A retrospective view on the position of convention bureaus
Kongres Magazine’s article titled Convention Bureaus 4.0., published in 2017 is more prompt now than ever. The article focuses on the trends, new professions, and the challenges that newly-founded convention bureaus are confronted with. The methods and tips for convention bureaus, mentioned in the article, are still valuable and perhaps the best advice during the present corona crisis.
I agree with the assertion that predicting the future is rather ungrateful doing. Mainly due to the complexity and heterogeneity of the whole industry. The fundamental difference between public, public-private and private convention bureaus are rather large, but mostly on the same mission – improving the visibility of activities and enabling the development of convention destinations through effective marketing.
We have carried out a series of discussions with the leading representatives in the industry, who are normally asked also about the future of convention bureaus. We have combined the most interesting ideas and proposals into the following ten trends for reflection and consideration.
“We live in a period of inflation of convention bureaus, which operate in a highly competitive environment and are in my opinion in front of a series of challenges, which are driven by the rapid digitalization.”
However, before we start to list them, it would be great to quote the information by IT giant Oracle, which served with the figure, that since year 2000, as much as 52 percent of companies from a list of five hundred largest companies in the USA have collapsed, because they did not properly adjust the digital age.
The method of work as we know it today is not comparable with the work ten years ago. Further on you can read about trends, keywords and new professions, which I believe will shape the future convention bureaus.
1. Smart specialisation
The period, when all of the congress destinations directed to all markets is definitely over. The competition became so great, that only the smart specialization for one of the products, which is strategically written on the skin to the destination, is the option left. Smart specialization or clustering (the old name, but it goes for the same story) is a way of integration and performance, which has proved to be extremely useful in terms of creating benefit and improving the competitiveness of the participating partners.
- Keyword: Smart specialization
- New Profession: Cluster Coach
2. Co-working Culture
Convention bureaus need to create an ecosystem and support environment for the whole community congress. Awareness of community interests over the interests of individual members will be the heart of the bureaus of the future. A new culture based on cooperation, mutual assistance, and knowledge sharing, rather than on lobbying, elitism, and Masonic congress lodges. Closing the borders and creating impossible conditions for entry is the death for the congress community of the future.
- Keyword: Co-working
- New profession: MICE Community manager
3. Incubators of local meetings and events
Smart Destinations modelled on start-up accelerators encourage the formation of local events, which are tied to a specific destination in the long term. With that, the destination is becoming independent of current market conditions on the international market. With the selecting and development of events, professional Meeting Designers will be there for help. They will be able to identify the benefit of the projects with their set of tools.
- Keyword: Meeting and Event Incubator
- New Profession: Meeting Designer
4. ‘Off the Beaten Track’ Marketing
The greatest devourer of the free capital for the innovative marketing are the large business events. It seems that the destinations became the hostages of extremely costly marketing format. Marketing of this type is driven by ego, in terms of presence due to the construction of the image in sumptuous stalls. If you are very well aware of your target group, plenty of other more effective marketing channels on direct, digital or guerrilla drive, are on disposal.
- Keyword: Off the Beaten Track Marketing
- New profession: Chief Strategy Officer
5. Convention Bureaus as Media Houses
The key competence of Convention Bureaus is the preparation of credible, high quality and entertaining information for its partners and potential clients. As a rare source of independent information, this feature is a perfect match with the new media reality. The great advantage of such thinking is in the effective building of relationships with customers, who cannot be replaced by any other marketing tool in B2B marketing.
- Keyword: Content Marketing
- New Profession: President of Content
6. Own Distribution Networks
Smart convention bureaus nowadays are already developing their own distribution networks, through which they are communicating with their potential clients. The basis for that is a good database of customers, which is upgraded with well-supported digital marketing. All the stakeholders from the destination are included in the system, which is based on the principle of a platform for mass financing, which created a sort of crowd selling communication platform.
- Keyword: Crowdselling Communication
- New Profession: Interventionist
7. Pop-up Convention Bureaus
The future will show time-limited Pop-Up convention bureaus, which will be set up for a short time and for a project. Their work will not be limited by high fixed costs; the aim will be highly project-oriented. In certain destinations, they will present serious competition to traditional convention bureaus.
- Keyword: Pop-Up Convention Bureau
- New Profession: Fusionist
8. MICE Start-up Accelerators
Accelerators of start-up companies, associated with the meetings industry, are an integral part of the successful stories of the destination. Business mentoring, co-working spaces, start-up capital for new creative PCO, DMC, Incentive agencies. All that could accelerate the development of a congress destination and it will soon become a reality for our industry for a new development breakthrough.
- Keyword: MICE Start-Ups
- New Profession: Start-up Architect
9. E-Logistics and Open System Solutions
Computer science in a cloud, open and mass data, internet of things and the internet of the future, built-in smart systems, smart convention centers… all this is becoming a reality of our industry, which is increasingly driven by e-logistics.
New profession: Data Specialist
10. Creative Junction
The bureaus of the future will become creative junctions that will be driven by innovations and competence of the partners and not by the size of congress capacities. In doing so, the values of openness, inclusive community, connectedness, and involvement in various local and global, political, and social networks with similar thinking of a key meaning.
- Keyword: Creative Hubs
- New Profession: Creative Thinkers
Several bureaus around Europe are already making steady movements in the directions outlined above, particularly so the Scandinavian destinations. By their structure, knowledge and use of technology, however, many bureaus are still deep in the analogue age and for that reason some additional fields have been listed and that were recognized by our co-speakers as being essential for the immediate transition from the analogue to the digital era.
The foundation for a successful transition to phase 4.0 is to ensure the appropriate structure and infrastructure of your Convention Bureau. Through the discourse, 5 structural areas were exposed, which are the basis for any further development of the destination:
1. Transparency of Membership: Clear entry requirements for admission to the Convention Bureau, based on measurable and comparable criteria.
2. Quality Assurance: Through transparent standardization of members’ quality the congress offer can be assured.
3. Independent Presentation of Destination: Providing neutral, objective and professional information about the congress offer.
4. Managing the Destination: Caring for the load capacity of a destination and balance of the business members’ objectives against the public interest.
5. Fair Trade: Objective and fair arrangements between buyers and congress facilities providers.
I am often asked how I imagine the future of Convention bureaus to be. Usually, I tell them that we should start to learn from the best start-up companies that invest heavily in new knowledge and products. If you are able to sell more quality and more valued services, customers will be more satisfied, thereby the profit will also be higher.
Without setting out these basic activities, surviving as a Convention Bureau in the competitive market will be a challenge. Above all, you will need to know how to listen and to have your own ideas. The meetings industry is changing irreversibly – and fast. Meeting design thinking is penetrating deeper and is changing the culture of events and destinations. Therefore, it is already necessary to start thinking about new business models for the future, today.