Tips for Newcomers and Young Professionals Entering the Business Events Industry
July 12, 2017
Being a newcomer to the business events industry can be daunting. It’s a world filled with jargon, acronyms and industry veterans who have been playing the game for years. In this post, I lay out general information along with recommendations for young professionals entering the industry, seasoned professionals looking for a change, and leisure travel professionals who are unfamiliar with all things MICE.
First of all, what is M.I.C.E.?
M.I.C.E. is an acronym for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. While the term was once universally accepted, some regions (including the U.S., Commonwealth nations and continental Europe) have phased out MICE in favor of “business events,” in an effort to make the industry more accessible to the general public. As a general rule, business events and MICE can be used interchangeably.
Professionals in this industry deal with corporate meetings, nonprofit/association conferences and incentive travel. In contrast to leisure tourism, which targets consumers directly, business events tourism is business-to-business marketing.
Corporations all have meetings that need to be hosted, and destinations compete to attract them to their meeting spaces. Conferences and conventions are similar to corporate meetings, but supersized events by comparison.
Incentive travel exists as a way for companies to reward top-producing employees with trips. Destinations compete to host these incentive programs, and promote their best accommodations, food and beverage options, and excursions in order to entice these big-spending groups.
Business events tourism directly benefits destinations by providing revenue and filling in gaps in seasonal travel.
Identifying the key players
Key players in the business events industry can be divided into two main categories: suppliers and buyers. Suppliers include convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs)/destination marketing organizations (DMOs), convention centers and hotels (venues), destination management companies (DMCs) and professional congress organizers (PCOs).
Buyers are the “customers” in the process, who are making decisions about which destination to choose. Corporations and associations may handle meeting planning internally, or outsource to meeting planning companies, incentive agencies or PCOs.
Together the suppliers and buyers constitute the meeting planning industry.
Your three-step action plan
1. Learn the lingo: This industry loves acronyms! The use of acronyms is so ingrained that the most recognized organizations and trade shows in the field are known primarily by their acronyms: ICCA, PCMA, IMEX, SMU, MPI, ASAE, SITE. The industry has been trying to move away from the use of acronyms, but until it does, newcomers need to learn the lingo. My advice is to keep a glossary of acronyms and their meanings handy, and refer to it whenever the alphabet soup gets a little confusing.
Here is a list of acronyms used in this blog, and the article here provides a good breakdown of others.
- MICE: Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions
- CVB: Convention and visitors bureau
- DMO: Destination marketing organization
- DMC: Destination management company
- PCO: Professional congress organizer
- AMC: Association management company
2. Meet people and make friends: To gain ground in the business events world, create business connections as soon as possible. As they say, who you know is just as important as what you know. Given that many of the industry’s seasoned veterans have been working with each other for years, it’s sometimes hard for newcomers to make headway.
For suppliers, my advice is to attend trade shows frequently. Face time is paramount in building those first connections, and don’t forget to add new connections to your digital Rolodex (LinkedIn). Meeting planners are always short on time and inundated with supplier communications. Interacting face to face with a meeting planner may put your communication ahead of the masses. (For example, “We met at IMEX America 2016 at so-and-so booth and discussed business and our mutual love of dogs.”)
3. Focus on the long term: The world of business events can be daunting at first, but it’s also full of rewards, including experiencing new places and cultures, making connections with people from all over the world, and having a direct impact on destinations and their communities. It’s no wonder that this industry retains great talent; these professionals love what they do!