Fostering the promise of real connection

Fostering the promise of real connection

As the MICE industry recalibrates following COVID, there is a yearning for authentic experiences that transform and enhance the exchange of information, perspectives and viewpoints. With a fresh and elevated focus on diversity, inclusion, community, purpose and sustainability, FCM Meetings & Events explored these issues with industry guests at its recent Ideas Exchange event.

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Emerging from recent physical distancing restrictions, community is more relevant than ever. This renewed focus gives the MICE industry the opportunity to elevate experiences that shine a light on gender diversity, people of colour and those living with disability or disadvantage. We asked how the industry can create inclusive experiences.

“At FCM Meetings & Events we endeavour to lead by example,” explained General Manager Simone Seiler. “We start by thinking about the event as a whole – from the people represented on stage, to the content – to design a thread that runs through all elements. As we are in the business of content making, we also have a responsibility to ensure disability is not a barrier to access. We make a point of incorporating Auslan interpreters and captioning, while also making website platforms accessible for both deaf and blind people.”

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Reframing community

For Air New Zealand’s, Kirstie Dyergrose, it’s important that diversity is genuine and not forced.

“As an airline we made a conscious decision a few years ago to embed Maori culture into our business,” said Kirstie. “We introduced Maori culture as an accepted language and made it a standard part of our inflight welcome and entertainment. Company emails also start and end with Maori greetings.

“At the same time, we abolished stigmas around appearance and what was acceptable. So now it’s common to see Maori employees with traditional face tattoos and cultural markings. We want our people to wear their culture with pride, because that’s what the business stands for and that is our purpose.”

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Optus is also focussing on embracing first nations people, while being careful to ensure that gestures are not tokenistic. Instead of the standard acknowledgement of country, an upcoming event will incorporate a more in depth ‘calling country’, which will set the tone for the rest of the event. The aim is to not just do something ceremonial, but to educate people and to have cultural exchange by weaving first nations traditions into the content – and with their input.

Other examples include a TAFE event, which FCM Meetings & Events help to create, entirely run by first nations people and designed to incorporate their very powerful stories. The Commonwealth Bank stipulates that a minimum of 3% of suppliers engaged for any event must be indigenous businesses. This reflects the fact that 3% of the Australian population is indigenous.

“We have a position at FCM Meetings & Events that a company that stands for something is something,” said Simone. “We have taken the step to align our purpose with measurable goals, choosing five of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to focus on. To ensure we are taking our people and suppliers along for the journey, we have created strategic partnerships that cascade from these goals. These include supporting initiatives such as SolarBuddy, the South Pole carbon offset program, Flight Centre Foundation’s charities and giving projects, and in 2022 we launched our first Reconciliation Action Plan.”

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Purpose beyond profit

Positively influencing those around us, starts with driving change internally. To align our purpose to our business objectives, FCM Meetings & Events has drawn on a groundswell of support from leadership, employees and suppliers to secure engagement.

At Ideas Exchange the conversation turned to a shining example of an organisation that is driving change and staying true to its purpose – OzHarvest. OzHarvest together with chef Massimo Bottur, has opened Australia’s first social-impact collaboration – the Food for Soul restaurant in Sydney. Using rescued food they use to feed vulnerable people during the day, the space is then made available for private events at night to make it self-sustaining.

Transforming sustainability

The MICE industry is passionate about creating experiences that leave lasting memories that don’t create a negative impact in the process. For this part of the travel industry, it’s recognised that sustainability goes beyond caring for the environment. It’s also about making sure the cultures, communities and suppliers in every region involved in the business process thrive. With this in mind, guests at the Ideas Exchange event were asked what actions they were taking. Here are a few of the responses -:

  • Air New Zealand has signed two deals with net zero aircraft producers and aim to have battery-powered flights operating shorter routes by the end of the decade.
  • Since 2012 Marina Bay Sands has cut carbon emissions by 30%, while also introducing technology across its restaurants to help chefs measure food volume to minimise wastage. The property was also the first MICE venue in Singapore to be certified carbon neutral, by investing investment REC certificates to completely offset all carbon emissions.
  • With over 27% of TAFE students identifying as having a disability, they are committed to making sure they remain accessible to all, to support life-long learning.
  • Optus recognised the need to address the number of women in their business, to achieve a better balance. The organisation introduced initiatives to empower more women to work in technology and to boost the interest in STEM, through sponsorships and university partnerships. They also invest in women-only programs to develop their leadership skills.
  • Deloitte is currently planning their first event with a ‘zero waste’ target. They are introducing initiatives such as – engaging OzHarvest to minimise food wastage, using local suppliers, using digital signage where possible to reduce printing, minimising all printed material, using sustainable lanyards, ensuring delegates can walk to the venue, reducing gifts and all delegate flights will be carbon offset.

The final word goes to Simone, who said “the key to driving sustainability, purpose and community in the event world is to put different options in front of people, to educate them about their impacts, to open them up to different perspectives, to showcase options – and to ultimately make it easy for them to creating authentic experiences.”

For more information on creating events that connect, talk to FCM Meetings & Events. 

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