Let crusade against the M-word begin

MOST of you have been probably too busy to notice, but there’s a sense of unease among many in the meetings and events community. That discomfit doesn’t arise from global uncertainty or more trifling matters like talent shortage, but from one seemingly harmless acronym.

It’s the dreaded MICE word. I’ll try – but in vain – to spare anyone who detests its very utterance or appearance on the printed page by refraining from spelling the whole, wretched word out. OK, I can’t resist… here goes: Meetings, Incentive, Conferences and er, there’s some debate about the next word: is it events?

There was a time when folks dangled “exhibitions” at the end of those three letters, but our friends in that sacred industry gave it the cold shoulder. Well do I remember being sat in the boardroom of a multinational expo player listed on Asia’s finest stock exchange and being told by a veteran of trade shows from Vegas to Macau that (dare we utter its name again) the rodent word belonged nowhere near the august exhibitions industry.

I was reminded of that encounter again when I caught up with Nigel Gaunt who was in Hong Kong for an event that previously had that word as part of its brand. Gaunt, who – it can be fairly argued – has been a crusader in the business event and incentive travel space for decades has another matter to settle. The founder of the Incentive Conference and Event Society Asia Pacific – now under the PCMA – wants to persuade those in Asia’s events and meetings world to ditch the… well, let’s call it the squeaky-sounding word.

Gaunt’s argument is that the word does the business events segment a disservice. It’s clumsy and doesn’t reflect the professionalism and values to which business events organisers and their clients should be aspiring.

The sage and noble thing for us to do is to back Gaunt in this cause – but it’ll be an uphill struggle, and up against some big players in the region. The M-word has been used liberally by organisations including Hong Kong Tourism Board, Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau and some friends in Seoul and Singapore. It seems to be a cross between habit and vanity. Officials simply love using it. Editors endeavour to exercise discretion over its use, but when that squeak crescendos into a kerching sound – and those lovely clients want it in a headline and everywhere else, then we just have to tap the caps lock on and… M.I – sorry, can’t go through with it.

One theory as to why convention bureaus in Asia are so fond of using the M-word is that it’s cute and simple; easily understood if English is not a first language and a handy catch-all phrase when explaining the industry to bureaucrats and politicians.

By that reasoning it’s going to be around in the lexicon for a long time yet. Longer I reckon than ICESAP – another catchy acronym subsumed by a big cat with the unpronounceable title of PCMA.

Martin Donovan is the Editor of MIX

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