6 Creative Ways Cities Are Appealing to Life Sciences

Your host destination isn’t just a random city, it’s a strategic partner ready to help ensure your meeting content is aligned to resources and expertise.

When it comes to choosing a destination for your association’s conference, following the crowd isn’t always the right way to go. Just because a city regularly hosts meetings or is a popular tourist destination doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fit for your organization. Life science associations in particular require unique resources and support to help delegates advance their interpersonal and professional goals.

“The decision of where to hold a meeting is a business decision,” says Claire Smith, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the Vancouver Convention Centre and chair of the Professional Convention Management Association Board. “Every organization is going to define success a little differently, but if success means attendance, a rich program, a meaningful and engaging experience, or learning for the delegates, then I think alignment with a community helps support that business decision.”

To ensure alignment with subject matter, numerous cities have begun guiding associations to take advantage of resources within their borders. In the life sciences community, it is Canadian cities that have taken the lead, creating an environment for relevant conferences. As global leaders and influential partners in the life sciences industry, Canadian cities are offering their research and expertise to help associations plan unforgettable meetings, specifically by using these six key tactics:

1. Ensure Proximity to Industry Clusters

Conference attendees want to be where the action is. Ensure that they get to interact with local industry by selecting a host destination with easy access to top life science entities. Delegates from around the world have found their place in Toronto, Canada’s largest center of excellence for life sciences. The city is home to dozens of biotech, medical research, medical device and pharmaceutical companies, both multinational and homegrown. The robust ecosystem is supported by more than 36,000 people working in these subsectors. Toronto is renowned for its research community as well, with more than 1,400 clinical trials to its name. Being near a cluster of expertise ensures that delegates get to experience meeting content firsthand.

2. Provide Access to Centers of Research and Education

Every day, university faculty and students are working toward breakthroughs in their respective fields. Meeting planners would be remiss not to take advantage of these institutions for their delegates’ benefit. The life sciences in particular are well represented at Canadian universities, many of which house world-renowned research institutions. In addition to the aptly named Life Sciences Research Institute at the University of British Columbia, the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases at the University of Alberta and Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning at McGill University in Montréal are also excellent sites for hands-on learning.

The Steinberg Centre is “a great center of excellence that uses medical simulation to enhance the skills of health care professionals,” says Filomena Picciano, Director of Operations at the Canadian Society of Nephrology. “Now with the new CHUM hospital, this gives the city even more and great opportunities with simulation.”

**3. Networking with Startups, Incubators and Accelerators **

Give delegates an up-close look at industry development with local startups, incubators and accelerators. In Toronto, the MaRS Discovery District is a draw for conference attendees looking to flex their entrepreneurial muscles with fellow colleagues interested in the business side of the life science field. Attendees can get inspired to take their work to another level, with the backing of experts who can help them discover new avenues for life science research.

“The district is home to 47 health venture companies, providing space to build their businesses, the opportunity to raise capital to invest in their ideas, and a connection to corporate partners who can contribute to commercialization efforts,” says Tara Gordon, Vice President of Business Event Sales and Service at Tourism Toronto.

Ottawa can also claim bragging rights for its culture of innovation. Since 1995, the Centre Québécois d’Innovation en Biotechnologie has helped entrepreneurs in the biotech and health sectors take their business plans from the pre-incubation stage to acquiring seed funding. In addition to financial assistance, the QBIC provides technical support and resources to ensure that the biotech companies of tomorrow will flourish.

To see the power of cross-discipline collaboration in action, set your sights on Montréal, where Montréal InVivo encompasses the city’s massive life sciences and health technologies cluster. More than 600 companies are part of this vast network, with entities across the life science spectrum working together to build a strong, diversified knowledge base.

4. Access to Industry Ambassadors

Industry ambassadors make the case for their city as a conference destination and help planners connect their attendees to the services and resources they’ll need once they get into town. The Meeting and Innovation Network of Distinction (MIND) program through Tourism Vancouver is one such initiative, in which industry leaders in the life sciences and other sectors ensure that planners take advantage of their city’s relevant sites of interest.

5. Provide Engaging Offsites and Activities

You don’t have to limit your attendees’ conference experience to the discussions that take place in standard meeting rooms. With activities at unique offsite locations, delegates will have something special to look forward to in between panels and poster sessions. For example, the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa is an ideal setting for an offsite program focused on medtech or earth science.

6. Demonstrate How Values Are Represented in Venues

Your association’s meeting serves as a reflection of its values. Shouldn’t your venue do the same? Life sciences professionals especially will appreciate a venue that uses sustainable, environmentally conscious practices, such as the Vancouver Convention Centre. The venue is a rarity in that it contains a living roof, black water treatment plant and a kitchen offering fresh, mostly local food. To the east in Alberta, the Shaw Conference Centre runs a comprehensive sustainability program to reduce the carbon footprint of its meetings. The Palais des Congrès de Montréal is another venue that’s been recognized for its green practices. Its rooftop Urban Agriculture Lab is a model of innovation in sustainability, driving new approaches to urban farming.

It’s easy to pick a conference location based on what’s trendy at the moment. But for an experience that truly resonates with meeting attendees, keep your association’s content at the forefront of destination choice. With that purpose in mind, you’ll elevate your meeting from satisfactory to outstanding.

This article is brought to you by Business Events Canada. Learn more about planning your next life science event in Canada, or reach out directly to receive our knowledge maps, designed to help you determine exactly which city is the best fit for your meeting content.

(Handout photo)