How To Get Attendees to Explore Your Conference City

A look at how associations and CVBs are using discounts and partnerships to encourage attendees to take advantage of all a destination has to offer while they’re in town.

In the latest issue of Associations Nowour Meetings Issue—Alex Beall writes about how associations must choose meeting destinations with attendees’ needs in mind.

For example, the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association’s Director of Conferences, Lexy Olisko, said the organization focuses on nearby nightlife in potential host cities “because once [attendees] leave the show floor, they then continue that business dealing outside of the expo in area restaurants, bars, and things like that.”

Likewise, the second Decision to Attend Study [PDF], which was just released, confirms how important a destination is to an attendee. Of the 8,992 current or prospective attendees surveyed, 78 percent said the destination factors into their decision, with 20 to 30 percent—depending on the generation—saying it’s the deciding factor.

While associations are becoming more mindful of choosing a destination that will get people excited, they’re also doing their part to encourage attendees to get out and explore the city while they are there—and it goes beyond holding evening events at venues outside the convention center. Here’s a look at two tactics that both associations and destinations are using.

Discounts. Who wants to pay full price? No one, which is why groups know discounts are one way to get attendees to take advantage of everything a city has to offer. During its 55th Annual Meeting & Expo last month, the International Association of Movers partnered with Sunseeker Tours to offer registered attendees an exclusive discount on tours of the Long Beach and Los Angeles area. IAM also negotiated attendee discounts at several Long Beach area activities, shops, restaurants, and museums, including the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary.

Some destinations also have their own discount programs for convention-goers. For example, Destination DC’s Show Your Badge program allows attendees to present their conference badges to participating partners to receive VIP treatment and exclusive discounts. Among the options are a 50 percent discount on admission to Madame Tussauds, reduced rental car rates at Enterprise, and 10 percent off a city Segway tour.

Partnerships. Associations are also partnering with food-related websites to get attendees to make the most of their downtime. For instance, the North American Spine Society partnered with OpenTable during its annual meeting last month. Each time an attendee made a reservation at a local restaurant using the service, they also contributed 40 cents to NASS’s Annual Research Fund—a win for the attendee and the association.

Then there’s the Bio Innovation Organization, which partnered with the online review site Yelp. For its 2017 International Convention in San Diego, BIO persuaded Yelp to curate and design a 20-page guidebook on the city’s top options for food, drinks, and diversions that was then inserted in 16,000 attendee bags. Even better: Other than printing, Yelp covered the costs.

“We got a lot of great feedback,” said Erin Lee, BIO’s managing director of marketing and event technology, to Convene magazine. “It was a huge win for our international audience to get that kind of welcome to San Diego.”

What tactics does your association use to encourage attendees to explore your meeting’s destination? Please share what’s been successful in the comments.

(Bayram Gürzoğlu/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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