As meeting professionals check off the items on a to-do list for an upcoming conference, it can be challenging to think much further than the short-term results: how this year’s registration numbers and this year’s sponsorship revenue will help the organization. The immediate impact of work is understandably top-of-mind, but bringing thousands of attendees together carries huge implications for the bigger picture. From influencing public policy decisions to securing funding for new medical research to tackling climate issues, conventions represent an opportunity to change the world. More organizations are recognizing the role they and their attendees can play in fueling those opportunities.
“We are seeing a growing trend for leading associations to measure the success of meetings and conferences not only by delegate numbers, new sponsors, great keynotes or smooth operations,” Karen Bolinger, CEO of the Melbourne Convention Bureau and Chair of BestCities, said. “Real success is seen as something more enduring, something that will make a long-term difference.”
For a preview of what that success looks like, consider these recent examples from the convention industry.
Shaping The Blueprints For A New Bogotá
Sometimes, the impact of a convention arrives before a destination even wins the business. As the Greater Bogotá Convention Bureau worked to secure the rights to host the 2017 One Young World Summit, the team worked to instill a deeper sense of national pride among the local community with a campaign that rallied citizens behind the bid for the conference. “We want to create our future with OYW” became a slogan that reminded Colombians of the bright future ahead. It paid off, too. Not only did Bogotá win OYW, the GBCB also won the International Congress and Convention Association’s award for Best PR.
“In Bogotá, we understand the events industry as a powerful tool that can be used as an agent of change to consolidate different productive sectors and relevant initiatives of the city and the country,” Linda Garzón, Marketing and Events Manager of GBCB, said. “But is through the power of people that we can reach the best results.”
As Colombia continues to shed its former reputation as a failed state and emerge as a global hub of innovation, welcoming the brightest young minds from around the world to Bogotá for OYW will certainly accelerate the country’s rise and leave a legacy within the local community.
Fueling The Future Of Healthcare
When more than 10,000 attendees at the World Diabetes Congress in 2013 departed Melbourne, they didn’t just leave with more education credits. They left knowing that their time in Australia helped pave the way to a major new development: the launch of the Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network. As part of the International Diabetes Federation, the new group is working to “influence governments, key decision-makers and others to take action to support diabetes prevention, management plans and strategies.” As diabetes persists as one of the world’s most widespread medical challenges, the impact of the congress in Melbourne will live on with Parliamentarians working together to make bigger strides in the fight against the disease.
Creating A Community-Wide Dialogue
When attendees came to Vancouver for TED in March, it’s safe to say that the majority of residents in the city didn’t join them inside the Vancouver Convention Centre. The conference was sold out, and even if they were early enough, the price tag started at a steep $8,500. However, they could still be part of the action. At the 2015 edition of the conference, TED and Tourism Vancouver worked together to live stream the TED talks at secondary schools, libraries, community centers and cafés. Members from around the community were able to tune into discussions of some of the biggest issues facing the world.
“Airing the TED Conference talks in real-time gave Vancouver locals and visitors from all backgrounds and walks of life the opportunity to participate in a conference that they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend,” Sonu Purhar, Travel Media Relations Specialist, Tourism Vancouver, said. “TED organizers were very mindful of engaging with the local community, and this year’s free live stream made the conference more accessible than it’s ever been.”
Whether watching philanthropists, scientists or explorers, the conference helped shape conversations about the future throughout the entire city — conversations that may just pave the way toward new companies and new ideas.
How has your conference created a bigger impact? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on your organization’s lasting legacy.
This educational article was brought to you by BestCities, the first convention bureau alliance. With 12 destinations around the world, each member of the BestCities network is committed to the highest level of service and works to make planning programs simple and successful. A unique data exchange process connects staff across six continents to share information smoothly. If you are interested in learning how BestCites can help you plan better meetings and create lasting legacies, click here to get in touch with the team. Be sure to check out what your colleagues are saying about BestCities, too.