Yeoh Siew Hoon heads to Subic Bay to attend a meeting on meetings at a time when the way people communicate is changing.
I am headed to the Philippines this afternoon. It's been a few years since I've been there. I know I will enjoy it. It's one of those places I don't yearn to go to but when I am there, I always have a great time and wonder why I don't visit more often.
Fact is, we only have so much time and there are so many places out there to choose from.
I am attending their national MICE industry conference. In short, it's called MICECON 2010. Only the Philippines would come up with an acronym like that and not think twice about it.
We will be showcasing WITCast at the event. For those who attended the WIT conference last year, you will remember it's our Twitter-based social networking service for events.
The organizers, having read about it, want to see it in action, so WIT and our partners in WITCast, Brand Karma, will be there encouraging the more than 300 delegates to tweet their comments and ask their questions.
It's a packed agenda. The MICE industry, like every industry, is caught up in the throes of change.
As Bernadette Dennis, managing director of HSMAI Asia Pacific, said last night over drinks (she was attending a HSMAI board meeting in Singapore), "The web has changed everything."
Staying at the Novotel Clarke Quay, she had observed the comings and goings in the lobby where the hotel has a few computer terminals for guest use. She noticed that all of them, from nationalities and of different ages, were on Facebook. "I found that amazing that they were all communicating on Facebook."
For the meetings industry, which is at its core all about communications, the challenge is how to convince people that face time is more important than screen time when it comes to communicating.
A report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in the US found that young people were spending more hours on the computer, in front of the television, playing video games, texting and listening to music than an average adult spends fulltime at work.
Because of their multi-tasking, it said that young people managed to pack in a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven-and-a-half hours.
I suspect the results wouldn't be that different in urban cities across Asia, fuelled by the explosion in mobile and online media facilitated by broadband and smartphones.
"The last thing youths do when they fall asleep is send a text or check a social networking application on their phones, which they tuck under their pillows," noted the report.
Actually, I know many adults who do that.
This is a challenge for event organisers who tend to like to part people from their devices when they are in a meeting room. I was at a conference recently when I asked if people could send questions via SMS. The organizers said no. "We don't want them to have their mobile phones on."
Truth is, a woman and her device cannot be parted that easily these days and I think it's best to let go. Let people find their own rhythm and dictate their own pace. If your content is good, they will stay with you.
As John Makinson, chief executive of Penguin Group, the book publisher said when the iPad was released, "We have learned that it is never wise to stand between a consumer and a preference."
And if the delegate's preference is to multi-task, interact, tweet, let it be. We need to be able to blend face time with screen time so that people will still attend conferences.
One thing screen time cannot do though is throw parties like the Filipinos can. That, I am definitely looking forward to.