Whence comes inspiration, for those who must inspired be? To better serve the needs of industry, through MICE, professionally.

STORY BY DANIEL CHUA

Success, quoted the inventor Thomas Edison famously is
10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration. This disproportionate ratio emphasises the importance of that small yet vital element of inspiration so critical to MICE professionals to persist at and excel at their craft.
Whilst pages may be devoted to the perspiration-inducing challenges faced by MICE professionals, suffice it to say here that only those passionate enough to begin with and inspired enough along the way stay the course to keep delivering
quality events.
Fortunately for us passionate for the profession, rich inspiration comes from several sources.

Appreciation and recognition

Meeting clients’ MICE needs lies at the heart of all we do, and though it would be nice to do so, one does not need to win an award to experience the joy of yet another job well-done.
Sometimes it’s the sheer energy of an appreciative crowd that fuels us, as we were happily reminded during a recent event for McDonald’s at a popular nightspot in Clark Quay based on an Olympics theme. From the rousing start of the event till its deafening finale, the dynamic crowd cheered non-stop in cascades of energy, leaving us in awe of the camaraderie and passion they exuded. They just had to be Loving’ it. Indeed when the right elements are in place, magic can happen. In this case, we were extremely humbled when a senior member of management singled us out for appreciation at the conclusion of the event. Clearly, he did not have to, but doing so was a validation of our efforts towards making the event successful.
However, recognition need not be public to be inspiring – every quiet kind word, every simple “thank you” counts to motivate us. Every now and then, we receive the highest accolade a client could give by them saying they wish to enter into a long-term relationship, with the spine-tingling thrill that stellar service and commitment towards meeting clients’ needs has been recognised such that they are ready to treat you as one of their own. One such client is PWN Technologies, an advanced water technology firm from
The Netherlands whom we have served since 2009.
Appreciation sometimes takes the pleasurable form of clients making time after a long hard day’s event delivery to sit back and have a drink with you recalling the day’s highlights.
A rare breed indeed, appreciative clients, and a toast to them for being both the ‘raison d’être’ and a key source of inspiration for our industry.

Making a difference

Though every successful project is in itself a motivation, every now and then comes an opportunity to go beyond quality execution for a positive difference to be made in the course of implementing a MICE project. As MICE projects involve gathering and managing large groups of people requiring the mobilization of vast energy and material resources, we are in a unique position to be of assistance to local communities, and channel the collective goodwill and energies of good-hearted individuals to worthy causes on the ground. So whilst there are economic benefits to the destination, there can be much more contributed that is intangible and priceless to both the recipients and
the givers.
Not that it is always feasible to do so, but MICE professionals should find added motivation in being able to propose and implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability measures working with likewise enlightened clients willing to go that extra mile.
Reduce the need for material set-ups as much as possible without sacrificing the quality of the event experience, which is where technology can play an important role. For instance, digital backdrops may be used, reducing the acres of wood and printed materials otherwise required. Other earth and cost-friendly measures include clients agreeing to opt for completely digital or online means of disseminating information rather than using paper, saving both time and money in the process.
However, whilst you will not have the literal pleasure of Mother Earth thanking you for your efforts, you will certainly be touched by the delighted smiles of the less fortunate receiving gifts that might have ended up otherwise in the trash-bin. We were thus highly gratified when VESTAS, a leading wind-energy firm, agreed to our proposal to set aside food that if not served would be packed and sent to a nearby school for low-income families. We were fortunate that the Shangri-La Bangkok, where we held the event, had a highly supportive team willing and able to accede to this less than usual request.
For incentive-based trips where groups derive much pleasure from their destination, it is meaningful for them to contribute to the land they are visiting, particularly if it is a less-developed nation. We were extremely grateful therefore when a client in the pharmaceutical industry agreed to consider our request to contribute used computers as part of a visit to a school for orphans in the beautiful mountainous country of Nepal.
Oftentimes, these measures do benefit clients as well, as they seek to form a closer-knit team and culture of kindness leading towards a higher performing organisation.

New knowledge and insights

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Acquiring new knowledge enables us to stay relevant whilst keeping us motivated to stay the course as we look forward to implementing projects in interesting destinations, or to trying out new technologies for greater event effectiveness.
Reading trade publications is certainly one great way to do so. It is surprising that many veteran MICE associates remain incognisant of even the more established trade publications (online and offline) and even if so do not make a habit of reading them. Busy as we are, we will certainly benefit from the effort.
Another excellent means of information gathering is certainly through attending trade shows and related events. Exhibitions such as the meticulously organised AIME and CIBTM allow you a chance to exchange first-hand information and insights, and to establish the all-important relationships critical in our industry for effective collaboration. Nothing beats knowing someone on the ground providing the latest critical information that could affect event success.
Knowledge certainly not only refers to what you know but who you know to help facilitate your next project.

Potently passionate MICE professionals

Fortunately enough, you sometimes encounter some real gems who personify passion for the MICE industry and who are an absolute inspiration to meet. You know them when you meet them – they whose eyes shine as they speak of their work, and with whom conversations are always a heady brew of refreshing ideas and exciting possibilities. Freshest in my mind are these stellar individuals met at the recent CIBTM 2012 in Beijing: Sally de Swart, Reed Travel Exhibition’s Director of AIME, whose intense passion for perfection radiates together with her great warmth of character; the tireless Fiona and Susan of Custom Ireland who so passionately promote their beautiful country as a MICE destination – so much so the dynamic duo had both the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the ambassador of Ireland to China gracing their booth.
Unfortunately, you won’t get to encounter such wonderful people sitting in your office or even on social networks online. Make an effort to attend trade fairs and events to widen your networks, be inspired and develop new business possibilities. We all need that support network – who understands your challenges better than fellow MICE practitioners? Knowing people who can infect you with positivity, and offer you a kind word of encouragement and advice every now and then will certainly keep you heading towards higher ground.

Supportive and creative event partners

Relationships are key in this industry where the difference between success and failure is simply how well your ground partners understand and execute your best-laid plans. Working with partners who help provide everything from accommodations to zoo animals who are passionate about what they do, and go out of their way to help you make sure the client is well-served is in itself an inspiration.
We are proud to have affiliates on the ground who often go out of their way to extend their professional support. Conversely, we avoid proposing and working in countries where strong support is scarce to be found, though we make it a point to find the best partners should clients insist on going to a specific destination (in some countries, despite excellent landscapes and architecture, warmth and a service culture are sometimes lacking).
Seek reliable ground partners with whom you may trade best practices. How do you know when you’ve found one? Warm, humble, effusive, attentive, committed, prompt, precise, timely, knowledgeable, influential – these are all attributes that set them apart. Our ground partner for an incentive trip in Kathmandu, DMI Nepal, was all of the above, even helping us stave off an entire wedding group that had pre-booked our preferred hotel before our client had confirmed the same dates. This averted a whole host of cost and coordination issues (I’m sure the wedding party was recommended a good alternative to be persuaded to move, and I wish them a blissful wedding!).
You can also engage with passionate MICE professionals by joining MICE industry trade bodies like SACEOS, ICCA and MPI – chances are that individuals who join at least one of these are keen on promoting industry growth as a whole and more willing to share knowledge and resources.

“Relationships are key in this industry where the difference between success and failure is simply how well your ground partners understand and execute your best-laid plans.”

Technologies and techniques

There is something thrilling about employing cutting-edge technology for a better event experience or discovering new ways to utilise existing technologies in creative new ways to evoke positive audience responses. This was the case at a recent intravitreal implant product launch when 3D technology was used – eye doctors who were used to more traditional modes of communicating new treatments were impressed with this method of bringing key product messages quite literally closer. Having the opportunity to employ the latest tech-gadgets in the market with positive feedback from clients accounts for one of those motivating moments yet again.

Fun and creativity!

Our industry also presents us with some interesting and exciting opportunities to get creative. This was the case for a project with Marina Bay Sands, where we had the pleasure of working on an event that reached out to thousands of their members, and a more exclusive one targeted at their Paiza Club members. Elements of the heady brew were an original and dynamic staging concept, beautifully restored vintage cars, muscular Harley Davidsons, stunning international models, Playboy bunnies specially flown in from Macau, stellar DJs and amazingly convincing Elvis Presley, Tina Turner and Rod Stewart look-alikes.
This is an example of how varied projects can be in our industry. Even though projects of such a fun nature do not avail themselves everyday, I have to say it is certainly a motivation to stay the course when they do come by!

When being negative is positive

Innate to our nature of being of the greatest service to clients, we may have started out being obliging to a fault. Indeed, saying “no” to unreasonable or even impossible requests is a coming of age. We have met clients who do not respect agreements, who insist that minimum room commitments need not be paid for in the final reckoning, who abuse the goodwill of transport providers to keep reissuing seats at no extra cost, who change their minds last minute and expect you to resolve their whims at your own expense…the list goes on. Yes, one may argue that it is our job to help clients get the job done but reason (and legality) must prevail. And it helps that the client shows appreciation for the added burden rather than take it all for granted.
Though saying “no” with reasons provided sometimes earns you greater respect from a client, a backlash is more often the reaction – after all, the action already implies the character. However, as an encouragement and motivation especially to those just starting out, know that there are enough great clients (or colleagues) out there better worth your efforts, and that it is good for your spirit to say “no” tactfully but firmly to allow you to move on to find a more appreciative and reasonable client.

Conclusion

By serving well as MICE professionals, we empower our clients to be at their best in meeting their organisational aims. That knowledge in itself is motivational.
As with anything else in life, you will receive from the MICE industry what you put into it. Therefore, stay motivated and keep serving, to enjoy the infinite variety of experiences and rewards from this multi-faceted industry.
I conclude by dedicating this article as a tribute to the countless passionate individuals in the MICE industry whom I look forward to the privilege of meeting and working with, from whom I will doubtlessly draw continued inspiration to keep striving at our chosen craft.

Daniel Chua is the managing director of AONIA Pte Ltd, an agency serving clients through successful MICE projects since 2002. Daniel has honed his expertise and network from the ground up, with vital experiences gained from being a master of ceremonies, events manager and agency accreditation manager for IATA. He now manages a team of passionate professionals with the shared mission of delivering quality MICE experiences throughout the region. He believes in industry-wide collaboration to ensure the continued development of the MICE industry and is keen to hear from anyone with the same belief at daniel@aonianow.com

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