Courage needed to recover from this crisis

Interview with Oscar Cerezales, Global Executive Vice President Corporate at MCI

Oscar Cerezales / MCI Group

Oscar Cerezales, Global Executive Vice President Corporate and COO Asia Pacific at MCI, is convinced that “scenario planning and courage is key.” Of course, the ongoing corona pandemic is also on his mind. In an open discussion, Cerezales provides insights into some of his key learnings, his expectations for the industry and the actions to be taken during the crisis.

Eventcrisis: MCI is a global event management company, active in over 30 countries. How does the current corona crisis affect your business?
Oscar Cerezales: At MCI we are drawing different conclusions from the current crisis. On the one hand, we are pushing ahead with our existing business plan faster than originally planned. For example, we can already see a rapid growth in the so called phygital communication. The offline and online worlds are increasingly interconnected. Therefore, our industry needs to further develop relevant business models and skills for these two worlds that are and will be more interconnected than ever. On the other hand, we can see the value of flexibility and diversification. Fast actions and a global portfolio are invaluable for managing uncertainty. This special situation clearly calls for VUCA leadership strategies.

#KeepYourDistance – what does your working day currently look like?
I am currently at home in Singapore. As part of the executive office, however, it is important to stay in touch with our teams around the world. Besides of some casual meetings I am spending most of my time at home. My days are very structured. I get up at 7 a.m. and catch up on the latest news. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. I work from home. I use my lunch break for lunch as well as some exercise and relaxation and I continue my work from 3 till 8 p.m. My work is currently divided into three equal parts: e-meetings, current projects and planning for the future.

With which ideas and concepts does MCI react to the current situation?
One thing has become quite clear: The industry is suffering, and consolidations will happen. The way the crisis is being handled differs greatly, though. Many players are currently talking about strategy. However, what they must realize is that execution is key! This is the most important strategy at this difficult point in time. In addition to the quick fixes during the crisis we must also devote resources to scenario planning for the future. The industry will not return to its full capacity right away and organizations will make more fragmented investments. Therefore, business models must be revised and ready for the Post-Crisis market. Lastly, one scarce yet important resource needed to recover from this crisis is courage.

What do you expect to happen in the event industry in the coming weeks and months?
Many players are expecting a recovery in the second half of the year. However, I assume that our industry will still feel the crisis’ impact in 2021. This also illustrates the key role of liquidity during this difficult period. In the past we thought that quality was king. It has become clear, though, that the scope for decision-making is very limited without liquidity. Cash is just as important as quality and the industry will depend on subsidies to overcome the crisis. Furthermore, we will also have to rethink the role of technology. The current situation shows that it can be an enabler and commodity, but not the silver bullet many players expected it to be. Apart from the obvious implications for our industry, I am disappointed by something else though: I would have appreciated one strong voice and more cooperation between the big global associations. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

In your opinion, what is the long-term effect of the current exceptional situation on events and event formats?
I believe in a bright future for our industry and expect to see more events than ever before. Certainly, the size and formats of the events will change. On the one hand, I assume that we will be seeing smaller events in the future. On the other hand, experience design, whether online or offline, will become increasingly important. There will also be an increase in digital and mobile marketing spending. I also envision a greater cooperation with other industries. Aside from these expectations, I would like to see a consolidation of and more collaboration between the large global associations.