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BIG INTERVIEW16 . . June 2012 he words American Express to many conjure up images of fi nance and credit, yet for 37 years the global company has also been in the meetings business in the UK. In 2011 American Express Meetings and Events managed 20,000 meetings globally, ranging from small board­type meetings through to large meetings of several thousand delegates in one sitting. Meetings are a lucrative part of the company's business and the number has trebled in size in the last two years.Peter Manning heads up the UK division of the company, overseeing services ranging from venue sourcing and meeting planning through to full event management. A new partnership with marketing and production agency WRG last year further strengthened the company's offering to include creative marketing communication, full production requirements and in addition group air transportation services to get delegates to and from their meetings. To say Manning is a busy man is an understatement, but he thrives on the MICE industry. "I love this business," he tells CN. "Meetings still remain the biggest unmanaged spend for many companies and our knowledge can really deliver value to a client in identifying meeting spend and effectively controlling and managing it."But how does a company successfully spend its meetings budget? CN gets the Amex answers.What trends are you seeing in the MICE industry?At the beginning of 2012 American Express completed a meetings forecast study and we have found the output of that study becoming the reality. We are seeing a steady increase in the volume of meetings, but these tend to be shorter meetings with smaller numbers of delegates. There is a move to more local meetings reducing travel cost and time. Agendas are fuller with a keen focus on meeting content. Many customers are combining business planning and strategy meetings with incentives. The clear message from corporates is that meetings are essential to drive their businesses but the requirement is to maximise the value of their meeting spend. How important is sustainability to your clients?Our studies and ongoing experience show there is a fi rm commitment to meetings, in fact the volume of meetings is increasing but the profi le of them is changing and there is a keen interest in more 'green' meetings. Hotel suppliers have reported that 47 per cent of clients have green requests/requirements for their events.In North America a partnership is already in place between American Express Meetings and Events, Maxvantage and Green Hotels Global, which helps compare standardised footprints of carbon and water use as well as waste diversions across all properties generally and per meeting. Additionally, once the event has Meetings saintAmerican Express Meetings and Events manages 20,000 meetings globally per annum. Its UK Director, Peter Manning, tells Vikki Carley why green meetings are back on the agenda and why he wants to see electronic RFP's become mandatory in the UKHotel suppliers have reported 47% of clients have green requests and requirements for their eventsbeen completed reports can be generated calculating the hotel's component of a meeting's environmental impact. We are regularly asked for creative ways to incorporate green measures like reducing print materials, encouraging recycling, and cutting down on waste and helping companies fi nd cost­savings to meet their sustainability goals.Another trend we are noticing is more companies are looking to develop mobile apps designed to distribute materials such as maps, itineraries, speaker information and updates, which helps to reduce paper usage.The Association of British Professional Conference organisers recently launched its Conference Cloud campaign supporting free Wi-Fi for delegates, what are your thoughts on this? We need to ensure we provide the best value in selecting venues for our clients and free Wi­Fi can be a differentiator and more and more venues are recognising this and offering the facility. The provision of free Wi­Fi can be a deciding factor in the choice of venue, so we welcome hotels expanding their service offerings and price competitiveness. What has been your most challenging event to work on? Each and every event has its challenges and they are many and varied. For example, we had to get 6,000 people from 21 different countries to one location for a three­day event; logistically it was very challenging but we were successful because of meticulous planning, our relationships with airlines and ground transportation companies, plus our global network of meeting planners. The group transportation for a meeting often represents a signifi cant proportion of spend, and expertise and knowledge of access to hubs and the fi nal destination itself is integral to a successful event. T

BIG INTERVIEWJune 2012 . . 17 PETE MANNINGBorn : SurreyFirst job: In the cityWork fi le: Career has spanned many years at American Express and has included working in the UK Service Delivery for the company's Business Travel network.