Henrik von Arnold

I want it all and I want it now … for free!

Henrik von Arnold

“The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” is back on his horse and leads another charge against windmills and bad habits in our industry. Get ready for it!

Is knowledge for free? Do years of investment in your own product development become a free commodity, just to be consumed by your colleagues and by your competitors? Without getting anything in return? Moneywise or by other means?

During the 15 years I worked at Convention bureaux in Sweden, this attitude kept stunning me. And it still does, as it continues to be a common practice nowadays. Just because they are colleagues within the same industry, CVBs take for granted to be informed and taught how we do things to be successful.

At the beginning we did this because we wanted to help a friend. However, after a while we stopped doing it as it was so obvious they were not ready to give anything in return.

My then employer was seen as one of the best-organized DMO in Europe; a brilliant vision, great plans for the future and a thought leader for local destination development. We welcomed on average 2-4 visits per month from other DMOs who wanted to learn and understand, and we were, of course, proud to be recognized. After a couple of years we decided to NOT do this for free anymore. It took too much time to prepare and organize these study visits. We realized we just gave away years of investment … for free. Therefore, we put a price tag on it. If I remember right, it was about EUR 2,500 for a day of in-depths presentations and talks. And –surprise, surprise! – suddenly we only had 1 visit per month. Our experience and knowledge was not of any value any longer.

I admit I loved doing the Bidding session at ICCA; helping and teaching about the bidding process to attract association business events, even before my time as a consultant. I was recognized as a professional and a bit proud. We actually have a word for this co-competition. OK, the audience pay through their delegate fee – which is mainly paying for the venue, lunches, technology, organizers costs, and for some keynote speakers – but not for the about 30-40 speakers from the meetings industry sharing their knowledge and experiences. Is this really sustainable?

Why should some destinations or companies invest hard work, loads of money, creativity, human resources, so certain other destinations can just reap the fruits of that effort? All under the common assumption of “well, we are colleagues after all and can you give me your best advice ….. for free”.
Why are we prepared to buy cars, cereals, hotel rooms, food, train tickets but we are not able to see the value of knowledge?

Now that I am working as a consultant – with some meeting’s industry experience AND from other areas, which could come in handy- has become clear to me. Very few are actually prepared to pay for education or for advice and support to have a speaking partner, apparently because

1. They do not see the value of it or
2. They think or know they can get the knowledge for free from a colleague.

Is there any other knowledge-based-industry working like this? Pharmaceutical? No. Car industry? No. IT? No. The Gaming industry? No. Not even the new-shared economy companies give their ideas and product development secrets away for free. So why should we?

I think it’s time that we start to value the experience and knowledge among our colleagues in the industry. Understanding that you cannot take for granted to make the big leap from little knowledge to expert without having to pay for it.