Nothing Beats Local Knowledge To ‘Put Bums On Seats’

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation. Audience at the conference hall.

When an overseas company is planning a conference or event locally they typically enlist the help of a local professional conference organiser (PCO) to help target the local demographic.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

However, with this partnerships inevitably means the sharing of certain information and budgets; such as marketing.

Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo in Melbourne, Sarah Markey-Hamm, CEO of PCO company International Convention Management Services (ICMS) explained how PCOs are starting to help more and more with the marketing side of the equation.

“We’re actually telling the international associations how to market,” she told the audience. “And reminding them that when they’re sending out other emails to do with their brand, it would be good to have a banner ad from that conference to the website.

“Sometimes I think a lot of it comes back to how valuable the commercial relationship is between the international society and the locals.”

Stuart Ruff, director of meetings and events for US firm Risk Insurance Management, said that when they do their conferences in other parts of the world they don’t give their marketing responsibilities to the local PCO.

“I think it’s the nature of risk management,” said Ruff.

“We do all our marketing ourselves which is a huge challenge,” he said, admitting it was a missed opportunity to not partner with those locally “so we can make sure our marketing messages is specifically targeted to the audience”.

Markey-Hamm added not teaming up with the local PCOs properly means the international organisations are not getting the full advantage of the locals’ knowledge.

“The idea of using of using the local is to see how the locals behave,” said Markey-Hamm, adding organisations have to check what channels they’re using to target potential delegates. There’s no use using social media tactics in a country that doesn’t use social media, as an example (although you may be hard pressed to find a country that doesn’t have some sort of social media).

“Sometimes we forget that what we’re actually doing is putting a product to market. And it’s a marketing exercise…but you actually have to use the basic principles of marketing about getting the principles across,” she said.

Just because your brand has a fabulous reputation, doesn’t mean people are going to flock to your event or conference. There’s no ‘build it and they will come’.