a newly formed team for incentive travels. And indeed, in 1979 the Golden Feather was awarded to the Intop Firm in Brussels. That was the last sign of life of that company but it was also my first step towards journalism. First I made a halt in Sierra Leone (West-Africa) for a year to kick the habit of working every day with and for people.

After the demise of Intop I have applied myself almost fulltime to the development of media for meetings and incentive travel. Twenty years ago there were practically no specialised magazines in this area - all magazines were primarily oriented towards tourism. That's how in 1991 I stood at the basis of the first fully fledged MICE magazine with the title Meeting Media. You could say I feel a bit like the 'founding father' of Belgian MICE journalism (meetings and incentive travel industry).

Meeting Media later became Meeting & Incentive Media and is now fully known and put on the market as MIM magazine, which has become a ‘brand’ in the European specialised media landscape:

In 2002 Marcel A.M. Vissers started a new magazine: HeadQuarters Magazine. This magazine has grown in a short timespan to be the leading Pan-European magazine for Association Executives:

Meeting Media Company
Mechelseplein 23
B-2000 Antwerpen (Belgium)

Tel. +32 (0)3 226 88 81
Fax. +32 (0)3 226 88 82
Mobile: +32 486 13 13 00