Innovative Meetings

Meet Glasgow’s Secret Weapon

Glasgow’s innovative Conference Ambassador program was responsible for securing 27 percent of confirmed conferences to the city during 2013 and 2014. Here’s how one ambassador was able to bring a 4,000-attendee conference to town in 2020.


One of the world’s leading cardiovascular scientists and clinical academics who has called Glasgow home for the past 30 years, Anna Dominiczak, M.D. — head of College of Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow — also wears two other hats: president of the board of the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) and a conference ambassador for Glasgow.

It was in those dual roles that Dominiczak — working with the British Hypertension Society, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, and the Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre (SECC) — led the bid to secure the European Society of Hypertension and the International Society of Hypertension (ESH-ISH) Joint Scientific Congress for Glasgow in 2020, beating out stiff competition from Munich and Stockholm. The congress attracts more than 4,000 delegates from around the globe and will result in an estimated £6-million boost to the local economy.

Although Glasgow City Marketing Bureau had bid for the congress in the past and hadn’t won, this year Dominiczak proved to be its ace in the hole. “Dr. Dominiczak has been on the ESH board for the years we have worked together with her as an ambassador,” said Aileen Crawford, head of conventions at Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. “She took over as president of the ESH board and she knew all of the key decision-makers.” When ESH’s and ISH’s boards voted on their 2020 host destination after  the ESH-ISH Hypertension Meeting in Athens in June, Glasgow won the bid.

Dominiczak is one of about 200 professionals — approximately 50 are from the life sciences — who currently participate in the Glasgow Conference Ambassador program. How are they selected or invited to participate? “We do a lot of research in competencies that we think suit the key sectors of our city: life sciences, engineering, medical, and energy,” Crawford said. “We’ll look at those and find ‘masters’ of those as potential ambassadors.”
Those key locals who become ambassadors are “influential decision-makers within their societies, and are well known internationally or well known in the U.K., and within their fields,” Crawford said. They’ve earned great trust among their peers, who “know that when a conference is handed over to someone who is our ambassador, the conference will be in good hands.”

After 23 years, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau’s Conference Ambassador program is still going strong. Having “economic benefit linked to a local personage,” Crawford said, “works for us. It definitely works for us.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.