As more corporates begin to create large-scale events for both customers and their own staff, Advantage Travel Partnership held a “Meetings Masterclass – Creating a Memorable Event Experience” session at its overseas conference in Cadiz, Spain over the weekend. 

The brief for the session was: “We consider a corporation’s expectations when working with partner agencies in helping them to deliver a best-in-class delegate experience aligned to their business objectives.”

Two global travel managers took to the stage to share their views on organising meetings and events for their international organisations and discussed the future trends of small meetings.

Moderator Andrew Winterburn, of Advantage Meetings & Events, begin by asking how the buyers were involved in MICE.

The first buyer, who works for a large public sector body in the UK, explained: “We do events in 97 countries, and even something like an exam is treated like an event. All the needs are quite different. We do them in one country on a weekly basis, and there can be one or two thousand students each time. That counts as an event for us. Or we could have an exhibition with a cultural focus, for example, in a country with local celebrities or politicians. It needs to be high impact. All that needs to be put into our financial system, with duty of care too.”

When quizzed on how many suppliers were needed, and how they are chosen, they replied: “I’m a global travel manager, and for us that means having the same guidelines, principles, pillars… suppliers must be able to show duty of care with any event.”

Another buyer from an international technology solutions provider set out their experiences: “We do large business sales conferences that could have 5,000 people in Las Vegas, but we’re doing more regional events now. We also do customer events, and there’s pressure on teams to deliver the wow factor. They need to find the next big thing.

“We also organise team meetings, so 20 people going off site for a couple of days. We’d like one TMC, but it’s not possible, but we do have a global venue finder.”

Winterburn then asked: “As a buyer, what do you look for in an agency?”

The technology provider buyer answered it was about having “a relationship between stakeholders and procurement”. “Price is important,” they added, “but it is also about trust. You look for an agency with years of experience who can deliver the wow factor.”

When quizzed by Winterburn on whether to use a TMC for meetings and events or a specialist event management company, the public sector buyer noted: “Look at the gaps. In the Middle East, for example, it’s all about relationships. Do they have relationships there? We might also do a pilot, and if it goes well, use them again. Meetings and events is all about building relationships.”

When asked if it’s best to “stick with the same one”, they replied. “No, you have to go out and look around for value. But once you do build a relationship, it’s hard to switch.”

Their peer continued: “We use a TMC for group air, and are now actually looking at them for events, but we’ve got a good relationship with an events agency, and that agency works well together with the TMC behind the scenes.”

Small is beautiful
Meanwhile, the “sweet spot” for buyers to show their value lies with smaller internal meetings of under ten people, it was agreed.
One buyer said: “Look at the data. If you see two people often travelling together, you can develop your meetings and events. We’ve also got an agency in China that actually manages our own internal space. They saw a gap and can bring value. You don’t have to use your TMC. It was a combined decision; they provided the technology.”

The technology provider’s buyer added: “We’ve got a corporate responsibility to source small, diverse companies. Meetings of ten people and under are quite a challenge, and there’s a lot of money in it.”

Other tips from the masterclass included the need to build a profile for the event; ask what is the end product (the ROI might not be sales, but impact); and also use the Philips method to examine the return on objectives (ROO).

It also emerged that another advantage of using a specialist events agency for one of the buyers was that they are able to receive a single invoice: “We don’t want to set up hundreds of vendors.”

Neil Armorgie

MICE sector push
Advantage itself has a dedicated meetings and events division, which it set up in June last year.
In its first year, the division sourced 100 venues for its members, Neil Armorgie (pictured above), global product director at Advantage, told Buying Business Travel

The consortium is also poised to launch a new dedicated “small meetings” service in partnership with an existing technology platform. Armorgie said: “In the first two weeks of the pilot, £25,000 worth of small business meetings was put through it. It’s time-saving and business-generating.”

The new platform will also support leisure agencies, and Advantage chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said added: “A lot of leisure agents do [small meetings] without realising it. We heard of one travel agent who spent six months full time to work on one event.”

On a commercial level, Armorgie said that commission is split between the agency and Advantage. 

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