by Vincent Alonzo | March 16, 2017
On March 10-12, 315 meeting planners, incentive planners, and representatives from tourist boards and suppliers from all over the world gathered in New York City for Northstar Meetings Group's SMU International. The group stayed at the Westin New York Grand Central, but, with the exception of a roundtable discussion held at the Westin, all of the meetings and education sessions took place a few blocks away in the Delegates Dining Room at the United Nations.

In the March 10 roundtable discussion, 14 tourist boards, hoteliers, DMCs, and meeting planners spoke of challenges facing suppliers and planners when it comes to promoting and branding destinations for meetings. The group was joined by Jaime Schwarz, the creative director of gyro, a global branding and advertising agency, who listened to the groups challenges and offered advice on how to deal with them.

One trend the group spotted was that destinations are being asked to reflect the values of the companies meeting there more than they have been in the past.

Schwarz advised the group to look deeper at what their destinations have to offer beyond the more ubiquitous qualities, such as beauty and luxury, and find those characteristics that are more unique to them.

He cautioned against "the trend of the month" syndrome, in which a destination might start touting sustainability just because they see a competing destination having success with it. "If a destination or hotel brand is not built to sell something like sustainability, and they try to sell it, it is not going to work," he said.

The following day, Patrick Rush, director of American Express Meetings & Events, delivered a keynote on how planners could be proactive to international meeting trends. He leveraged exclusive research from American Express Meetings and Events to offer insight on how to use data to make informed decisions. Rush told the audience to be prepared to deal with increased compliance factors in terms of ROI and security for many international meetings.

Rush said that this is particularly crucial, because, according to American Express research, "52% of international meetings begin the process without a set budget."

On March 12, meetings tech guru Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, MS, explored technology trends that are transforming meetings. Ball (pictured above) told the group that "technology will change events more in the next five years than it has in the past fifteen."  

One trend Ball identified specifically was augmented reality.

"Though trends can be disruptive at first, things like augmented reality technology will change the meeting experience," said Ball. "Apps, for instance, make every moment in a meeting trackable."

In addition to the educational sessions, planners and suppliers engaged in one-on-one appointments at the event.

Since part of these meetings promoted global cooperation, the group was very impressed to be conducting this activity in a setting that is also dedicated to that mission.

To add more meaning to the support of that mission, Northstar Meetings Group made a significant CSR contribution to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as a way of giving back as a group to the international community.