As a seasoned thought leader in the meetings industry, MCI USA’s new global account director, corporate meetings and events, Agnés Canonica, CMP, CMM, HMCC, has learned a thing or two or a thousand about converting events into experiences.
Canonica, who as a global citizen is fluent in languages and cultures stretching far beyond the U.S., believes successful meetings happen when you combine strategic objectives, a deep understanding of content trends, data-driven business analytics, and a collaborative approach. MeetingsNet recently caught up with her as she settles into her new role with the MCI USA team.
MeetingsNet: What do you wish corporate meeting planners better understood about taking their programs globally?
Agnés Canonica: We need to do a much better job of educating ourselves. Of course, there are fantastic industry events like IMEX and annual Meeting Professional International conferences to give us a flavor and a 2-D platform of destinations, properties, and services. But that’s just one aspect.
We also need to understand the cultural profile of the participants (recommended reading: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer), and ensure that language capabilities are addressed as a skill-set of the event staff (from pre-event when managing attendee registration to on site when providing customer service). It’s also important to understand the local etiquette, from communication style and meal times to format alignment (giving Europeans a “deli-themed lunch” is not going to cut it).
It’s also of the upmost importance that regional/local partners are in place to handle printing needs, procurement of any giveaways, simultaneous interpretation services, technical and AV services—it does not make financial sense to be flying goods or vendors internationally when, in most cases, everything is readily available, of the same quality, locally. With local companies, you avoid the language barriers, hassle (and painful cost/delays) of shipping and clearing customs, and often they will have much better prices. A strong partner organization with global knowledge can be a big help.
In today’s unfortunate political, economic, and religious climate (in addition to environmental climate issues), we need to be hyper-aware and vigilant in executing events across the globe, making destination/property recommendations based on specific “security” infrastructure criteria and being able to think ahead of a plan B and C to be able to address any disruptions.
MN: Five years from now, what won’t we be doing at corporate events that we’re doing today?
Canonica: While this will vary from industry to industry, in the general sense, there are two things to keep in mind:
1. The most dangerous words in business are “This is how we’ve always done it.”
2. “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”—Alvin Toffler
It is absolutely critical to always stay ahead, relevant, consultative, and able to deliver value.
As meeting apps become more mainstream, affordable, and adopted, we will see much “greener” programs with more digital signage and fewer printed materials.
We will also become much more health conscious and remove unnecessary and empty carbs, refined sugars, and saturated fats from our menus, in addition to ensuring sustainability by asking for locally grown food sources. A tipping point for me was reading The Food Revolution by John Robbins and Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. As the “conductors” for events, we can help make an environmental difference, in addition to ensuring the well-being of the attendees on our watch.
As technology continues to evolve, I also believe that—for certain programs—site inspections will become a thing of the past as we become able do them via tools like Facetime and virtual reality.
MN: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Canonica: That I learned how to fly before learning how to drive—both fixed and rotor wings. That I am a voracious reader and music lover, with eclectic tastes on both counts. That English was my third language (natal being French, followed by Spanish when I lived in Buenos Aires). But let’s get to things that really matter: I share the same birthday as Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots are my obsession (not an easy thing living in Philly), followed by the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team.