Mary Browne, CIS, Corporate & Incentive Officer, Meet in Ireland is one of two recipients of the David Riddell Memorial Scholarship, an award created in memory of SITE Past President David Riddell to provide an opportunity for worthy individuals to attend the SITE Global annual conference. Browne was selected by the SITE Foundation for her enthusiasm and dedication to develop themselves as well as the future of the incentive travel industry.
With a background in communications, my first taste of tourism began in 2015 when I was accepted onto a graduate program which placed me in Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority in Ireland. Up until that point, I had been working in a PR agency, specializing in consumer and sports sponsorships. All of a sudden, I had an exciting new challenge. Instead of telling stories about an array of consumer brands, I had an opportunity to shout about how great my country, Ireland, was as a business tourism destination. I was delighted to join the Dublin Convention Bureau team at the beginning of this journey, and have since moved onto Meet in Ireland, where I am now responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a leading corporate and incentive destination.
Admittedly, I was quite ‘green’ when I began working at Meet in Ireland and Dublin Convention Bureau. The vast array of acronyms left me scratching my head and, for a brief second, I doubted my ability to keep up with the jargon that is associated with the ‘MICE’ industry. Luckily, I had a great group of amazing industry professionals around who were happy to share their knowledge and brought me up to speed in no time.
One of the first industry events I attended had been organised by the SITE Young Leaders’ Irish Chapter. From the moment I arrived at the host venue, I was welcomed with open arms and knew that I had joined a special industry. From that point, I have seen great benefit in membership of SITE, and have found the SITE Ireland Chapter to be of particular importance to my professional growth.
Over the past four years, I have attended a number of events organized by SITE Global and SITE Ireland Chapter. One of the key things I have found is that the passion from members globally is contagious.
Since joining the industry in 2015, I have grown professionally and certainly feel that my involvement with SITE has helped with my progression. Some of the main insights I have learned include:
In 2016, during an education day with the SITE Global Executive Summit in Dublin which was hosted by Meet in Ireland, one of the key learnings I got from the day was that of the importance of personalization in incentive programs.
Certainly, from attendance at various industry events, I have seen how corporate gifting can play to this trend. Companies like Maui Jim and Nike both offer customized experiences that allows guests to choose gifts that suit their own tastes and preferences.
Working at Meet in Ireland, one of my roles is management of our familiarization trips for international meeting planners. After hearing about the importance of personalization and seeing how some major companies were operating, I decided to build in time for our buyers during their fam trips where they could select their own Irish woollen blankets in colors that suited their own tastes. This was a big hit with all of the buyers as it allowed them to choose a style that would suit their own homes. Many of the buyers agreed that when programming in Ireland this would be an ideal corporate gifting experience for their guests.
The SITE Ireland Chapter is a very active one and I have benefitted particularly from engaging with SITE Young Leaders Ireland. The committee organized a series of engaging events throughout the year. In 2018, I was particularly inspired by a storytelling workshop which had been organized at The Stella Theatre in Dublin. There was a fantastic range of speakers who discussed the importance of effective storytelling in the incentive industry.
Feeding on from this idea, my colleagues at Meet in Ireland and I chose to alter the general presentation used at shows like IMEX and IBTM, making them more personalized and memorable. During IBTM in 2018, I presented ‘My Ireland’ to hosted buyer groups, bringing the audience on a journey through my favorite holiday spots in Ireland and focusing on the areas I had once enjoyed as a child and now have the pleasure of rediscovering in my work life as incentive destinations.
The reaction from the audience was very engaging and as a result of the personalized theme of the stand, Meet in Ireland was awarded ‘Best Stand Personnel’ by IBTM.
From reading reports about trends in the incentive industry, wellness certainly seems to have become an important factor in program development.
During the SITE Young Leader’s Conference in 2017, I signed up to take part in an energizing ‘Sweatworking’ session- it gave me a good opportunity to overcome jetlag and network with my international SITE Young Leaders peers. Similarly, the food offerings during the course of the conference focused on healthy options with fresh fruit and salads rather than standard ‘conference fare’.
Part of my role at Meet in Ireland involves managing the Meet in Ireland stand at major trade shows. During the course of three days of IMEX and other events, delegates tend to be back to back with meetings, with short bursts of time available to grab lunch. Rather than choosing pre-made sandwiches from stand vendors, I have started bringing a chef to trade shows that can prepare fresh, healthy lunches that will keep Irish trade and their clients energized.
During IMEX Frankfurt in just a few weeks, I have worked with our chef to ensure hosted buyers attending hosted buyer presentations can get a ‘taste’ of Ireland through a sampling of some traditional ingredients and fresh smoothies and soups.
Within the entire MICE industry, sustainability has become an important topic. Certainly, from attendance at local SITE chapter events, the theme of sustainability has been discussed.
When organizing Meet in Ireland’s stand presence at IMEX and IBTM this year, I have made a conscious effort for the stand to be more sustainable. Aside from cutting down on printed collateral, Meet in Ireland will now provide reusable coffee cups for delegates along with a sink on stand to wash out coffee cups when needed. We will have a recycling bin on stand where delegates can dispose of recyclable materials and water coolers where delegates can rehydrate instead of using single use plastic bottles.
Working as a tourism board, Meet in Ireland aims to lead by example and place emphasis on the importance of sustainability.
Social media in the events industry enables audiences from around the world to join the action and keep up to date on topics of interest. SITE’s online presence is particularly strong and during events like SITE Global Conference, I was kept up to date with all of the fun throughout the few days.
During a number of SITE Ireland Chapter events, I was lucky enough to hear from SITE’s Director of Social Media, Aoife McCrum, about the best ways to engage online.
One of my latest projects, Meet in Ireland 2019, welcomed almost 60 international incentive buyers to Ireland to engage in various FAM trips, a B2B workshop, networking activity and gala dinner with top quality Irish suppliers. During this program, I paid particular importance to social media and succeeded in earning over 30,000 impressions online.
This was a great way for Irish trade to keep track of what was happening and for buyers to share experiences with international peers.
From attending various international events and seeing the broad range of educational opportunities associated with the event industry, I am keen to keep learning and progressing.
Working as part of Ireland’s tourism board, I feel that it is vitally important to educate myself as to the workings of the incentive industry and to keep on top of latest industry trends in order to represent Ireland to international planners.
One particular accreditation I have been interested in achieving has been that of Certified Incentive Specialist. Partnering with SITE, Meet in Ireland is offering Irish suppliers an opportunity to take this exam in an attempt to strengthen ‘Team Ireland’ and help us to keep ahead of competitors.
Having joined the industry as a graduate with little knowledge into the industry, I have since been offered a permanent position in Meet in Ireland and have been promoted within the team in a single year. Looking ahead, I hope to help future graduates learn all about the incentive industry and inspire international planners to choose Ireland for their programs. Similarly, I hope to help the wider ‘Team Ireland’, made up of quality suppliers, get in front of international planners and showcase our beautiful country on a global stage.
SITE has been truly instrumental in my personal and professional growth throughout the past few years and I feel that I will apply learnings to future projects to help continue to promote Ireland as a leading business tourism destination.
About Mary Browne
With a background in PR, I joined the world of MICE in 2015. Over the past four years, I have worked as part of Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s National Tourism Development Authority. I originally began working as part of the Dublin Convention Bureau team, promoting Dublin as a leading business tourism city. In my current role at Meet in Ireland, I have the pleasure of promoting the beautiful island of Ireland as a leading destination.
As part of the Corporate and Incentives team at Meet in Ireland, Mary Browne is responsible for promoting Ireland as a MICE destination. She worked for two years in the Irish PR industry, before entering the world of business tourism in 2015 by joining the Dublin Convention Bureau team.
“I hail from the lovely town of Tullow in Carlow but have been living in Dublin in recent years. I love to travel to new parts of the world and experience different cultures, but it’s always nice to have a weekend at home with family and friend. One of my favorite sayings is one passed on to me by my Mam: ‘Don’t knock it ’til you try it.’ So far, it hasn’t steered me wrong.”