Meetings No 20
A Congress is a Workplace
Atti Soenarso: Perhaps it is time to sharpen the tone.
Cover Story
All Under One Roof
Carin Kindbom: “The ‘all under one roof’ business approach is considered a key USP.”
While There’s Life, There’s Hope
Ever present words from the past.
Digital Mindset
AI and Robotics
Futurists: “Firms will need to strike a fine balance between AI and the human workforce.”
Safety and Security
CWT Global Forecast 2018
Security should be high on the planning agenda.
Brain Training
Sharp Brains on navigating brain training.
Business Events Must Adopt Olympic Safety Standards
Learn from previous Olympic events.
Clan vs State
The Clan Mentality is the Norm
Per Brinkemo on state and clan.
Sustainable Growth
The sustainability performance of 40 meeting and events cities.
Lunch With the Financial Times
An ­international “who’s who” of our time.
La Perle by Dragone
Emotions can be both a help and hindrance when creating a show.
AIME Launches Exhibitor Educational Series
Providing a deeper understanding of buyers.
Increasing Value of Meetings in Hamburg
Number of delegates visiting the city continues to grow.
60 Tips for a Stunningly Great Life
Robin Sharma on leadership.
Brain Check
Going Behind the Mind
Tomas Dalström on neuromarketing and digital vs. print advertising.
Where Event Design and Meetings Management Meet
Event quality is back on the table.
Van der Vijver
Locusts or Legacy?
Meeting designer Mike Van der Vijver: Bring the local community and the event community together.
Benny Andersson
On composition.
New Discovery on Memory Consolidation
Challenging a basic assumption about memory encoding.
The Saudi Arabian city of the future.
Obligations, Engagement and Legacy
Roger Kellerman: The word ‘obligation’ is high on the agenda.
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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Locusts or Legacy?

Last summer, I was out on a stroll in the old part of Naples in Italy, walking the exact same roads the Romans built over 20 centuries ago. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and I have the privilege of living there – at least, part-time. To my surprise (and annoyance) at some point a policeman stopped me: I wasn’t allowed in. A major fashion and perfume brand was holding an event and almost the entire old town had been closed to the public. For three days.

A few weeks later, a news item caught my attention. In the picturesque port of Dubrovnik, the local government had installed cameras surveying the centre of town. They wanted to count exactly how many tourists there were and fix a ceiling for the maximum acceptable number. Something like 6,700 at first count. The news item mentioned other cities that had problems with the mass presence of non-locals, such as Venice, Barcelona, and others. In several of these places, citizens had begun to protest against the never-ending sound of baggage trolley wheels trailing through their quiet streets and the large flocks of foreigners just about everywhere.

I felt there was a connection between the two stories, but it took me some time to grasp it. And while shaving one morning, it hit me. Locusts. That was it. One of the biblical plagues: Locusts that arrive in masses through the air and eat everything.

Tourists and meeting participants hit a destination and leave a barren emptiness and waste. Yes, they bring heaps of money, but it is the same as for any economic activity: money is not value. Money is just money. The locusts clog up your streets and monuments, they make your art treasures invisible, they eat your food and leave lots of dirty dishes, sheets and towels. Clearly, in the long term, these plagues cannot be sustainable. In order to maintain a license-to-operate, these industries need to do better …

Tourism is not my field, so let’s focus on meetings and events. There seems to be a growing awareness in the meetings business that meetings are not part of the hospitality industry. That they are a vital part of the knowledge-intensive economy, producing innovation, exchange of know-how, inspiration, change and transformation. If that is the case, why does the industry treat the places where they go so carelessly? Of course, there is often a CSR-related activity in the shadow of major meetings, but with the exception of a small minority of medical conferences, these activities are feel-good examples of charity. Commendable and good, but only a fraction of the potential legacy that the event could generate.

Meetings and events are temporary communities of the brightest minds in any field. A good battery of the available brainpower on any human endeavour converges in one place for a few days, with the opportunity to tap into the inestimable wisdom of that crowd. And what do these people do? They stick together inside often scruffy meeting rooms and watch stale PowerPoint presentations. The relationships they have with the world outside takes place essentially through visits to pretty venues and drinks in local bars. Now that is what I call a waste! It is almost embarrassing if you think of it.

What if we were to bring the local community and the event community together in an authentic conversation? What if the specialised know-how of the temporary meeting community were unleashed on some challenge, problem or opportunity the local society would want to solve or benefit from? What if the visiting community were to leave an indelible sign of its presence? What if the transformative power of meetings were to have a long-term impact on that local society? Two communities who get together and who bequeath something to each other. Now that would be a real legacy!

From the perspective of a meeting designer, this would be a great gift to work on. Instead of mainly finding alternatives for presenters who are made to speak in public but have a different profession, the meeting community would do their learning, motivation, networking, knowledge exchange in real-life situations. The past couple of days, I have tried several mental experiments, but I haven’t been able to come up with a topic that would not lend itself for this approach. Sooner or later, all meetings and events have a bearing on real life. So why not speed up that process and establish the relationship with real life as the event unfolds. We need to rethink the paradigm of meeting in a destination.

This article expresses the personal views of the author. Please contact me with any reactions or suggestions: