Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2024

How Conventions Foster Innovation

Several industry reports track the economic impact of convention business, most notably The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy, produced for the Event Industry Council (formerly the Convention Industry Council) by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The most recent edition, released in 2010, found that the U.S. meetings industry directly supported 1.7 million jobs, accounted for $263 billion in spending, and contributed $106 billion to the country’s GDP.

Defining Conventions as Urban Innovation and Economic Accelerators looks at the economic impact of conventions through a different lens. The report, sponsored by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and conducted by Skift, a digital platform for travel news and research, examines the “legacy impacts” of convention business on long-term economic development of a city or region.

The complimentary, 67-page report is full of case histories of how cities as diverse as Albuquerque, San Diego, St. Louis, Las Vegas and Cleveland are positioning themselves to attract conventions connected with high-growth industries by tapping the region’s knowledge-based resources.

“Every city has traditionally sold themselves the same way, where everybody’s got a new convention center, everybody’s got new hotel inventory, everybody’s got great restaurants, great parks, and 40 miles of biking paths,” Melissa Riley, vice president of convention sales & services at Destination DC, notes in the report. “Now we want to highlight to the meeting planner community and the business community the intellectual assets we have, and our access to government that no one else has. That can help meeting planners enhance their content, drive their exhibitor base, drive delegate counts, and drive sponsorship to make their events more profitable.”

How is that strategy resonating with meeting planners?

“It’s resonating more and more,” Riley says. “We’re trying to move beyond dates, rates, and space. We’re trying to get planners to understand that our asset base of expertise can help shape their content and redevelop their show as a whole. So I would say this is resonating with planners who are more innovative, in general.”

The report concludes with eight takeaways to leverage conventions to drive economic development. Here’s the first on the list:

“Meetings and conventions should be positioned more upstream as global innovation distribution channels that support the networking and knowledge exchange required to build companies in today’s digital platform economy. The meetings industry has long been identified as solely transactional, working downstream to drive the visitor economy in cities during off-peak periods. To elevate he perception of conventions as innovation and economic accelerators within the meetings industry, forward-thinking convention bureaus should position themselves more intentionally as nodes, or gatekeepers, on the global innovation distribution superhighway. In effect, they are launch platforms for government strategy to develop advanced and creative industry sectors.”
— Regina McGee

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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