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HBAA Forum successfully looks forward and engages with the future

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The future of work, the future of commission, the talent gap and the impact of Brexit formed just some of the forward-looking and thought-provoking programme at the HBAA Annual Forum, sponsored by Dubai Business Events.

Opening keynote speaker, futurist Rohit Talwar, started by reassuring the 220 members and partners at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel that the ‘failure fatigue’ which is afflicting the world at present will soon be replaced by a more positive global outlook. Looking ahead, he foresaw a fundamental shift in the new way technology and humans will interact. Organisations looking to thrive will need to become ‘future-proofed.’

Julia Mastrogiannaki from the Landmark Hotel enthused ‘The futurism talk was refreshing and left me with plenty to think about.’

Nick de Bois, Chair of industry lobbying group Events Industry Board, who was interviewed by moderator Matthew Wall, assured delegates that he remained cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. He also said that he would like to see the government doing more to encourage MICE business and travel such as reducing visa waiting times and lowering tax on business events.

Industry debates

A fascinating panel discussion - ‘Tackling the Talent Gap’ – examined how to attract the best young people for the future of the industry. Moderated by Samme Allen, the panellists - recruitment and engagement specialist Jenny Royall from Royall, Emma Abson of Sheffield Hallam University, and employers Nick Scott of arrangeMy and Lisa Redding from QHotels - all provided different and challenging perspectives on this important topic.

Highlighting the importance of flexible working, Jenny Royall explained that organisations must create a culture in which staff do not ‘go to work’, they are always there, while Emma Abson drew attention to the need for more employers to offer work placements. Nick Scott said that creating opportunities for career progression was a key issue and Lisa that making the industry an attractive prospect when the UK was at an 11 year low in unemployment was challenging.

The debate ended in agreement that to recruit and retain top talent, venues and agents must create a brand that employees feel connected to and want to work for and that everyone should be proud of what the industry contributes to society and the economy. 

The highly anticipated Great Debate on 'This house believes that the commission based business model has a future beyond 2020,’ produced a lively and heated contest.

Guy Mason from Brief2Event, Chris Peacock of Conference Care and Lauren Goodwin of Jupiter Hotels provided a compelling case in favour, highlighting the numerous benefits such as the flexibility it provides and that as agents are only paid for results, they should be compensated accordingly.

Samme Allen of Sequoia Partnerships and Richard John from Realise spoke against, arguing that variable commission causes mistrust among clients, as do teaser ‘free’ venue finding services. Taking comments from the floor, an audience member described agency commissions as merely one of many models available and that the primary focus should be providing personalised service, with flexibility and transparency.

An audience poll via the bespoke mobile app created for the Forum event showed 79 per cent for the proposition and 21 per cent against.

HBAA Chair Louise Goalen reported that the association’s committees had been making good progress in their plans to move the association forward, highlighting collaboration between members and with other relevant associations as particularly significant.

Expert advice and the RAF

A total of eleven Campfire sessions provided practical and bite-sized expert advice on a wide variety of key topics. The Future in 15 Show Live then followed with HBAA Tech Chair Caleb Parker interviewing Chris Elmitt at Crystal Interactive who had created the Forum’s app. They discussed event mobile apps and their benefits in boosting audience engagement. 

‘Truly inspirational, ‘awesome’, ‘fantastic’ ‘touching’ and ‘the best speaker ever’ were among the opinions on Twitter after closing guest speaker, former RAF fast jet pilot Mandy Hickson, earned a standing ovation. With engaging anecdotes, she highlighted the importance of teamwork while drawing compelling parallels between the pressures of the meetings and events industry and her own career; ‘Dream It, Believe it, Do It’, was her message.

Mandy Hickson was still the hot topic that evening at the spectacular Dinner where £1000 was raised for the HBAA’s charity Beyond Brigade.

Wayne Lamb, Regional Conference Sales Manager at Vue Entertainment was typical of many of the audience in summing up the day saying ‘’The Forum has been extremely informative and definitely worthwhile. Vue Entertainment are new members and I would highly recommend joining the HBAA.’’

Chloe Bennett of Cavendish Venues tweeted; “Absolutely cracking #HBAAForum, so varied with group sessions, debates, panel discussions, guest speakers!!”

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