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.