As the new Global Head of CWT Meetings & Events, the multi award-winning corporate meetings & events management service, London-based Ian Cummings leads a global team of meetings & events professionals, delivering strategic global programs (SMM), creative live, virtual and hybrid events from major global programs to intimate incentive trips through to complex global conferences and exhibitions for some of the world’s largest global companies.
Following nine years at CWT M&E in country, regional and global roles, Ian takes the reins at a historical time for the industry and world at large. We caught up with him to talk highs, lows, climate change and how he tends to put people before process.
What gets you excited about the events industry?
I love the vibrancy of the meetings & events industry, its creativity and most of all its ability to connect people, and bring smiles to faces, helping them to always learn and grow. And when it comes to incentives – creating those moments in people’s lives that they will remember forever – How powerful is that?!
What’s going to turn the industry on its head?
A powerful and constantly evolving combination of creativity and emerging technology will continue to enhance the experiences we can offer.
But the single biggest change we are witnessing is the mindset shift related to sustainability, the horrendous impact of climate change and how the M&E industry must change to be a force for good across the globe. We must leave locations in better shape than when we arrived, support local and micro economies and change our mindset from one of consumption to contribution.
Best client achievement?
There are far too many from all of our teams to call out one, but there is nothing more satisfying than over delivering on a client brief and creating moments that attendees will never forget. But doing an incentive trip for over 2,200 delegates to Shanghai from Europe with a week-long program of activities was right up there as one of the best client achievements ever.
Biggest triumph of your career?
Two of my proudest moments have been winning back-to-back “Global Agency of the Year” awards in 2018 and 2019 at the C&IT industry awards. This was the culmination of a 5-year journey with an incredible team of people who bought into a shared vision that we could be recognised as the best of the best, across the globe.
The biggest disaster for the travel and events industry can only be the COVID-19 pandemic. There are plenty of positive learnings to come from it but to see our industries all but collapse – is something we all never hope to witness again.
Words or phrases you never want to hear again? LWOP, Furlough and “the new normal”!
What should change in the industry and what should it be replaced with?
The RFP process has become over exhaustive and cumbersome and in some cases its being done as an exercise every 3 years with no major intention to change. However much agencies put work into responding, the decision then often gets delayed. In worst case scenarios – a full debrief for non-awarded agencies doesn’t occur. I’d replace it with a much more simplified process that’s based on people and teams you want to work with. M&E is a people business and commoditising it through RFP and price doesn’t do it justice.
What would your career be in a parallel universe?
I would have loved to have had a career in sports, excelled, then supported charities and the development of under-privileged kids, moving into commentating and then ambassador roles – using sport to spread change for good. People connect so well through sport and music with borders and boundaries being reduced to zero purely for love of the sport or sound.