Meetings No 01
This is no ordinary meeting magazine.
Cover Story
Johan Johansson
encourages us to challenge our thought patterns.
Psychological Meetings
Meeting People
Gordon slowly opens the door just a little bit.
Ecological Breakfast
A great success.
Richard Gatarski
Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
Please turn on your mobile phones!
Shari Swan
Swan on New Ways of Working
and an ever present focus on the street.
Take a Break with Cottam
Excerpts from Mothers Pearls: 27 short autobiographical chapters of aha moments of realization.
Business Meetings Management
A five part masters programme.
Jonas Bodin
Meeting With Meaning
CSR in practice
Jan Rollof
On Creativity
and its impact on meetings.
Mind Check
The Significance of Colours
Tomas Dalström picks the brain of Karl Rydberg.
Business Intelligence
Four Years Before the London Olympics
What's on, Barbara Jamison, at visit London?
Per Hörberg
Hidden Agendas
Affecting meetings everywhere.
Meeting Architecture
Dr Elling Hamso an the most significant book ever.
Spread the Message
Nature's Ten Best Tips
To suddenly become green in your meeting concept is not as easy as it sounds.
Meetings Industry Research
Lund University conducts research into the meetings industry.
A way of communicating.
Roger Kellerman
A Buyers' and Meetings Planners' Magazine
Why Meetings International goes international.
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
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Meeting With Meaning

When communications and event company Inspiration in Stockholm talks about ‘meetings with meaning’, there is a double message. On the one hand, their meetings and events are carefully prepared and well thought-out so as to be experienced as serious and meaningful. The company begins advanced planning up to a year ahead of its projects. On the other hand, meetings with meaning also means that, from a social perspective, their input is full of good activities that satisfy the needs of the participants while promoting the client’s brand. When companies take the responsibility to become engaged in social issues it goes by the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

“The effect of CSR is fairly straightforward; it‘s gratifying for those who perform it. In addition, we get an understanding of the destination we are at and of issues that might otherwise fall by the wayside. In a marketing sense, it helps us feel part of a good team, which everybody appreciates,” explains Jonas Bodin, CEO of Inspiration, a company founded in 1999 by former footballers Jonas Bodin, Anders Limpar and Tomas Antonelius.

“I have always been involved in the meetings industry in one form or another. I’m not one for making things more difficult than they need to be. I want to do things my way and we started doing that in 1999. The aim was to make things run as smoothly as possible,” continues Jonas Bodin, who has played football at the top level for Brommapojkarna and the Greek club Kalamata.

Inspiration makes a point of not having a specific niche, but sees itself as a broad-based and long-term partner for its clients.

“We spend a long time with the client to assist them with everything they may need, even during periods that are not very profitable or when projects are very complex. We work long-term rather than for a niche market, which means that we don’t actually specialize in anything. We arrange what our clients want. We’re project leaders and we like logistics. That’s our foundation.”

This entails the company being involved in everything from administration to speech training and film production. Any knowledge that is not in-house is soon picked up from the outside. A large proportion of the clients, 93 per cent, are returning customers. The company has a workforce of 14, an annual turnover of SEK 50 million and implement around 140 projects a year. This autumn Inspiration opened an office in Norway. Another will open in Finland after New Year and in Denmark later in the spring.

“Many of our clients work with the Nordic and Baltic regions, so we help them on the Nordic level to arrange homogeneous events, but with a local touch.”

Making a meeting all environmentally-friendly is complex and there’s a risk for the final outcome being the same anyway.”

Events and meetings with CSR activities have been part of the company’s offering for a year. Ideas floated include planting trees in the Canary Islands and building a school in Senegal, but they could just as well stay put in Sweden. CSR is a global concept.

“At the moment we’re looking at the possibility of building a school in Senegal on behalf of a client, but we’re still in two minds as to whether to go through with it. We’re ready and the school’s ready, but the client has a training programme to get through. But if a window opens, we’ll do it.”

“It’s important to not go and see people in misery because it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Rather like shanty town tourism in South Africa, and that’s not pleasant.”

But an activity does not need to be based on the other side of the world to incorporate CSR thinking.

“Actually, we can be anywhere. In Stockholm we know, for example, that the City Mission needs new park benches, which our clients can build over a pre-dinner drink and canapés.”

At almost all meetings there is an intermission where the programme is interrupted for activities between two parts of the programme or while waiting for dinner.

“Today such activities are commonplace on all educational courses and are not to be belittled because many times they fit in. Instead of building a soapbox car that you ride around the corner and throw on the tip, you could build that bench and give the money to the City Mission or the Red Cross.”

But it could just as easily be about supporting a local association or sporting event.

“If you have a meeting, say in the Närke area, you can contact a sports club there and let them manage the activity. Thank them for their time by paying them a small allowance. It’s not high-pressure marketing, but it creates a positive feeling for everyone involved and they will talk about it.”

Jonas Bodin has no way of knowing exactly what a good meeting signifies for a client. According to their own measurements, CSR activities are generally seen as positive and contribute to the feeling of a good and positive meeting.

“Yes, we get those signals. But I’ve also seen that it bolsters the group in a deeper sense than if it were done through games. An activity becomes a social process and the group gels, which is difficult to measure.”

Is the commitment already there or are you referring to what the client can achieve?

“Initially the commitment is all ours. It’s not in the client’s mindset when we sit down to discuss the content of a meeting.”

How do clients react when you tell them about CSR?

“Positively. They say, ‘Of course we’ll do something like that.’ But a lot has to come together for it to be good. It must be perceived as good. It can’t be mediocre, in which case it’s better to opt out. None of those we work with, such as the Red Cross, Save the Children or the City Mission, want disruption in their activities. What we want to do should fit very well, both into their schedule and with what we do, which makes it difficult for them to implement on their own.”

How do you find projects?

“A number of the companies we work with have a CSR policy or give money to some cause. We have an affinity to such organizations, because they have an interest in or passion for something. It need not be humanitarian; it could be an environmental action. I like to fish, so we can help clean up the Baltic Sea. We can find something that the client is interested in. But it comes down to their involvement forming a foundation, otherwise we can’t do much.”

“On the environmental side, most companies have someone they collaborate with. We only look to give them a idea if they have nothing themselves. It’s best to use what the client already has in the way of established contacts and so on so that they feel at home. But they don’t think about ideas they could use in an event. Most have some idea, but it’s not firm in their minds.”

So you bring the ideas to light?

“Yes, basically.”

According to Jonas Bodin, CSR is in its infancy in the meetings industry but is not just a trend. In just a few years this type of activity will have multiplied tenfold. Many parameters will become mandatory and clients will not hesitate. His communications and event company has already integrated CSR as a natural part of their operations, despite it not being a niche product. They have, for instance, had surplus sent food to the City Mission.

“We work with companies that have large marketing departments or distributors who are very familiar with events. They’ve done quite a lot and ask us to look at things they’ve not done before, which suits them to the ground just because they haven’t done it before. Nothing surprises them anymore.”

If you look at the other elements of a meeting, not just the activities, how great an interest is there in working according to the CSR concept?

“Not so great, I would say. However, I believe that HR may play a more important role in the marketing of the company than at present. Companies in the same industry and roughly the same size estimate the same budget to advertise themselves. But a workforce as a positive messenger is an untapped source. The impact of this has not been measured. We are moving towards more humane business. It doesn’t stand in the way of the decisions to be made.”

Are you trying to influence clients to act CSR-friendly in other parts of the meeting?

“To some extent, where it works, but then there’s the logistics to consider. Making a meeting all environmentally-friendly is complex and there’s a risk for the final outcome being the same anyway. If, for example, fifty clients travel by car to a meeting at an environmentally-friendly plant, emissions from the cars are likely to eradicate any environmental benefits. It’s not then worth much, who thinks about that?”

Is there an awareness among clients to bring these issues to the surface?

“No, I don’t think so. There should be, but at the same time I don’t think it’s something one should brag about. It’ll soon be a natural thing. Two things are important at the moment: presenting a good quarterly report and being good by considering the environment. But the majority of companies will soon be onboard and we will then find something else to enter on the quarterly report. One can only hope that the environmental issue is so deeply rooted by then that it’s an integral part of all operations.”

What will the market look like in five years with CSR integrated into events?

“I would think that most large companies have tested it. Some are actively working with it, but all have tried it. And then you can estimate yourself how much money has been brought in for good things.”

Have you estimated how much money you have made through good things?

“No, no.”

Why not?

“It’s not our money. We can plant the idea, but it’s the client who chooses to put their money there. Moreover, only a small percentage of our projects have the explicit mandate to support CSR from start to finish. However, we have the opportunity during a project to spice it up with a CSR event. We will gladly come up with ideas for the client. We like good things. But there’s no money in it for us. So we have no goal there.”

But it makes you competitive.

“A short while, maybe. But it doesn’t affect our daily business of bringing in projects. It shows creative heights or willingness to go beyond the usual track. We do not want a niche as the best event agency.”

Will we see the fair trade event agency?

“No, I don’t think so. However, it’s as important to us as anything else as a requirement of how to act. We will definitely be on the good side. If we can rise to something right, it’s great.”