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American Express joint venture supports organisers

Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson’s promises backed by 14,000 staff and $900m, reports Sydney Paulden

Predictions suggest that in the coming years the cost of meetings will increase and organisers will have reduced budgets. There are two reactions to this double whammy. One is to throw up one’s hands in despair and bury your head in them; the other is to explore means of being more efficient.
It is sometime suggested that the answer might be to cut out the travel cost with virtual meetings.

However, this is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as the majority of people in the MICE sector see networking and personal interaction as the most important benefits of meetings. Learning from the speakers’ presentations is, to many, the secondary benefit.

In a discussion with ITCM, these points were strongly supported by Lisa Thompson. It wasn’t surprising, seeing that she is the Director, Meetings & Events UK, at American Express Global Business Travel.

Although a member of the American Express family and with very close working links with the whole American Express global network of offices and facilities, it is a self-standing company. It was formed as recently as June 2014 as a joint venture with an investment company and was sent out into the world to do business armed with capital amounting to US$900m. In addition, it is worth mentioning the company’s 14,000 staff worldwide and its current billings of US$19bn of corporate travel.

Lisa is responsible for the growth, profitability and strategy of the new venture’s UK business, but this does not phase her. She was hand-picked for the job because her track record was just right. She was General Manager, Europe and Asia, for MD Events. Before that she was, for eight years, at Ashfield Meetings and Events, providing event management services for the healthcare industry.

This depth of experience plus the huge resources of American Express Global Business Travel can, she emphasises, introduce that level of efficiency that will be able to see organisers grapple successfully with rising costs and smaller overall budgets.

‘We can assist in every stage of the cycle of events’, she says. ‘We can handle the detailed travel planning, capture and interpret data before, during and after an event. This can include identifying what is attracting delegates, what pleases delegates for use in future planning and, increasingly important, we can calculate Return On Investment for the organiser.

‘This leaves organisers free to concentrate on content with their special knowhow in their sector. We have the facilities already in existence – anywhere in the world – to handle the rest’.

Lisa also adds: ‘Technology is playing an increasing role in events. Meeting planners in Europe are driving experimentation with newer and diverse technology. Event planners are offering everything from social media to connect attendees, to tablets to facilitate interaction with speakers or hosts. These are, at present, innovations that planners wish to introduce to enhance live meetings rather than replace them. It is difficult for planners in each sector of business to keep up with what is available and to identify what is worthwhile to meet their objectives. Here again, having a resource such as American Express Global Business Travel at their side can be of immense value.’

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