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SMF 2018: From Davos Day to the Singapore Manifesto  

Thought leaders draft a mandate for change to future-proof the meetings and events industry.

What does it take to bring together some of the brightest minds from across the business events community, the corporate world, and beyond? Oscar Cerezales.

The ultimate dot-connector, and 2018 organising chair of SACEOS’ flagship event, the Singapore MICE Forum (SMF), Cerezales decided to do things differently. A day before the official opening of the conference, he gathered thought leaders of various disciplines (and countries) to discuss some of the biggest challenges faced by the business events industry, as well as make predictions for the next 20 years. This was Davos Day.

Close to 40 individuals came together on Davos Day, forming a series of focus groups. Each group was presented with a different theme and a unique set of questions to address. Under Cerezales’ watchful eye, they were advised to ‘think big’ and make bold predictions about the future of business in 2030.

These predictions were then consolidated to form the Singapore Manifesto – a mandate for change and a call to action. Presented on the final day of SMF by Jurriaen Sleijster, COO of MCI Group, and Aloysius Arlando, president-elect of SACEOS, the manifesto aims to embolden industry professionals across APAC to actually do something with the insights gleaned from the 1.5-day event.

The premise of the Singapore Manifesto is to elevate knowledge sharing into actionable outcomes. To inspire the industry to stop talking, and start doing – and start preparing for the future. Here are the key predictions:

People will work in gigs rather than permanent jobs. The workforce of the future will have versatile skills, be adaptable, and take an experiential approach to learning. They will move more fluidly between employers. Consequently, organisations will need to abandon the concept of ‘staff’ in the traditional sense and collaborate with individuals in partnership.

Technology will facilitate the building the communities, forging varied connections. Technology like VR and AR will allow people from different communities to co-create. Organisations must embrace the trend towards greater convergence in order to build and engage communities.

Relationships (networks and trust)
In the connected world of tomorrow, distributed networks are ubiquitous and anyone can create content, so truth and fiction are abundant. There will be a greater need for deeper, trusted relationships. Credibility and reputation will be crucial for the success of individuals and organisations. Technology will play an important role in establishing and protecting this, and will enable communities to co-create in a trusted way.

Destinations (operating environment)
There will be a twin focus on economic and societal impact. Development of cities and economies will be dependent on how business events generate maximum impact – therefore we will need to define measures for sustainability, knowledge exchange and business, rather than simply looking at quantitative tourism KPIs. Successful destinations will target events that bring the most added value, and will also move beyond reactive strategies to support new events.

To be successful in the business world of 2030, organisations need to look beyond the immediate financial gains of sales. Instead, organisations must focus on the sustainability of business and the merit this brings to the community. This means changing the criteria on which sales staff are selected and approached. Organisations must also be prepared to work with inverted business models – C2B selling, instead of B2C selling.

Business models 
In the future, business models will be driven by networks, platforms, communities and data. Effective organisations need to be well versed in these areas. Speed and agility – adapting to emerging trends and operationalising them – will be key. Brands with compelling stories will be the differentiator. Brands must be purpose-driven and authentic, offering emotional connections and experiences. Artificial intelligence will increasingly replace repetitive, process-driven roles and will also create opportunities for business growth. Data is the new currency and assets may reduce agility, so should be kept to a minimum.

The meetings industry ecosystem will undergo significant change in the years to come. Content owners will take a more prominent place at the centre of the ecosystem, and the industry will measure its value beyond the immediate economic impact. Funding will come from sources that are independent of direct beneficiaries and convention and visitor bureaus must operate independently of tourism-related funding.

“These seven pillars will be the basis on which we will work with global associations and related industries to create definable, actionable plans,” Arlando said. “We will encourage the diverse communities within the meetings industry to take note of the pillars outlined in this draft manifesto and to take actions that will drive change and prepare us for tomorrow.

“We know we are living in an age of fluidity and disruption, and therefore standing still is actually moving backwards,” he said.

So, let’s start moving!