With two of the country’s leading convention centers—McCormick Place and Navy Pier—and the thousands of other attractions and accommodations that make Chicagoland a premier destination for domestic and international travelers, Chicago and the suburbs enjoy a wonderful partnership with the meetings and conventions industry. Now, trends within the industry—including advancements in technology, an innovative new model for hosting events and a creative gauge for measuring success—promise to heighten the area’s appeal as the premier location for meetings and conventions and bring even more business to our region.
As it does in just about every business sector, technological innovation drives growth for meetings and conventions. The development of cyber-communities of people with like interests, needs and concerns has broadened the reach of event planners well beyond a static marketing list. The ability to contact potential attendees 24/7 with customized messages and timely materials has improved the effectiveness of marketing communications. And, the advent and growing implementation of virtual trade shows, which expose a vast web-based audience to a world of products, information and ideas, may be one of the best marketing tools of all for increasing attendance at brick-and-mortar events.
While technology enables more extensive and targeted attendee marketing, joint-sponsorship of events, often called “co-location,” helps create a more compelling value proposition for everyone involved in the meeting or convention. In this practice, organizations—such as professional and trade associations, technology user groups and for-profit corporations—with shared missions and objectives pool their staffs, infrastructure and financial resources to hold an event, or simultaneous side-by-side events. This trend in meetings and conventions often allows a consortium of smaller organizations to have a bigger impact than they would individually, and usually manifests in the need for a larger venue and more services from their host city. Moreover, co-location presents a more cost-effective rationale for participation from potential attendees and trade show exhibitors alike.
Of course, efficient marketing tools and the most cogent value proposition won’t add to the attendee and exhibitor rosters if organizations don’t also see a return on their investment. But a different way of looking at the cost/benefit formula has participants now examining their return on objective. Companies that are again spending on meetings and conventions are adding new variables to the traditional financial analysis, gauging their success on how participation may contribute to their corporate knowledge and operation, and how it may impact an individual’s performance and professional quality of life. With this “bigger picture” measurement, any factor that enhances the meetings and conventions experience adds value to the equation and helps ensure a successful event.
Considering all these trends, Chicagoland is particularly well-positioned for continued growth in the meetings and conventions industry. To accommodate record numbers of meeting attendees, Chicago has an inventory of hotel rooms — at a wide range of price points. To house any size event, Chicago has an array of venues, from mega-centers to more intimate surrounds. To enrich the experience of attending or hosting a conference in Chicagoland, the region offers shopping, cultural and entertainment options that are second to none. Moreover, our geographic location, convenient airports, public transit and personal transportation alternatives put the Chicago area at the top of the list when it comes to just “getting around.”
Recent local programs have further enhanced Chicagoland’s competitive position against other metro areas. The McCormick Place expansion will accommodate even larger events. V.I.P. Chicago serves small conferences and is a great service for many professional and association groups. To attract tech-savvy visitors — including the increasing number of telecommuters, who are “at the office” no matter where they travel — the city not only encourages hotels and convention venues to offer Internet access, but provides WI-FI service in an increasing number of public locations.
Such “value-added” features, along with the Chicago area’s already strong reputation as an affordable big-city, big-shoulders event destination, will ensure our leadership position in the meetings and convention industry for years to come.
Henry Givray Chairman and CEO