by Esther Faith Lew | May 28, 2018
It's a rare thing to be a master of perfection, and to do so across a myriad of circumstances, locations, programme formats and clients with their combinations of requirements. It's the yin and yang of personality duality all rolled into one dynamic individual with endless energy. That's the stuff that planners are made of - and more.

More specifically, the ideal skill sets of a great planner cover budgeting, contract negotiations, client management, project management, marketing and logistics to successfully execute each project. This is a rare combination of skills that is not often seen and embodied in one profession, said Danny Li, co-founder of AsiaHospitalityCareers.com.

I would also add high creativity and a knack for innovative solutions to the list as planners are increasingly tasked to think out of the box and create unique and memorable events. It's a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde combination of traits, as planners not only have to be as meticulous and organised as a researcher but also as ideas-driven as an advertising maven.

So what needs to be done to develop this pool of talent and to attract new blood into the community?
"The fact is, many younger job seekers view a career very differently. They have needs and expectations that are different from those of previous generations. Competition for talent is strong across all industries and financial incentives may no longer be the primary motivation. For the MICE industry, understanding how to engage and motivate the next generation of professionals will be key," says Li.

With this understanding, the industry will be able to appeal to new talents and clear any lingering misconceptions about the industry. While events planning is a function that is applicable in any industry, many forget that it stands alone as a key industry that drives other industries by promoting economic activity.

Be savvy about learning
Industry stalwarts are also pushing for professional accreditation of the industry by collaborating with educational institutions to provide certified courses for planners. "Education will also be fundamental in attracting more people into MICE.  By introducing MICE earlier into the education cycle as a core study, generating more interest through targeted lectures and career talks, a better understanding on the career prospect and job requirements of the MICE sector can be achieved.  It's through such developments that we can bring MICE as a career to the forefront rather than a secondary consideration," says Li.

For graduates of Singapore Information Technology's (SIT)  Hospitality Business (Honours) degree programme, they are given a MICE Specialisation with three modules in Year 2 that prepares them for the industry, including their eight-month Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) attachment for hands-on work experience.

"Real work undertaken through IWSP enables the students to understand the challenges faced in the current fast-changing economy, and develop skills of adaptability, creativity and innovation, while adding value to the workplace. IWSP also has the potential to lead to full-time employment after graduation. In fact, the success of the IWSP has resulted in several graduates being offered employment with organisation that hosted their IWSP placement," says Dr Eunice Yoo Eun Jung, Asst Professor, Design & Specialised Businesses, SIT.

Is the future crystal-clear?
Dr Yoo has a positive outlook for the career prospects of MICE professionals in Singapore, "Based on the burgeoning service industry transformation by the government, as evidenced by the staging of Singapore Grand Prix, WTA tournament, and building of Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort as a major convention hub, the potential for graduates entering the MICE industry will escalate. With a dynamic cityscape, great accessibility, enhanced connectivity and technology, Singapore will stay strong as a prime convention destination for international business events, attracting more highly motivated and prepared talents to the industry." 

The best way to get started is to jump in and learn, says Michelle Crowley, VP, Global Growth & Innovation, PCMA. "By understanding the industry ecosystem and getting involved in industry organisations, aspiring planners can build a support network quickly.  For example, PCMA has volunteer opportunities, discussion boards, online and offline events, etc., allowing multiple engagement options pending the preference." She also stressed that over the course of a professional's career, different types of education courses and training are necessary - continuous learning is critical for continuous success.

Experienced planners who have already earned their stripes have a big part to play in shaping the future of Asia's MICE industry. But they too require a mindset shift that will enable them to tackle the challenges head on, whether they are client expectations, delegate experiences, safety concerns or technology developments.

Adds Li: "The ability to understand business needs and the ROI will continue to be a top priority for planners.  In every way, MICE is a marketing channel and the need to analyse and measure effectiveness will be key to planners looking at cost-effective yet innovative solutions to deliver the right outcomes for everyone."