During the Corona situation that has influenced the entire World for the better part of 2020, it got obvious that not many people know the meetings and events industry. Governments around the globe forgot an important player in their work to provide communities and citizens with relief packages and other support in the crisis that we will hopefully soon emerge from. That player is the meetings and events industry!
Countless suppliers to the industry (meetings, conferences, festivals, trade shows…) have had to furlough employees or even close their business entirely since the World shut down in March 2020. Their livelihood disappeared between their hands as what we all do for a living – staging in-person meetings – was suddenly forbidden.
Since March, community after community has returned to a certain kind of ‘normal’ – except for the meetings and events industry. Many venues, cities and companies are still not open for the in-person meeting, and if they are the current rules make it incredibly difficult for suppliers to make any money. So, the entire industry has asked itself: “Has the government forgotten about us because we are invisible?”.
Why are we forgotten?
These experiences combined has made the industry stand together to work on creating awareness that the industry is suffering. We have used our network to get in touch with government officials in many different countries and to let everybody know that there is an issue. And the issue is that nobody know that we are an industry … except for those of us who work in it!
As Angeles Moreno says to Irina Graf in an interview on The MICE Blog: “The first thing we need to do is to build an industry. We don’t have an event industry as such right now. What is the event industry? Now, many voices are saying that the government is ignoring the event industry, but the problem is that the government doesn’t see the event industry.”.
I know that this quote is controversial, but I have to admit that I completely agree with Angeles!
When I first ‘fell’ into the meetings and events industry like so many other, I didn’t know it was an industry. And a couple of years back when I was the President of MPI Scandinavia chapter I realized how many people still didn’t know that the meetings and events industry was in fact an industry. I was met with lots of frowns and “Is that a thing??” questions when I told people that I was leading an association of meetings and event professionals.
Is education the answer?
I believe that part of the reason why most people don’t know about our industry is due to the lack of educational opportunities. In many countries, you cannot go to university to study meetings and events – well, maybe you can follow an elective or something, but getting a degree in meetings and events is no easy feat.
I am not saying that you are only good at what you do if you have formal education in the area. There are thousands and thousands of event professionals out there who are self-taught and who do a terrific job. But meetings and events are big business – and you would never trust a lawyer who didn’t have a degree, so wouldn’t it be a good idea to provide education for an area that counts for billions and billions of kr/€/$ each year?
Are we an industry?
Is this actually a chicken-and-egg-situation we have going on? Because, the governments who don’t see us as an industry are the same governments who don’t see it necessary to provide education in the field. So, will it ever be better?
However, I believe that we as an industry have an obligation to enlighten our surroundings about what we do and how it and we provide value to both the companies and the attendees. Only if we stand together and share our knowledge, our insights and our value can we spotlight our industry.
Could you go so far as to say that everyone who has meetings and events has a social responsibility in helping to shed a light on an industry that is in many ways invisible in our everyday life?