. Man and machine: The future of strategic meetings management | Meetings & Conventions Asia

Man and machine: The future of strategic meetings management

Amid budget constraints and tighter travel regulations, the ROI of meetings will come into sharp focus as the industry recovers. 

Sam LayGettyImages-1079974682
Sam Lay, executive director of 1000meetings, speaks to M&C Asia about the changing face of procurement, and how planners can better utilise technology. Photo Credit:Getty Images/metamorworks

Covid-19 has forced businesses to revaluate travel budgets and exercise tougher cost control measures.

Industry stalwart and entrepreneur, Sam Lay, believes that even before Covid-19, procurement played an increasingly important role in the business of events. As a former event planner with close to 20 years of experience, he's witnessed this first-hand.

Last year, Lay left the agency world to join 1000meetings, an online venue sourcing platform based in China and Singapore, with ambitious expansion plans for Southeast Asia.

I recently sat down with Lay to discuss the changing face of procurement, and how planners can better utilise technology.

Where do you see the future of MICE in Asia and the growing importance of strategic meetings management post-pandemic?

As the most populous region that is rich and diverse in cultures, ethnicities and languages, Asia is an embodiment of ‘many’. With markets in different stages of maturity, it would be ill-advised to deploy a one-size-fits-all solution to the region when it comes to strategic meetings management. Considerations for specific circumstances or requirements should be made as best as possible.

One commonality though, is the growing practice and presence of compliance and procurement. In this age of data analytics, budget constraints and growing focus on compliance adherence, the adoption of number-based performance measurements — and in our context of MICE, travel expenses versus results — I believe that strategic procurement will play a bigger role as companies become more conscious of event spend.

The idea of strategic procurement is certainly not new to the market and, at the base level, it is a technical approach. Where we at 1000meetings want to be, is at the intersection between man and machine; to inject an element of human curation to a data-driven process. By utilising technology (machine) to do the churn, we hope to improve efficiencies and use that saved time to cultivate the development of man to perform finer details such as relationship-building.

Sam Lay (right) was recently joined by Andrea Teo, former head of Pacific World Singapore, who now leads brand communications for 1000Meetings.

How is venue sourcing changing across the region?

I think we’ve seen a gradual but significant shift over the last five to eight years in Asia Pacific — namely the strong departure from manual ways of sourcing as users get more comfortable with the concept of utilising platforms and tools to source.

That being said, there is still a sizeable pool of buyers who might not be familiar with the concept or feel that, because they are not in the volume-game, they are not the right target audience — in fact, they are. Online venue sourcing tools can provide a bridge between buyers and venues, of which they might otherwise not be familiar with given a lower utilisation rate.

And it goes beyond mere sourcing really. There is a big expectation that technology has to be intuitive and as MICE Technologists, one of our objectives is to enhance our buyers’ efficiencies while juggling heavier workloads in environments that are more demanding than before.

As mentioned, our region is one that is highly fragmented and the markets each have different needs. Australis’s MICE market, for example, is mature and well-established, while Vietnam is a growing gem with a good pipeline of quality properties entering the market. It also does not necessarily mean that a whole new set of technology tools is needed — which is why a curated approach that goes beyond the screen (man and machine) will likely be the best way forward.

Sam Lay is a founding parter and executive director of 1000Meetings.