There are 1459 international destinations all attracting international association meetings (according to the UIA) . The British Meetings and Events Industry Survey 2018 records 80 UK destination spontaneously mentioned by organisers of events.
How do you distinguish your destination and gain competitive edge when there are so many others vying for attention?
The key elements to focus for bids and proposals to clients on are:
- Create elements of surprise -of course itemise all the necessary details such as venue, accommodation, catering, transport etc so that you clearly meet the brief – but always add things about your destination that they won’t have heard before- that way you will stick in their mind.
- Focus on who the delegates are – what age range are they? What mix of male and female is there likely to be? what are their interests? How sporty are they? How well travelled are they and where have they visited before? In their field what ‘left brain right brain ‘ combination do they tend to have? This can guide you as to what to include e.g. many ‘geeks/nerds’ are musical and providing opportunities for them to jam and create their own entertainment goes down well -this is inexpensive to arrange and doesn’t involve a major concert being on in your town.
- Promote your intellectual capital – the academics, medical experts and prominent surgeons, industry gurus and others from your town, city and region that everyone in their field is keen to meet. State of the art factories, centres of excellence and leading areas of research and development are particularly popular. Even if you do not have major universities there will be more opportunities to promote your destination than you think. For example off the coast of West Wales they are pioneering UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles -drones to you and me) and getting to meet the people leading development is a great opportunity.
- Build in unusual and special activities -travel incentives are experiencing a revival but, even if you are only involved in association conferences, building in the chance to try something you have not done before or experience something from a different point of view -would break up the typical schedule of the conference – see the area from a small aircraft or seaplane, add sporting competition (with local sports celebrities of course!), get to join a rehearsal of the orchestra -your imagination can run on and on…..
- Legacy activities are the current buzz -set up and do the background work for the organisation to meet local people (in parks or shopping centres for example) and promote their products/science or benefits of good health or talk to school children about how medical breakthroughs happen and what impact they have. Their organisation can ‘leave a mark’ and they can show a lasting legacy for the conference.
At the MIA destinations summit 5-6 Feb 2018 there were some fantastic responses to my hypothetical events giving them the chance to put together proposals featuring the above. Here are just a few:
World Student environmental summit – Glamping, festival style with local environmental campaigners, opportunity to set up and follow through a local biodiversity project or regeneration of an area such as beach or national park cleaning
Training course for IT systems engineers – outdoor survival experience built into the programme – Bear Grylls style including hook it – cook it -eat it. ‘Dragons Den’ style session pitching ideas for new software or new development to other attendees and getting funding – with pretend money!
Canals Conference -Canal based treasure hunt on barges. Hands on ‘clear up canal paths’ campaign, Create a Graffiti wall within a canal tunnel to promote the environment and/or history of canals.
International Stainless Steel Forum -visit a major innovative factory, virtual engineering centre, Design competition to design and have made a new stainless steel product – getting local students involved. Visit to relevant place such as Sheffield to hear the background and importance of stainless steel to region.
So, no more boring bids – the sky’s the limit to your imagination – make your proposals different from the rest.
Some of the most successful destinations are shown here:
12th February 2018