The challenge of developing a more appropriate value proposition for the meetings industry – one that better reflects our critical role in supporting overall economic recovery and development – was the focus of a very unique conference held earlier this year at the Royal College of Physicians in London.
This event brought together not only senior representatives of the industry but a range of academics, government policy experts, media, medical and other professional organizations and those familiar with the economics of business in order to take a multi-dimensional view of the situation and to make recommendations as to how the industry could better measure, document and present its value proposition.
The purpose of this wide range of participation was to ensure that the value questions were addressed not only from an industry perspective but also through the eyes of those who represent both the major “users” of meetings and those with the skills required to both calculate and communicate the value proposition. The results are of importance to everyone in the industry as they suggest the steps that will have to be taken to create a credible and comprehensive assessment of the role we play in supporting and advancing the global economy.
Over the course of two days, participants reviewed a range of both current and potential value estimation models, including economic impact measures and those associated with meetings “outcomes”. Among the major conclusions were:
- The industry needs to advance a strong, consistent and defensible value proposition in order to compete successfully for government funding and policy attention.
- There is a need to link the industry value measurement process to current government and business priorities for economic growth and diversification in order to demonstrate relevance.
- Although meetings “outcomes” represent the real reason meetings and conventions are held, not enough attention has been paid to their value because they are not as easy to measure.
- The current wide variation in economic impact models, particularly at the local destination level, means data is often inconsistent and therefore less credible.
The conference concluded with a workshop session in which participants collaborated on developing a series of recommendations as to how the industry could advance its value proposition in both the economic impact and value-added outcomes areas. Amongst the key recommendations were:
- To carry out an inventory / comparative analysis of existing valuation models and develop a means for achieving greater consistency amongst these
- To encourage the development of local applications for economic impact models in order to generate better data for use in individual communities
- To create a protocol for assembling value-added “output” values with emphasis on the use of case studies and examples to illustrate major areas of benefit
- To identify key audiences along with their priority information requirements and develop a communications “tool kit” to assist in this process, and
- To encourage event owners to assume a more active role in measuring and communicating value
The conference achieved its objective, which was to get a broad-based assessment of current value-measurement methods and to identify the steps that should be taken to make them more effective and compelling to key industry audiences. The challenge now will be to use the insights and ideas assembled in this way in order to move forward in a coordinated way.
In Canada, that means doing a much better job of communicating this broader role and value, not only to our respective communities but to the governments whose decisions will influence the future of the industry. And this isn’t a job just for industry organizations – it is one that needs to be recognized and embraced by everyone in the industry, including both suppliers and the organizations such as associations and corporations for whom meetings, conventions and exhibitions are an essential part of how they get things done.
Without this kind of initiative, the meetings industry will be left behind when priorities are set for how to encourage economic recovery – and both the industry and the overall economy itself will be poorer as a result.