Hot off the heels of not one but two industry nominations for ‘Best Destination Team’ and ‘Best UK Convention Bureau’ this week, Marketing Liverpool’s Convention Bureau have today announced plans to showcase Liverpool at Confex 2021, held in London from 1-2 September.

Business Development Manager and conference industry expert, Suzanne Watson, will lead a team of Liverpool ambassadors, managing the Liverpool Exhibition, meeting event professionals and keeping an eye on the competition and the ever-changing industry.

As Suzanne prepares to attend the event, we caught up with her to discover more about Confex, why it’s such an important event for Liverpool and why she feel’s Liverpool always shines when it comes to welcoming new events.

“We want to talk, face-to-face with event organisers, we want to get Liverpool out there and seen by the events industry. We want major event professionals to know about Liverpool and the truly astounding offer we have here. Confex is the event for this.

“This is the conference of conferences and it presents a fantastic way for us to connect with event organisers and position Liverpool as the perfect host city. Our target demographic is there in force, en-masse, all in one room, all looking to connect with partners who can help drive their success. Confex presents a unique and unmissable opportunity.

However, Suzanne is keen to stress that Confex is not just about meeting, exhibiting and being seen, explaining that Confex’s conference element is also a major draw and inspiration – often informing future Liverpool Convention Bureau strategy.

Liverpool Convention Bureau’s colourful exhibition display at Confex 2019.

“Real life, in-person connections are what the events industry thrives on. Since the pandemic, our industry has been hit hard but it has also adapted incredibly well, embracing new technology, taking events online, developing hybrid events and partnering with other destinations to hold one event across several cities.

“This past 18 months we’ve worked with event organisers to quickly re-tool, and develop covid safe events, design hybrid events and become the first UK city to host an in-person business event, after lockdown in April this year. This event was the launch of ‘The Good Business Festival’ that was part of the government’s pilot scheme to get the country up and running again.

“The seismic shift every industry has seen presents many challenges and opportunities and we want to ensure that Liverpool continues to navigate this new landscape effectively. This is the future and it will be interesting to see how our partner cities and industry leaders are doing and hear any advice they may have, in a post pandemic world.

Suzanne talks about the importance of synergy between events and their host city offering an insight into her perspective.

“A good host city complements an event. A great host city enhances and re-positions an event, so that it becomes even more essential and effective for delegates. We don’t go after any event, we’re selective and for us, it’s all about adding value. How can Liverpool add value to this event? What is it that we have here that would make us a better choice than London or Manchester?

“Maritime, heritage, culture, life sciences, business growth, manufacturing, energy and the visitor economy – Liverpool has clear competitive strengths in all these areas and it’s harder for other UK cities to compete at the same level.

“We also have a built in market for events in these industries, providing not only the right audience but often some of the best and most authoritative speakers as well. The cohesiveness of our offer and our connections is often what cinches the deal for us.

“Marketing Liverpool’s unique position mean that we can helpnmake an event run incredibly well. Our Club Liverpool network can connect events with the region’s leading speakers. Our Invest Liverpool brand can connect with indigenous industry professionals who may attend the event.

“Our VisitLiverpool and Marketing Liverpool brands can support and promote the event and Liverpool Convention Bureau’s strong relationship with venues and attractions mean that with us, event planning and design becomes so much easier.

Marketing Liverpool’s Suzanne Watson lends her support to VisitEngland’s recent ‘Here for Tourism’ campaign.

I talk to Suzanne about the importance of the events industry to Liverpool City Region and how this feeds into our broader visitor economy and she gives me some of the latest data, right of the top of her head.

 “Our visitor economy is worth more than £3.3 billion a year, contributing 48% of business rates and supporting more than 38,000 jobs. Events represent a hugely significant slice of this pie, so there’s an awful lot at stake when it comes to the region securing new conferences.”

It’s clear from our brief conversation that Suzanne is a strategist. She’s currently drawing up a database of Confex attendees and sponsors, cross-referencing this with their events, making a note of when they will likely be looking to book their next host city.

“There’s healthy rivalry between UK cities to attract major events. On one hand, we’re very supportive of one another, with joint bids and shared data and insight but ultimately it’s a very competitive marketplace.

“I’m not above adopting and adapting something that works. A good idea is a good idea and I love to see how other convention bureaus are promoting themselves. It’s very important to keep an eye on the competition. Nevertheless, people are equally inspired by Liverpool and what we’re doing here and I like that because it shows we’re resonating.

“It’s our job to stand out and we do. In this business, you have to be very proactive, it’s all about who you know, and making sure you’re front and centre when it comes to choosing a host city. One thing I always like to tell people is that Liverpool has all the attributes of a much larger city, with all the convenience of a smaller one and that’s great for events. Delegates can see and do a lot over a few days without traveling long distances and that’s a key selling point.”

Finally, I ask Suzanne about her ambitions for Liverpool’s events industry. If she could have any wish for Liverpool’s convention industry, what would it be?

“There’s real opportunity for further growth now. What we’re seeing is that in the digital age people no longer need not be all piled-up in London, or stuffed on a gruelling daily commute. I hope this realisation eventually leads to further devolution of UK powers.

“Developments like Royal College of Physicians ‘The Spine’ and Media City are great examples of this and what I’d love to see is much more of this kind of redistribution and investment in the north.

“I want more businesses to invest in Liverpool, to bring their events here and for our city to reach its full potential. Events can be key to achieving this. People come to Liverpool for a convention and they see how great it is here. They don’t forget and they come back and encourage others to visit as well.

“We can market the city all day – and we do – but nothing beats seeing Liverpool for yourself. One happy delegate can lead to a new conference and this can lead to relocation, investment, jobs and prosperity. Ultimately, Liverpool Convention Bureau works to facilitate a fantastic introduction to the city and this can lead to incredible things.”

For more information on Liverpool Convention Bureau, visit liverpoolconventionbureau.com

For more information of Convex, visit international-confex.com