An unregulated industry
Peter Gray, an independent Motivation Consultant, presents a regular Business Events News feature on current issues in the Conference and Incentive industries.
OF ALL the professions in the world, being an Incentive Practitioner or a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) are two that have escaped regulation by most governments or regulatory authorities.
Many professions require achievement of minimum qualifications and guaranteed adherence to appropriate regulations. This is not the case if you claim to be an Incentive Practitioner or PCO.
Several associations that represent professionals in these fields do offer accreditation programs with the purpose of testing skills and offering some guarantee that a client’s requirements will be met to the highest standards. However, none of them are compulsory and many clients lack the knowledge for such accreditation to be part of any proposal they request.
Although I have been an Incentive Practitioner for many years and have achieved accreditation standards set by appropriate industry bodies, I have never been asked by any client whether I am so qualified. This in itself devalues the whole purpose of accreditation. However, when my company appoints a new supplier we insist that they should be appropriately accredited.
The Incentives and Meetings Industries are guilty of creating our own competitors. Many individuals employed by incentives or events companies are tempted to set up business using the experience they have gained. However, since there are no standards mandated in these industries it is difficult to know precisely when an individual has the required skills, knowledge and experience.
The results achieved by many new-start companies often fall far below the standards required. Sometimes this is because of a lack of skills or knowledge; more often it is because of a lack of experience.
The Internet, the Web have proved a boon to many who already had the necessary skills previously without them. All too often individuals outside the industry ask themselves the question “How difficult can it be to organise an event, a meeting, a conference or design an incentive program?” but the answer they refuse to acknowledge is “far harder than you would think”.
The number of apps available to the meetings industry is legion. Many of these suggest that everything that needs to be done can be done at the touch of a button. I am thankful to some degree that the number of apps of which I am currently aware for the Incentive Industry are substantially less.
Several organisations are now ‘getting in on the act’ which were previously the reserve of meeting and events professionals. Airbnb has announced on its website that it has started offering online tools to find meetings spaces and teambuilding activities. Cvent has long been offering an almost start-tofinish service through its software. And yet what happens when something goes wrong? Is one of their executives on hand to resolve these difficulties? The answer, of course, is No. Even the CEO’s or Marketing Director’s PA or EA - frequently tasked to organise meetings, conferences and even incentives when the company - mistakenly - wants to save a dollar or two, won’t necessarily have the skills or resources to cope with the sort of things that can - and frequently do - go wrong when vital elements of an event are delegated to third parties.
A properly qualified and accredited industry professional is an investment not an expense.
Their knowledge of a destination or a venue, of having previously worked with a particular Destination Management Company; local knowledge and any professional relationship with hotel managements can all reduce the overall cost of an event. It is important to remember that an industry professional represents their client and therefore should always make recommendations to their advantage.
Accredited industry professionals have the distinct advantage of being required to have professional indemnity insurance and are expected to abide by standards set by the association that accredited them. They know that a complaint upheld by the accreditation body could be disastrous for their future business.
So, before investing in a software package that promises the earth; that suggests it can do just about everything anyone has ever thought of, ask the developer what they will do and what liability they have in the event that there are failures of the suppliers they have recommended (and who will be paying them a commission to do so).
Industry professionals must fully justify their actions as well as being wholly responsible for a project’s overall budget. Checklists abound. Whether they’re downloaded from LinkedIn, Facebook or one of the proprietary event management companies they all need to be interpreted in the light of requirements. If you’re a box-ticker then maybe this is the way forward for you but I would not recommend it.
The Incentives and Meetings industries deserve to be recognised for the professional services their practitioners provide. Clearly the message is not getting across to clients who largely know nothing about the accreditation processes already in place.
Peter Gray is an independent, Accredited Incentive Practitioner and motivation consultant. He can be contacted at email@example.com