Event Management for the 21st Century


As the world’s largest meeting and event planning company, MCI certainly has the experience and resources to meet complex challenges. The company boasts a sizable employee base of 1,500 across 47 offices in 23 different countries. Because of its sheer size and global footprint, Mr Shaw points out that MCI can set its standards using international benchmarks and world’s best practices, a fact that he says makes the event management company stand out from most of the competition. “We can measure what we’ve been doing against what the world does,” he explains.

MCI’s global presence also enables the company to quickly and easily expand its capabilities to meet client needs. The team is focused on “strategically developing products and services to meet changing client needs,” Mr Shaw reports. MCI has recently acquired businesses around the globe with skill sets ranging from quantitative measuring to creative staging – all for the ultimate purpose of organising the best events possible.

In fact, Mr Shaw joined the team after selling his own company to MCI in 2010. His business, Event Planners Australia, was one of the country’s most successful meeting and conference organisers. It was also the recipient of 54 state and national awards for excellence.

At first, Mr Shaw admits that he was unsure about giving up control to the larger company. “After being in my business for 30 years, I had no intention of selling to MCI,” he recalls. But in doing some research, Mr Shaw realised that a merger would create a win-win situation. He had built up his business and needed a strategic partner to take him to the next level. “The reason that I entertained becoming part of MCI is that they achieved everything that I wanted to achieve, and were going ahead in leaps and bounds.”

Mr Shaw realised that with a market of only 22 million people – roughly the same size as just one metropolitan area in some other continents – Australia’s event management industry just couldn’t compete globally. “We needed to get [MCI’s] strength in order to bring a lot of things to Australia. We just didn’t have the economy of scale.”

He also discovered that although MCI is quite large, it still offers the personalised touch and customer care of a smaller company. “MCI is really very, very much about its people,” he explains. “And it’s really very much about honesty and looking after clients and doing the right job.” Realising that the corporation had integrity as well as leading edge expertise sealed the deal for him.

The benefits have gone both ways, as MCI has gained vital knowledge from Event Planners’ unique understanding and long-time experience in the Australian conference management market. “Some of [Event Planners’] techniques and technologies have now been rolled out worldwide by MCI,” Mr Shaw reports. One of the most successful is Event Design©, a system that the Event Planners Australia team pioneered over the last decade, and the results have been excellent. “One conference we’ve been doing for about 20 years, and with this new methodology we made 300 recommendations for change,” Mr Shaw says. “They ended up doubling their numbers… the entire event just went from zero to hero.”

Mr Shaw explains that MCI’s resources and clout make these kinds of changes easy. “What I have learned since joining them,” he explains, “is the enormous amount of intellectual property and the enormous amount of understanding that they have on the global meetings and events industry. And that’s enabling us to meet all of [the industry’s] challenges. MCI really has been at the forefront of the major changes in the industry in the last 25 years and as a key player, is helping to shape its future,” Mr Shaw says.

Meeting new challenges has never been more important. New liability laws and a younger generation of conference goers are putting the entire meetings and events market to the test. But, Mr Shaw points out, “with MCI, it’s a matter of saying, ‘right, we’ve got a problem. Let’s [utilise our] resources and fix it’… We’ve got the muscle to get in there and fix it and we are.”

Arguably, the most pressing challenge facing the meetings and events industry today is rapidly changing client demands. Today’s event and conference goers want “more for less. They want more bang for their buck. They want more excitement,” says Mr Shaw. In the past, he says that people attended conferences or special events out of a sense of duty to their company or association. Younger generations, he observes, tend to view conferences through a different lens and are less likely to settle for long winded speakers followed by a few cocktails. Furthermore, today’s attendees are spread thinner with conflicts such as school functions and children’s sporting events than their older counterparts were 30 years ago. This has resulted in a steady decline in interest in the traditional conference format.

“If you looked at [conferences and events] 20 or 30 years ago, they would have been more about getting together, networking… having a few drinks and listening to speakers. Today that is such a small part of what a conference or event is about,” Mr Shaw explains. “It’s really become very sophisticated. It’s about setting up relationships. It’s about meeting the people you want to meet rather than those you are just having a drink with. It’s about getting take-home value that you can apply in your job immediately. It’s about improving your understanding of your career path.”

To keep up with market demands, the team carefully analyses MCI statistics as well as the industry as a whole and enacts appropriate strategies and changes. Mr Shaw notes that the key has been “applying upper level analysis to events instead of just delivering the same event again and again with just cosmetic differences.” MCI is focused on using its unmatched expertise and research to work with clients in providing unique, high quality events.

This dynamic approach requires constant innovation and a team that is carefully in tune with today’s conference goers. One important response to the changing times has been to view conferences and events as a communications tool, “not just a gathering of people having a few beers.” As a result, MCI is able to stay ahead of the curve and keep the younger generation engaged. “We’ve been doing a lot more individual workshops, a lot more round tables, a lot more tailored learning or adult learning. And so the conferences that we are running are getting some really good responses,” Mr Shaw says.

MCI is also appealing to younger generations by harnessing social media. The company’s conferences now include moderators who create interest in an event and keep attendees engaged through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. “Gameification” is another strategy to draw in younger conference goers. The concept, familiar to video game enthusiasts, requires participants to meet challenges before moving on to the next level. The team has introduced a range of interactive activities such as quizzes and armchair interviews to “gameify” events and maintain attendee interest.

Meeting contemporary challenges in the industry takes a wealth of experience, sophisticated analytical skill, and the resources to implement innovative strategies. “Conference management and event management is extremely trendy. Everyone wants to be an event manager or a party planner,” Mr Shaw points out. “Anyone can hang up their shingle and say, ‘I’m an event organiser.’” But, he insists, not everyone can meet the new demands of 21st century event planning.

Mr Shaw is dedicated to staying ahead in the game. “If we don’t get it right, then conferences and events will start to die,” he says. As a result, MCI is remaking the face of the industry by offering “a whole new way of running events.” With MCI in control, Mr Shaw says that clients can rest easy knowing that their events will continue to draw in high numbers of satisfied attendees. They take a vision and make it reality: “Paint a picture of what you want the end result to look like, and let us worry about how to get there.”

Visit the MCI website at www.mci-group.com for the latest company information.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 9:23 AM AEDT