Seeking a Good Fit

Gone are the days when associations decided on destinations based on the number of available meeting rooms. Here’s a look at factors in today’s competitive environment.

By Lane Nieset, Boardroom editor

To stay relevant in today’s competitive environment, associations need to be open to discussion, engaging with destinations as early as possible to start a dialogue. This way, CVBs and venues can understand their needs and the vision surrounding a meeting, instead of treating the interaction as a commercial one.

“The main benefit is to get to know each other and be able to understand from both sides — meaning the destination and the association — the goals and constraints,” explains Florence Bindelle, secretary general at EuropeanIssuers, the only European association representing companies with securities traded on stock exchanges.

As for the concept of staying relevant, it’s all about fulfilling your members’ expectations. An annual membership survey, for example, may help assess if your association’s services are matching your members’ needs. “You can also analyze your environment to see if others already [offer a service] or decide to differentiate yourself,” Bindelle suggests. While some associations offer education programmes in the form of certifications, others explore new markets in Asia or Africa or launch new products.

When it comes to destinations attracting the right associations, Per Morten Haarr, Convention Director at Stavanger Convention Bureau in Norway, says: “You have to stay competitive and really look for what’s in it for associations, both at a local ambassador level and for global associations. It’s only when you have that fit, when it’s good for all of the parties, that you can really compete, especially when you’re a second-tier destination.” In this way, associations can partner with cities that offer a strong ambassador programme and local research centres that specifically target their niche. The end result: aligning with the right local business and research community that meets an association’s goals.

Associations can also partner with cities who offer knowledge hubs in areas that correspond with their ideologies. For example, Dubai serves as a growing knowledge hub focusing on areas like health care and technology, aiming to draw relevant associations to establish a permanent presence in the Emirate. “Traditionally, convention bureaus and tourism boards have been showcasing the hygiene factors of a destination in order to draw in associations and their conferences, such as accessibility, infrastructure and service. However, Dubai is keen to push the boundaries by helping associations create a lasting legacy that goes beyond hosting association conferences, such as creating opportunities to recruit more members or providing access to local knowledge, new funding and partnerships,” says Steen Jakobsen, director of Dubai Business Events.

Three Tips to Stand Out from the Crowd

1. Engage as Early as Possible. “To create a trusting relationship means starting the process early, and in some cases, involving your local members or suppliers. For instance, large congresses might find it useful to negotiate a contract several years in advance when they have a good deal,” Bindelle says.

2. Look Beyond Money and Accessibility. Budget and accessibility tend to dictate destination and venue locations for association meetings, but what your members will likely remember more is whether the city was a good fit for your specific cause.

3. Choose the Right Audience. By finding the right partners and destinations who understand your overall vision, you can expect to achieve a greater impact and offer motivation for stakeholders involved. Destinations can help connect you to local talents, related ecosystems, institutions or policymakers — it can not only save time, but could provide you with several opportunities, such as sponsors, speakers, and new members.

This article was contributed by Boardroom.

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