a meeting with… Dr. Rob Davidson

1. At EIBTM last November, you revealed the Trends Watch Report 2014. What have you been up to since then?

I had to look at my diary to answer this question! Since EIBTM, I’ve been on 21 overseas trips to speak at conferences (about conferences) or to train venue sales staff on how to win more meetings and events for their venues. Most of those trips were in Europe, but in March, I flew to Sao Paolo to speak at a conference for Brazilian meetings industry professionals – and to enjoy six days of glorious summer! In between my globetrotting activities, I’ve been working on an interesting consultancy project for a possible new convention centre in Riga, Latvia’s beautiful capital. I’ve written a new version of the book I wrote with Tony Rogers in 2006, ‘Marketing Destinations and Venues for Conferences, Conventions and Business Events’ . Oh, and in March I completed my PhD, making me officially Dr. Rob Davidson. Apart from that, the past four months have been pretty quiet really.

2. In the report, you predicted some outlooks for 2015. Since then, have there been any new developments?

It’s a little early to judge the extent to which some of my predictions for 2015 have materialized, because we’re only a third of the way through the year. But some developments do reflect what I forecast in the Trends Watch report launched at EIBTM. For example, I warned about the prospect of deflation and what that could mean for the meetings and events industry (bookings suspended, investment put on hold), and now major economies such as Japan, Germany, the UK and the United States are all experiencing ultra-low inflation or outright price decreases. Emerging markets like Thailand are under pressure. Deflation is widespread across Europe, and prices have been sliding for years in trouble spots like Greece.
Even the Chinese economy is under threat from deflationary pressures. Time will tell how these economic conditions feed through to meetings and events.
3. What are your top predictions for 2015?

On the demand side, I’m fairly confident that Purchasing and Procurement departments will continue to play a more major role in the booking of meetings and incentive travel. On the supply side, I think that we’ll see a lot more diversity in the types of venues opening their doors to meetings and events. This will be a great year for unusual, non-traditional, unique venues, in a market that is hungry for novelty and innovation.
4. (Apart from attending EIBTM…) what was your highlight during 2014?

2014 was the year I finally lived my dream and created my own company, MICE Knowledge, a research and consultancy business specialising in the meetings and events industry. I had been doing a lot of research and consultancy for many years – including the annual research reports I produce for EIBTM, CIBTM and GIBTM. But that was always in parallel with my teaching role at the University of Greenwich, in London. Last year, I decided to focus 100% on research, consultancy and writing, so – sadly – that meant saying goodbye to my colleagues and students at Greenwich. I’m still teaching MICE Management from time to time as a Visiting Professor at universities in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France, just to maintain my role in preparing the next generation of meetings and events professionals. I thought I would be a little less busy without a full-time teaching job, but it hasn’t really worked out that way …. But I’m loving the fact that I’m now in full control of my own time and able to accept interesting projects as they come along.

5. If you could sum up 3 pieces of advice for a new event planner what would it be?

  • Think of venues, DMCs and convention bureaus as partners, not suppliers. They can help make your event a great success by adding value. Convention bureaus and DMCs know their destinations inside-out, and venue staff have seen how other event planners have used their venue in the past. Make the most of their suggestions and creative solutions.
  • Choose venues and destinations that reinforce your client’s own brand. As well as the usual criteria of dates, rates and space, consider the extent to which the venue and destination’s brand is aligned with that of your client. Brand consistency and brand reinforcement are of the utmost importance to companies and organisations these days – and that includes the places where their events take place.
  • Take the time to explain to Purchasing and Procurement departments how the meetings and events industry works – and how cheapest is rarely best when it comes to planning business events. They need to understand that staff motivation is usually a key objective of meetings and (especially) incentive trips. So penny-pinching in choosing destinations and suppliers for business events just isn’t worth it.

6. And finally…if you could visit one destination this year for any meeting or event where would it be, and why?

It would be any conference or exhibition whatsover in Alexandra Palace in North London, because that particular venue is 400 yards from my front door, and so I could spend more time at home and sleep in my own bed for a change !

But seriously, if I really had to travel to an overseas destination, Finland would definitely be my first choice. It’s a magical destination for business or for leisure and culture, and Helsinki in particular is a city I always enjoy visiting. The Finns make me laugh. They don’t say much (especially the men), but that’s OK, because when they do say something, it’s always worth listening to. Last year was a record year for international conferences in Finland, after several years of growth. So I’m not the only fan of Finland – although I do like to think of myself as their Number 1 Fan !


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