The beginnings of the meetings industry can be traced back to Europe and North America. In course of their growth and development in the 19th century, universities and theatres had an increasing need to share information in academic circles and society, which led to an increasing number of gatherings and also created the need for larger public spaces for this purpose. Also with the development of the railway, also hotels were opened at large railway stations. Most of these had special-purpose rooms for rent, where events related to the promotion of products, annual meetings of managing boards and expert meetings, new events emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, which included better education for people engaged in organisation, especially for those engaged in sales. As towns became more and more aware of the value the organization of meetings had for them, a group of businessmen decided in Detroit, Michigan, for the first time in history, to employ a salesman to invite meetings to be held in their town. In this way, the first convention bureau was established, and so 1896 was the year when the industry officially came into being.
All the way through history, incentives and rewards have driven human motivation and behaviour. During the earlier twenties, companies began manufacturing new machines on a large scale. These companies needed hundreds of salespeople to woo customers. Companies such as Coca Cola and General Electric assigned territories set targets and began to measure salespeople’s success. By keeping up the competition, they also began to focus on professionalising their employees and rewarding them with cash bonuses and induction into elite clubs.
In the forties, organisations moved beyond using incentives to drive only better behaviour in general and concentrated on how they could be used to drive specific behaviours. Companies shifted away from the large “gift” bonuses of the ’20s and instead used a new structure in which bonuses were paid out in three to five years when specific long-term goals had been reached. These types of incentives were created to help employees focus on the long-term prosperity of the company rather than the immediate gratification of cash bonuses.
As from 1960, there followed a continuous growth of investments into the infrastructure with the purpose to support conferences, conventions, meetings and events. The investments amount to dozens and hundredths of millions of dollars in Great Britain, North America, Australia and Africa. Sava Centre in Belgrade, the largest convention and business centre in the region was built in 1977 with a capacity to host up to 4000 delegates. Lane End Conference Centre was one of the first purpose-built conference centres in the UK. It opened its doors in 1969 and today it boasts five distinct buildings each with a dedicated conference suite, lounge, boarding room and a number of dedicated bedrooms for residential events.
Today, the MICE industry is serving the corporate businesses by fostering improved service by offering food at lunch and dinner, massages and Yoga. They are helping employee juggle work, family and social life, encouraging fun by offering Ping-Pong tables and providing unlimited vacation days to enhance employees ‘ desire for freedom and autonomy.