A Digital Strategy

Conference organizers say they are concerned that the travel ban will make potential international delegates less willing to travel to their U.S.-based events. Do they plan to double down on their hybrid and digital offerings to offset lower attendance?

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Just 22 percent of people surveyed across 37 nations expressed confidence in Trump’s handling of international affairs, and just less than half — 49 percent — have a favorable view of the U.S.

For business event organizers who seek to attract international delegates to their U.S. events, this poor perception of the U.S. is a cause for concern. In Convene‘s September issue cover story and CMP Series, “The United States of Uncertainty,” Executive Editor Christopher Durso spoke with a handful of global conference organizers to see if they believe the current world view of the U.S. — specifically the ban on travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries that is currently hung up on appeal — will result in fewer international delegates willing to travel to U.S.-based events. They — and 61 percent of event-organizer respondents to a recent Convene survey on the travel ban’s effects — said yes.

We then asked survey respondents if they were planning to offer hybrid or digital events as an initiative specifically intended to offset fewer on-site international attendees. Nineteen percent said yes, and another 19 percent said that they already offer a digital component of the live event for an international audience. 

The uncertainty around travel has led the American Geophysical Union (AGU) to step up its digital efforts. AGU was already in the process of implementing a new meeting strategy designed to “optimize an individual’s meeting experience whether it was virtual or in person,” Lauren Parr, AGU’s vice president of meetings, told Durso. The current travel climate has only accelerated the organization’s plans around virtual participation, including allowing for remote poster presentations. “I’m not a good virtual attendee unless I’m engaged,” Parr said, “and engagement means more than streaming content for me to consume. Engagement for me and I think for most of our attendees means that I have to be able to contribute to content and direct my own experience.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.