Last week, planners and suppliers celebrated the first-ever North American Meetings Industry Day. With more than 60 events across North America, it was a positive leap forward for the convention community. I attended the festivities in Chicago. More than 200 people were in attendance for the inaugural presentation of the Chicagoland Four Star Awards, but I was most excited about just two of them: Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano.
Sirott and Murciano are a well-known duo in Chicago. As TV and radio hosts for WGN, most of the Windy City’s residents recognize their faces and voices. So why was I so impressed at their participation in the event? They aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of planning and producing meetings. They don’t have to worry about accommodating gluten allergies in a meal for 5,000 attendees. They haven’t stayed awake at night worrying about attrition penalties. Despite the fact that they do not have a role in the meetings industry, Don Welsh, CEO, Choose Chicago, says they’re two of the first names in his address book.
“When we have big news to share, these are two of the first people I call,” Welsh said.
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Whether he’s learning that Chicago will host the NFL Draft or the James Beard Awards or securing a long-term contract with a citywide convention, Welsh recognizes the importance of developing a close partnership with the local press. Sure, he needs to spend plenty of time nurturing relationships with prospective clients who will bring business to the city. After all, he is in charge of making sure that attendees, business travels and leisure guests keep Chicago highlighted on their maps. Yet, he knows that the residents of the city are just as important in the process. He needs the support of the people who live, work and pay taxes in Chicago. He needs them to understand why it’s hard to get a cab when HIMSS is in town or why downtown traffic is especially clogged when RSNA is happening. He needs them to know that all of those attendees play a huge role in the city’s continued success. Sirott and Murciano are the channel to deliver that message.
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Our industry is still working to articulate its value, and the Meetings Mean Business coalition is helping planners and suppliers realize the need to constantly rally around the positive impact they have on the world. However, that rallying cry relies on more than conducting economic impact studies and trumpeting impressive statistics about attendee spending. It relies on an everyday engagement strategy from CVBs across the country and their communications teams — a strategy that aims to educate those who are not booking hotel blocks and making site visits about what the meetings industry really means.
What else do you think we can do to help connect the dots between the attendees at conventions and the people who call those host cities home? Go to Catalyst
to share your thoughts.