This year Site celebrates “40 Years Forward” - our proud association’s 40th year as the only global network of travel and event professionals committed to motivational experiences that deliver business results. It is an ideal time to showcase the amazing work that Site members have done and are doing to create a solid platform for growth and industry advocacy around the globe. We want to make this year a huge success by engaging with members in a meaningful way putting a spotlight on their contributions to Site’s past, current and future success.
Why celebrate 40 Years? The primary purpose is to further facilitate a sense of community and leverage the anniversary year to enhance the dialogue and emphasize Site’s position of industry leadership for four decades and forward. The primary question that we would like to address is: What about Site’s history and heritage helps us see, and pursue, the future more clearly? Throughout the year, the Site Leader Blog will be featuring the perspectives and retrospectives of Site past-president’s, Chapter leaders and members around the world. We invite you to contribute your thoughts and ideas as, together, we celebrate “40 Years Forward.”
Paul Flackett, Managing Director, IMEX Group, has been involved in the meetings and incentive travel industry for some 30 years, first as an organizer of conferences and events and then in the media field. Paul joined EIBTM at its launch and was managing director until it was sold to Reed Travel Exhibitions. Paul has been a Site member since 1988 serving as Site International President in 1995 and Site Foundation President in 2002. He gained the CITE qualification in 1994. He has also served as an MPI Chancellor and is currently Vice Chair of the DMAI European Advisory Council.
When did you first learn about and become involved with Site?
On joining Ray Bloom in 1987 to work on the launch of EIBTM in Geneva we made it a priority to get close with all the major industry associations across the globe. This obviously included Site and so I found myself in Arizona in the middle of summer at a Site University. You would have spotted me right away - in temperatures of 100 degrees plus I was the Englishman in a jacket, shirt and tie. What impressed me was the high level of education for a subject I frankly knew little about. Most important of all Patrick Delaney was the event Chair and he walked into the auditorium like a god, dressed in un-pressed trousers and a green polo shirt with the collar turned up. I knew I had to meet this guy and, now many years later, he is my best friend and still blazing trails.
I also met amazing people like Fay Beauchine, Jane Schuldt, Patti Roscoe and many others who became instant heroes and heroines to my novice eyes. Again, their knowledge and friendship has endured for many years. People like Jim Dittman and Bob Guerrero regaled me with tales of the “early years” when the drinks trolley would enter the board meetings in the afternoon, ensuring conversations got even livelier. About a year later the aforementioned people put a full court press on me to run for the Board. Suddenly I was a Site Board Member. Patrick Delaney was the Chair and legends such as Harvey Grotsky, Sally Barnes, Carol Abrioux, Connie Goldstein and John Udell were fellow Board members. We still dine out on tales from those times.
By then I was travelling the world for EIBTM and had discovered New Zealand as my favourite place in the whole world. So to be elected President at the 1994 Site Conference in New Zealand was a landmark for my career. Just weeks before I had gained the CITE, thus hopefully proving that the trade show guy at least knew something about the industry. My year as Site President was fast paced and over before I realized it. I handed the gavel over to Louise Reider at the Site Conference in San Antonio - another personal favourite place. Since then I have chaired a Site Conference in Las Vegas, worked on several Site events around the world and have presented many Site seminars with Pat Delaney. I have also helped four other people from different corners of the globe to gain their CITE. I even served a term as President of the Site International Foundation where I learned about the real mechanics of the incentive travel and motivational events industry.
How has Site changed from being an organization focused on incentive travel to an organization for global professionals in the motivational events industry “inspiring people to perform at higher levels?”
Site is a true global association and it must continue to grow by creating, developing and spreading motivational knowledge through its global membership. Site now has members in places and destinations never seen before. I do not regard Site as a USA Association but as a global entity. Future planning must include the goals of growth, knowledge and shared problem solving on a worldwide basis.
Inspiring higher performance levels can only come from shared knowledge. In order to grow globally, Site must be prepared to accept and adopt new ideas and strategies as applied in emerging markets where success is proven. Site must constantly stay on top of who is driving our global industry and are they on board with Site.
How can Site leverage the knowledge and experience gained over the past 40 years to accelerate future growth?
Membership growth and income is the biggest problem facing many Associations. I firmly believe that this is not a time for shrinkage but to look at ways of growing on the back of new ideas and clear strategies.
The past 40 years of SITE contains a very impressive roll call of industry professionals who have achieved success through hard work and dedication to the principles and ethics of the “ Founding Fathers.” I would love to see a think tank created of previous Presidents and former Board Members who could not only provide direction for SITE but also listen to the new world of ideas and help formulate winning strategies for the renewed growth of the Association. We also need to engage more Corporate Buyers, as well, to better understand their needs and how Site can help them achieve the desired business results from their incentive travel and motivational events investments.
I remain passionate about the value Site brings to the industry and look forward to contributing to its future. I have learned a lot during my years as a Site member and have made many friends and industry colleagues who are my heroes and heroines.