BIG INTERVIEWJune 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 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.
BIG INTERVIEW18 . www.conference-news.co.uk . June 2012 Where did you grow up? I was born in Surrey. I have moved around the country quite a lot, mainly due to career moves.How did you get into the industry? Not quite by accident. I have always worked in the fi nancial services sector, mainly in operations leadership roles. The opportunity with American Express came up about 12 years ago, again within operational leadership, but on the travel side. The opportunities within the American Express family are many and varied and I was delighted to move about six years ago into the Meetings business, an area of keen focus and rapid growth.What sports do you follow?l now live in Hampshire and was a season ticket holder at the Saints in Southampton. I am ashamed to say my season ticket expired as the Saints slipped down the leagues. Perhaps it is time to renew as they have just re-entered the Premier League.What is the key to organising a perfect event? Clear understanding of the client's requirements, meticulous planning and fl awless execution.What has been your most interesting event to work on? Our meeting planners and event managers have opportunities to travel to interesting and exotic parts of the world to deliver meetings. It is hard work but our teams are passionate about delivering a fl awless meeting to our clients. Not many industries allow you to plan a lunch on the Great Wall of China and this was part of an incentive event for an automotive client for 120 people. The attendees were led to believe that as part of their last day, there was an opportunity to walk a small part of the Great Wall. At the end of the walk they were presented with a magnifi cent lunch beautifully laid out on the Great Wall as a fi nale to this four-day event.You travel extensively for your job, which country sticks in your mind?Requests for destinations for meetings continue to change. Recently we were asked to manage a complex event in Vietnam, which was a new location for my team. Most countries you can make yourself understood, but language was a challenge and outside of the venues English was not spoken widely. The event involved many high profi le VIPs, some heads of state and having police escorts for the whole group to attend a dinner was something different. Hanoi is a vibrant bustling city and centre of 21st century commerce, yet alongside this the traditional Vietnamese way of life with people carrying goods on their backs, was also part of the city landscape.What frustrates you about the MICE industry in the UK? While event management technology solutions are progressing, I would like to see these implemented more quickly, especially with group bookings. An example is electronic RFP to hotel and meeting venues. This has really taken off in North America and undoubtedly this will follow in the UK and EMEA in time. It will mean all our hotel and venue partners move to an electronic way of responding to a meeting request. I would really like to see live access inventory and I have no doubt this, too, will come in time.What are your predictions for the future of the meetings industry?I predict the need for continued spend optimisation, risk management and measurable ROI will further drive the adoption of various strategic meetings management programme components with leading organisations. Companies will be able to benefi t from clear measurement of the value of meetings to the organisation with these measures serving as a guide to optimise enterprise-wide meeting investment.For many companies, particularly multi-nationals I predict there will be a greater focus on compliance, cost control and the achievement of strategic objectives and this will impact decisions regarding meeting size, destination, property choice and spending on individual meeting elements. QUICK QUESTIONS