Generally regarded as either a video game or the best practices of engaging in the act of war, modern warfare can also be defined as the concepts, methods and technologies that have come into use and are now widespread as a result of highly advanced information technology. Our industry has to either accept this as our modern warfare, or lose the war.
The Challenge: The meetings industry is at war with every other marketing medium out there (print, online, outdoor, direct mail, television, etc.). Like every other medium, meetings need to justify our investment and provide ROI.
The Solution: I like to study history, especially the strategy of wars. One lesson our meetings industry could steal is to form a strategic alliance with a strong partner, the results of which are 1 + 1 is more than 2.
I’m often asked what our industry’s greatest challenges are and the answer is never static. One challenge I see is the lack of integration between technology and events. Yes, online registration is as common as a coffee break, but that does not mean we are integrated.
The online industry has experienced double-digit growth since the dot-com bubble burst, and is projected to continue growing at a rapid pace for years to come. We know, from the MPI Foundation Canada’s Canadian Economic Impact Study, that meetings in Canada from 2006 to 2008 were stable – but did not experience significant growth. From our M&IT 2010 Market Report, we know the meetings industry in Canada shrunk by 13 per cent in 2009 and is forecasted to increase 14 per cent in 2010, again resulting in flat growth, at best.
The popular topic of the day is ‘value for meetings’ or ‘return on investment.’ I do agree that our industry needs to be better at providing such answers. Every other marketing medium has metrics and tools in place to measure their impact. For meetings, I believe information technology can provide us with the tools that will give us those metrics.
The term ‘modern warfare’ encompasses strategy, tactics, organization, logistics and people – all core elements of our industry. We need to apply modern warfare to our meetings and events, and use technology to prove our audiences are better engaged and learn as a result of face-to-face events. Online tools such as blogs, forums, social media, chat rooms, intranets, etc., that are part of our daily culture can easily be applied to meetings – demonstrating the value of meetings, if by no other metric than one of pure engagement.
The meetings industry needs to form a strategic alliance with online, not just to survive, but to grow as we know we can.