Assessing the Power of Business Events

Beyond supporting the economy, our industry spurs social change.

Business events, we know, can be catalysts for transformation. Just look at an event like the International AIDS Conference. As a result of hosting the conference in Melbourne, Australian health ministers agreed to the AIDS 2014 Legacy Statement, a commitment to eradicate new HIV infections by 2020.

More recently, the European Society of Cardiology, noting that London has launched a citywide effort to prevent heart disease and wanting to expand cardiovascular medicine’s boundaries, announced it would meet in the U.K. capital in 2021, despite Brexit and the fact they were there a few years ago.

In this issue, as we celebrate our annual Best in Show winners, Convene also spotlights how the business-events industry has evolved in just the last few years. Our industry’s role in shaping the social agenda and leaving lasting legacies are deserving of this kind of recognition — and far more.

Events like those in London and Melbourne show how business-event organizers, DMOs, governments, universities, and communities are working together to create sustainable, enduring benefits.

Events have an impact. When we gather, knowledge is shared, communities are fostered, jobs are created, professionals see a city in a new light and decide to open a business or join a company or university’s staff there. That’s not the same thing as tourism. We are educators, business development professionals, and researchers, catalyzing the economic development of communities.

The Joint Meetings Industry Council is leading a movement to try to change governments’ perception of the events industry, getting officials to see events as what they really are: change agents.

DMOs can play a powerful role as we get more sophisticated about measuring the impact of business events beyond the initial direct spend. With all the measurement tools available now we can demonstrate — supported with data — how events drive change.

It used to be that a DMO would count heads in beds to prove its value. This is an outdated model. For example, if a nation spent $5 billion hosting the Olympics and brought in $4.5 billion, technically it would be considered a $500,000 loss. But that also would be a poor way to measure the Olympics. The Games create infrastructure and jobs, leaving a legacy wherever they are held.

Today, measurement cannot be just about the event. It has to be about what endures.

We recognize that there are headwinds against us, including trade policies and the rise of nationalism and its impact on borders, for instance. But nonetheless it’s an incredible time for our industry. We sit at the confluence of so much of what is happening in the wider world. We have a role in finding cures for diseases, making the world a more tolerant and welcoming place where diversity and inclusion are nurtured, and taking better care of our planet. We know what we deliver. We just need to do a better job of getting the message out.

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat is CEO and president of PCMA.