Why Content Should Matter When Choosing a Meeting Location

15 June 2019

Savvy conference and convention planners know that there is an irrefutable link between an event’s program content and its overall success (think: increased registrations, more sponsorships and glowing attendee appreciation). Did you also know that content can play a huge role in helping event planners to scout out and choose a destination and host city?

Virginie De Visscher, from Business Events Canada and Marie-Elaine Lemieux, Sales Manager at the Québec City Convention Centre, share their expertise on why key industries and content play a huge role when choosing a destination for meetings and conventions.

She has worked with numerous members of Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club in planning events in key industries, especially in the scientific arena

“Scientific societies and associations all share a common mission to help their members advance knowledge in specific-and often highly specialized-fields,” explained Ms. Lemieux. “Experts remain members of societies and associations as long as the latter remain highly relevant and innovative. These unique needs naturally influence the location and the type of conferences societies and associations organize,” she added.

Three benefits for maximum impact

Ms. Lemieux explains that various host cities are home to highly specialized industries and research centres that event planners can leverage to build an impressive event program and topics.

A case in point? Ms. Lemieux used ACCESSE17, the CESSE’s leadership conference, which was held in Québec City in July 2017, as a great example. The theme, Reinvention: Imagine the Possibilities, required that the event management team and program committee find guest speakers and event experiences that could address the topic in an engaging and enriching way for delegates.

The event invited Dominique Brown, the CEO of Chocolats Favoris, to give a talk about how he built a multi-million-dollar video game business, sold it and reinvented both himself and a conventional industry-the world of chocolate. Organizers also held a workshop-concert with Les Violons du Roy orchestra so that attendees could glean one-of-a-kind insights into how the conductor’s work with the musicians could be translated into a practical model for leadership management in their association and organization.

“Tapping into the destination’s economic and educational ecosystem can do wonders to create unique experiences, attract more sponsorship dollars and access local speakers.”

“Attendees raved about the unique approach to the event programming,” she said. “I recommend that event planners work with local representatives to determine if a city’s key industries can help to play an active role in a convention’s content strategy.”  

In addition, Ms. Lemieux said a host city’s robust local network can also do wonders with respect to sponsorships. “It stands to reason that by choosing a host city due to a thriving concentration of businesses and research in a particular sector, sponsors are more likely to come on board as they will be showcased in front of the very audiences they are targeting.”

Canada: A leader in aligning centres of excellence with business tourism

To understand why a destination’s distinct industries and research can make a compelling case for holding an event there, it is important to look at a real-life example, like Canada.

In order to break through the noise to attract international conferences and conventions, Business Events Canada highlights up to 23 cities in Canada, from coast to coast and based on the Canadian Government’s top international trade priorities, key sectors where the country has a competitive edge, and which locations have centres of excellence, research clusters and flourishing industries in specialized fields.

“Business Events Canada basically mapped out, across the nation, its strengths in terms of innovative sub-sectors of the economy and aligned them with host cities that have the appropriate infrastructure, including venues, accommodations and transportation, to cater to major international conferences and conventions,” Ms. Lemieux said.

By doing so, Business Events Canada, now helps event planners identify the best possible event locations according to the conference’s industry, subject matter, attendee personas and more.

The ally to making the best decision possible? Research and local contacts.

Ms. Lemieux recommends that event planners should kick off their search for a host city by determining their goal, such as attracting a larger audience than at a previous edition broadening attendee demographics or even increase membership in this specific area.

Then, build the business case for each destination you are considering based on how relevant the local key industries, ecosystem and expertise is to attendees. Ask yourself what is unique and what value will the host city bring to the table? Can you rely on local support as you develop your content criteria and event program?

“Well-organized business event destinations offer event planners tremendous help in pooling local resources together to create conventions and conferences that surprise and delight delegates,” Ms. Lemieux concluded. Never underestimate the power of a city’s economy and research to pull off an event attendees be raving about for years!

Why Science and Content Should Matter When Choosing a Meeting Location was first presented in July 2018, by Marie-Elaine Lemieux, from the Québec City Convention Centre and Virginie De Visscher, from Business Events Canada at ACCESSE18, which was held by the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE).

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