The worst thing in this environment,” Sony Kapoor said, “is to do nothing.”
Kapoor, managing director of the EU-based economic think tank Re-Define, was finishing up an opening keynote on “Evolving With the Rapidly Changing Euro-Economic Landscape” at the PCMA Global Professionals Conference – Europe in Lisbon, and there hadn’t been very much good news. Indeed, Kapoor called his overview “a little depressing insight into the state of the European economy,” which he said is facing serious challenges related to taxation, unemployment, aging populations, disruptive technologies, globalization, security, and more.
But with great challenges come great opportunities, and that’s where Kapoor’s call to action came in. With his analysis setting the stage, Global Professionals Conference participants had small-group discussions around several questions, including “What are the advantages and disadvantages of your organization doing business in Europe in the next few years?” and “How will you adjust your business practices to mitigate risk within this unstable economic climate?” “Don’t be surprised,” Kapoor said, “to see creative, innovative changes that are game-changing.”
It was a thought-provoking start to the first full day of the Global Professionals Conference, hosted by the Lisbon Congress Centre (LCC) on Aug. 26–28. The invitation-only program, which brought together 23 planners and 13 Europe-based suppliers for a mix of high-level education and business partnering, began with an afternoon bus tour of the beautiful Portuguese capital followed by a welcome reception at our host hotel, Pestana Palace, a magnificent 19th-century music box of high ceilings, grand staircases, and French-dressed salons. Then it was off to dinner at the São Jorge Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the city center and the Tagus River, with fortifications dating to the mid-11th century.
At the LCC the next day, after Kapoor’s presentation and an elegant, bustling networking lunch, attendees gathered for a Country Solutions Showcase, where suppliers — representing European destinations such as Amsterdam, Istanbul, Dublin, Vienna, and, of course, Lisbon — sat for 15- and 30-minute small-group appointments with planners. Dinner was at another gorgeous, historic venue — Tivoli Theatre, a relative baby at 90 years old, but still soaked in grandeur.
The final day of the conference began with more small-group work, with teams of attendees brainstorming solutions to three different scenarios related to holding an international conference somewhere in Europe. The resulting discussions, vigorous and fun, led directly into “Euro-Cultural Negotiations Workshop,” facilitated by Oscar van Weerdenburg, an expert trainer and consultant in multi- and cross-cultural international business dynamics.
That evening, there would be a visit to the Rua Augusta Arch, built on Commerce Square to commemorate Lisbon’s reconstruction after a massive earthquake in 1755, and dinner at nearby Torreão Nascente, a handsome event space that until 1994 served as the city’s stock exchange. But first, Adolfo Mesquita Nunes, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, closed out the conference with a brief discussion of the importance of tourism, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of the country’s GDP. Always popular with leisure travelers, Portugal is determined to become a top-tier meetings destination as well.
“We are quite aware of the potential of this industry,” Mesquita Nunes said, “and are working hard to make us even more competitive.”