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No coffee, no chairs and no warning of what was to come

It was back to basics at the Meetings Industry Association (mia) 25th Anniversary Conference last Friday. Delegates were greeted at BMA House with a simple breakfast of bread and water. Just one of the disruptive activities designed to get the audience to Stop and Think.
Chief executive of the mia Jane Longhurst said, “It was a gutsy move denying the delegates of their morning coffee. We wanted to take them out of their comfort zone a little, break their daily routine and change their habits so they could digest the insights about to be shared.

“The Stop and Think conference concept is in response to the pace of 21st century business. By providing breathing space, we can explore new ways of doing things which can lead to innovation, creativity and more strategic planning.”

Mike van der Vijver from MindMeeting shook things up further by denying the delegates chairs for his introduction. Removing the option to sit will influence how people interact with each other, a point he proved when delegates were asked to group together to discuss some of the key challenges in the industry. “Standing encourages face to face interaction,” said Mike. Some of the key points raised from the audience discussion were that venues must keep up-to-date with the rapid advancement of technology, make sure their spaces are accessible to an aging population and the need for event organisers to understand what the client wants.

Keen to keep the energy flowing, it was a brisk walk to The Light ­­­­—a Quakers venue— giving delegates a valuable opportunity to network.

Jonathan Raggett, the managing director of Red Carnation Hotels and chairman of the Master Innholders, delivered a presentation that inspired the audience in how to develop a winning culture and reinforced the importance of valuing your staff. He has taken Red Carnation Hotels from no. 73 to no. 2 in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For in just over three years. “No one will ever be in trouble for giving the guest too much,” said Jonathan. Throughout the presentation, he reinforced six qualities contributing to good hospitality which are kindness, curiosity, having a high work ethic, empathy, self-awareness and having a high level of integrity.

The remainder of the day was split into two streams. Delegates hopped between presentations including the On the Sofa leadership session with Jackie Mulligan, principle lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Tracey Bovingdon, founder and director of Tea Monkey and Hannah Rhodes, founder of Hiver Beer. Social media expert Philip Calvert focused his session on brand integrity and in the afternoon, technology gurus Serge Taborin, chief operating officer of QApp, Rich Pleeth, founder of Sup, and David Hellard, founder of CMO and Zipcube, talked about the changes technology is making to our way of life whilst Steve Lowy, founder of umi Hotel and co-founder of umi Digital, emphasised the pertinence of brand personality.

Kat Winfield, Events Sales Manager at BMA House, said, “We were honoured to host the mia 25th Anniversary on Friday. The mia has helped to support many venues over 25 years and BMA House is just one of them.

“I feel sometimes taking a moment away from your office environment and attending events like this can only benefit your business. It gives you the opportunity to put things into perspective and gives you a new energy to insert back into your business.”

Throughout the day, broadcaster Steph McGovern briefed and steered students from Leeds Beckett University to capture moments from the conference to create a one off Stop and Think newspaper before she closed the event with a roundup of the day.

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