The meetings and events industry must evolve its business model, or risk extinction—that was the key message for event planners at this year’s Singapore MICE Forum (SMF), which took place last week at Marina Bay Sands.

Organised by SACEOS, the two-day event focused heavily on ‘disruption’, so much so that by the end of day two it had become a dirty word.

“We are obsessed with disruption right now,” says MCI Asia Pacific chief operating officer, Oscar Cerezales (main), who also chaired this year’s SMF organising committee.

Obsessed? Maybe so. But what are doing it about? Not much according to Cerezales.

“As an industry, in our corporations and associations, we do not accept the concept of failure and therefore innovation is not happening,” he says.

“We like playing it safe and being predictable. We’re happy with incremental growth while we all fight for the same business in an existing market.”

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Instead of drowning in a red ocean, Cerezales says the industry needs to concentrate on business model innovation.

“We need to create uncontested markets and make competition relevant; create and capture new demand.

“People are obsessed with fine tuning product and services, but the most powerful tool is business model innovation—but it’s painful and comes with uncertainty."

So what’s the next move?

PCMA chief operating officer, Sherrif Karamat, who presented alongside Cerezales, says: “We wouldn’t be here today if we weren’t prepared to evolve. We must disrupt. If we are not prepared to change, we will be extinct.”

Young MICE professionals make bold predictions
 

As an industry, we need to ensure our workforce is equipped with the right skills in order to remain relevant in the fourth industrial revolution; a world of hyper connectivity, AI and even more information.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, the skills needed to survive (and thrive) in the future workplace involve emotional intelligence and cognitive learning—in other words, skills that cannot be mastered by a machine.

Here are the 10 skills you’ll need:

Complex problem solving Critical thinking
Creativity  People management
Coordinating with others Emotional intelligence
Judgement and decision making Service orientation
Negotiation Cognitive flexibility

Is your business future-proof?

Based on current workplace and industry trends, a group of millennial meeting planners made some bold predictions about the future of the events industry.

Students and young professionals from the likes of MCI, Pacific World and SingEx presented a few theories to the SMF audience: 

1. The rise of mega communities… and the end of DMCs

In 2050, communities will become more specialised and increase in significance and influence. In a knowledge-centric world, these mega communities will be connected by a neural network, and effectively cause the breakdown of traditional country borders.

In a borderless world divided by communities, not national barriers, DMOs and DMCs may become irrelevant. This will give rise to global knowledge bureaus that will promote and facilitate cross-community knowledge exchange and acquire intellectual property for economic benefit.

2. Technology spawns new ways of learning... and working

Massive open online courses (MOOC), which are currently offered by Harvard, MIT and Microsoft, will become ever more popular and bring an end to the traditional bricks and mortar approach to knowledge acquisition. This will spell the end of universities as well as the traditional plenary meeting.

The rise of AI will also put an emphasis on ‘soft skills’ and transform the role of event and meeting planners. The meeting planners of the future will no longer manage logistics and content creation, but focus on becoming ‘knowledge connectors’ as meetings will not longer revolve around knowledge transfer, but sophisticated information sharing.

3. (Tacit) knowledge is power… and delegates will be paid to attend events

AI will evolve to provide equal access to information—and empower all of us to become experts. Delegates will no longer pay to access content and meet with ‘industry experts’. This will lead to a MICE business model where delegates will be paid to attend events in order to exchange organic ideas.

By 2050, tacit knowledge (borne out of human interaction, intuition and experience) will become so valuable to businesses that delegates will no longer be seen as consumers, but a resource to generate new ideas—paid to gather with likeminded individuals in order to co-create and co-develop tacit knowledge that will be essential for future businesses to remain competitive.

“Don’t blame robots, blame yourselves,” says Cerezales. “Does your HR department know how to look for and test future skills? Or know how to train employees?”

The onus is on us to ensure the future of the meetings and events industry. Stop fearing disruption—it doesn’t exist—it’s just the evolution of business.