Sydney Paulden interviews Michael Schüller and Peter Manning of American Express Meetings & Events.At the Business Travel Show in Earls Court, London, ITCM met Michael Schüller and Peter Manning of American Express Meetings & Events. Michael is Vice-President for Europe, Middle East and Asia, whilst Peter is Director of AEME in the UK. This specialist arm of American Express operates globally. It is one of the few organisations anywhere in the world’s MICE sector that can claim that it employs 1,000 people in over 100 countries and is responsible for 20,000 meetings a year!
Michael and Peter are convinced that there are still too many enterprises that permit various units to set up meetings and events in a fragmented, unmanaged way. When asked what the whole of a group might be spending on events, the management’s estimate is often only a third of the real outgoings when expenditure by marketing, sales, PAs and executive secretaries.
‘We at AEME frequently establish structures and budgets for clients that very quickly either reduce the spend without reducing the numbers of their events – or give them more events for the same level of overall spending’.
American Express Meetings & Events has, naturally, massive clout when it comes to sourcing and ordering facilities for events. ‘However’, they point out, ‘important benefits can come from its experience in negotiating contracts. not just in price discounts, but in better terms and more lenient penalty agreements’.
Michael and Peter in turn gave examples of how they have saved costs for client companies. They have been able to integrate virtual speakers with live presentations; they have found 5-star facilities at 4-star properties; and have been able to use creative ideas to produce the right ambiance without the need for purchasing expensive services from outside.
Because of the spread of their network of offices, their own in-house facilities in many destinations dovetail effectively with the needs of multi-national clients, so that they can offer a one-stop service for a wide range of events in a range of venues around the world. They can carry out this kind of work for enterprises in, for example, the sectors of pharmaceuticals, automobiles, IT hardware and software, food, fashion and cosmetics.
How do they see business in the MICE sector at the moment?
‘Lead times are still short. Numbers of events are not falling, but the spend is still restrained, so that the frills are being cut back. That is why’, they conclude, ‘there is room for a service that gives them more by being creative with the budget that is available’.
Pictured top to bottom: Michael Schüller, Peter Manning