5 Benefits of Booking a Conference Concurrently With a Festival

Don’t settle for average. Let outside creativity bleed into your event.

The average conference with its average programming delivers average results. If average isn’t good enough for your association, try a more creative approach to conference planning. Schedule it around a festival to provide an extraordinary experience your attendees will relish and remember. Here are five benefits of doing just that.

1. Take advantage of the talent in town

Hosting a conference during a festival gives you access to speakers and performers who usually wouldn’t be on your radar or within your budget.

Convention and visitors bureaus, such as Tourisme Montréal, can connect event planners with festival organizers and brainstorm ways to collaborate.

Save on travel costs by hiring festival talent to speak or perform at your event. For example, a filmmaker panel could discuss an industry issue or an artist could talk about overcoming challenges on the way to success.

2. Market to professional and personal interests

Location is a deciding factor for more than 80 percent of conference attendees, according to the Decision to Attend Study by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the Professional Convention Management Association, and Experience Institute. And one-half of attendees will extend their stay, turn their trip into a vacation, or bring someone along if you offer an alluring destination.

A festival adds marketing power to conference promotions. “Festivals offer unique selling points to potential attendees—a distinctive conference experience that appeals to professional and personal interests,” said Pierre Fortin, executive director of Quartier des spectacles partnership, a not-for-profit organization whose mandates include the development and promotion of Montréal’s downtown cultural district, which hosts more than 40 festivals every year.


(Vile de Montreal/Flickr)

3. Be a magnet for millennials

Design a conference experience that appeals to millennials, the largest population in the U.S. workforce. According to the 2017 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, millennials seek unique, personal experiences in destinations offering “cooler activities,” such as musical events.

Since 85 percent of millennials plan to get “out and about” during conferences, per the Decision to Attend Study, look for a location with festivals on its calendar. “Montréal offers dozens of festivals—music, comedy, theater, dance, circus arts—throughout the year, even during the winter months,” said Fortin.

4. Offer more entertainment options to exhibitors

Conference attendees won’t be the only ones excited by the after-hours activities on tap during a festival. Exhibitors can take advantage of unique ways to entertain clients and prospects such as behind-the-scenes tours, meet-the-artists receptions, or VIP passes to festival events.

One thing to keep in mind: Demand for hotel rooms and special event space increases significantly during a festival. Work in advance with your CVB to secure sufficient lodging and event space for attendees and exhibitors.

5. Get in on an emerging conference trend: creativity + business

“Conferences of the future will combine a multifaceted approach to learning with eclectic entertainment,” said Fortin. “You see examples of that now at South by Southwest in Austin and C2 Montréal.” These popular conferences offer a traditional schedule of educational sessions alongside art, film, music, comedy, and other performances.

Combine a conference and a festival for an immersive experience that helps attendees refill their creative well and recharge for the year ahead.

(Ville de Montréal/Flickr)