Your annual meeting website is perfect. It articulates the value of registration. It highlights the number of educational sessions, the number of speakers, the number of like-minded attendees that will be at networking events and more. All those numbers should lead prospective attendees to the same conclusion: the conference delivers what I need for my organization and my career.
However, there’s just one problem with this belief. It’s logical. Unfortunately, logic is not always an appropriate adjective for human thinking. Robert Reid, an accomplished travel writer and the current Digital Nomad for National Geographic, reminded a range of representatives from destination marketing organizations of this reality on the opening day of the Destination Marketing Association International Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.
“Decisions are emotional, not logical,” Reid said, citing a quote from respected neuroscientist Antonio Damasio.
So what does this mean for the decision of whether or not to attend a conference? That all those numbers and tangible benefits of attending aren’t necessarily going to be enough to convince your prospective attendees to get our their credit cards and click the register button. Inspiring this type of action is going to rely on one component outside your office; it’s going to rely on the DMO in your upcoming host destination and its ability to craft a compelling story about what’s happening in the community.
Reid highlighted that the way travelers approach their journeys — whether it’s a family vacation or a business conference — has changed.
“We used to travel to see things,” Reid said. “Now, we travel to do things. We stay in Airbnb in neighborhoods because we want to immerse ourselves and truly feel like locals.”
With this in mind, it’s clear that telling the story involves more than providing a list of “Top 10 Things To Do” or offering discounts at some of the most-recognized tourist attractions. The story has to deliver some of the underground knowledge that attendees can use to be a real part of the destination — the best-kept, hole-in-the-wall bars where only locals go and the most captivating views of the city that they’ll be able to share on Instagram. Give your attendees places they can go to make stories of their own. That way, they won’t just return with education credits and business cards. They’ll go home with memories of why your meeting satisfied their emotional needs.
Have you worked with any DMOs that have been especially helpful in going above and beyond to help you find the right materials to create a strong story around the destination? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on how you think marketing a host city to your audience has evolved over the past five years.