A Global Reach with a Local Focus

MCI Australia

Forging success, for companies that have entered the global arena, is no easy task – there is no silver bullet. Success is achieved through hard work and an ability to maintain a formidable company culture that gains recognition on the grandest scale.
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To succeed across borders requires the adoption of an organisational approach that far surpasses the competition, a strategic global direction – to be a global powerhouse while maintaining an appreciation for local opportunities. Many global giants such as Microsoft, AT&T, Coca-Cola and Nike, for example, have clearly understood the dynamics of globalisation and have used them to their advantage to maintain brand recognition well into the 21st century.

MCI is among these global giants. The company understands the need to optimise global positioning, and has created the tools to do just that. As a leader with over 25 years’ experience in international live communications and event management services, MCI both promises and delivers great people engagement experiences as well as performance-driven results.

Established in Geneva, Switzerland in 1987, MCI has expanded its global reach to include nearly 2000 employees in 58 cities within 28 countries. The MCI Australia arm has offices in Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney, delivering its unique brand of performance, innovation and creativity to associations, corporations and government. The company’s project management team has a shared vision – to deliver satisfaction through the successful activation and engagement of client communities.

Every client will have specific and unique objectives when they approach MCI Australia. Some objectives may be about the financial outcomes or the international growth of their community; for others it may be about creating the best educational or communications platform or their legacy – what they want to leave behind. MCI establishes these objectives from the onset and sees them through to completion.

“We would set those objectives at the beginning and clarify that with the client,” says Stephan Wurzinger, MCI Australia’s Managing Director who is also Regional Director for the Asia-Pacific region. “We have different project management and measurement tools depending on what the objectives are from the client.”

What makes MCI Australia unique in its field is “the fact that there’s not another organisation out there that handles clients in both the corporate world as well as the association not-for-profit side in equal measure,” explains Stephan. “When we look at our 4500 events a year, or when we look at the turnover from these two different product practices, it comes down to 50/50 or so in terms of both of those solutions.”

Stephan explains further that MCI runs the whole spectrum of event management services, whether it’s a small board room specialist meeting for 20 people, or a large international conference attracting 20,000 delegates – or anything in between. “We can handle any event or project between those two extremes,” he says.

Merging for Growth, Synergy and Diversification
MCI Group entered Australia in 2010 through a merger with a leading meeting and event management company, Event Planners Australia. Also in Australia, MCI merged with Avanti Events in 2011, Convention Wise in 2012 and Off Site Connections in 2013. When asked about the rationale of assessing which companies would bring value to MCI, Stephan relates that MCI’s strategy is to provide an offering that combines integrating solutions which its clients are already interested in – or more importantly, identifying complementary companies which are part of the future of the meetings and events industry, such as those specialist services in performance improvement, creative production, measurement, or excelling in the digital space. “It’s about bringing that whole one-stop shop supply chain under one umbrella,” shares Stephan. “A lot of event management companies would outsource a lot of these things; we want to be able to offer the client the entire range of solutions as part of the MCI value proposition. That’s how we identify both the geographical and the key companies that we target for expansion.”

Leading in Innovation
MCI commits itself to being a thought leader in its industry. With its number of volunteer positions, industry speaking engagements, not-for-profit support and new departments created for the first time in the event industry, it has positioned itself well. For example, MCI has a sustainability department that focuses on how “to bring the whole concept of corporate social responsibility into the meeting industry,” says Stephan. MCI is also the first events management company with its own institute for training and staff development, as well as benchmarks to monitor the success of all the events under their management. “Most of the time we are quite lucky in terms of coming up with things that the rest of the industry would like to emulate.”

The company has its own internal project management, budget, registration and abstract systems referred to as B-Com (Building Community), with the belief that any utilised technology should create a community of communication and connection. “We felt that with the kind of scale and the amount of events that we’re doing, there wasn’t a software solution out there that we thought represented what we wanted – so we built our own.”

MCI partners with some of its acquisitions and other companies that have specialist software technology. Stephan refers to Bluesky Technologies, an American business intelligence software company providing solutions to a number of American associations. Bluesky captures content, assimilates learning, innovation and information to specific stakeholders and, “Bluesky serves us actually as our content capture platform,” adds Stephan.

In Australia there are a number of local companies vying for client attention and although they may be able to provide similar high-quality services, “Technically, there’s no international PCO apart from MCI,” Stephan explains. “Our tool box is simply just a lot larger. When you have a sizeable company like ours with 2000 employees and 58 offices, you have at your disposal quite an amazing library of information. The amount of collateral, event evidence, case studies and client information that you have in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors, is quite staggering.”

Adhering to a Philosophy
MCI firmly believes that for any event, participation is more important than attendance, and is transitioning away from the ideology that a successful event is measured by body count. Stephan explains that rather than talking about having 1000 delegates in a room, the focus should be on having 5000 participants, not just in space, but activated worldwide by using technology platforms, digital connections and utilising modern technology solutions to connect with people in a variety of ways.

What’s the benefit of this mindset? Stephan explains that if a particular association meets every two years for four days, for example, “Why should the legacy of that event not have a pre-time and a post-time? How about extending the legacy of those four days for another six months? You’re building engagement tools, especially with the younger communities and possibly the more remote communities that are perhaps not financially enabled; that don’t want to participate in a face to face environment; or are more interested in consuming this event through their own choice of application, time and place.”

Meeting Challenges
There are always challenges to be met for any event management company and MCI is no exception. Stephan relates an incident in Christchurch a couple years ago when an earthquake hit during a convention. Evacuations were necessitated to minimise injury or loss of life. “You have all of these challenges that you’re constantly working with,” he says. “If I had one general imperative on that, then I would say that it is key to have great risk management procedure plans in place.”

He also notes that there are a number of other things that possibly could go wrong with hosting events in so many different parts of the world – viruses, terror attacks, travel bans and restrictions, protestors and all sorts of physical things that can happen to venues. “The world is an uncertain place,” he adds. “It’s never feeling secure enough that you don’t have to rehearse and implement [security procedures] and making sure that for every event that you go on site for, you’re prepared for a variety of challenges.”

He notes that another challenge to be addressed is the fact that clients are becoming increasingly interested in having return on investment (ROI) or return on objective (ROO) conversations. They want to know the value of engaging a PCO for their corporate or association event, that they’re getting real value for their money, and that, “[PCOs] are demonstrating their value constantly.”

Stephan says that, “one of the things that keeps me awake at night in terms of our events is the fact that, certainly on the not-for-profit side, the international delegates don’t travel as often and as frequently as they have in the past.” This can be attributed to economic conditions globally that impact the availability of financial support. “Delegates have at least five times the amount of choice in terms of the kind of events that they can attend,” he says. “I think worldwide everybody is experiencing a depression of delegate income, hence there’s a lot of pressure on other income and revenue streams.”

Stephan emphasises that globally everyone should acknowledge that organised events are an essential component to brand and marketing strategies, as well as stakeholder and community engagement. “A company like MCI is not just a logistics company but a serious partner who provides real value, innovation and solutions. As such, this should not be a client-supplier dialogue; we should be in an equal strategic partnership at the table. Moreover, we need to educate our clients that whilst all MCI offices benefit from having a great global toolbox, everything that we do is actually very, very localised.”

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, 5:11 AM AEDT