The genuine smiles. The warm and welcoming hugs. The sunny dispositions and super-supportive atmosphere. The Meetings Show, held this year at ExCeL London, from 28 – 29 June, is always a fun and friendly event, where meetings and incentive travel professionals enjoy catching up, sharing successes and upskilling one another on leading industry developments and trends.
But make no mistake, participating cities and city regions are there to compete. Major events bring in major amounts of economic investment and can offer a huge, international boost to a place’s reputation and global standing – Think Eurovision, as just one recent example.
Lisa Owen, is Liverpool Convention Bureau’s Client Services Manager and one of the friendliest people we know. But Lisa loves nothing more than securing major events for Liverpool City Region and she always keeps her eyes on the prize as The Meetings Show. Here Lisa tells us more about the event and her strategy for keeping Liverpool City Region front and centre when it comes to shortlisting host city options.
Lisa, what can you tell me about ‘The Meetings Show’?
“It’s basically a giant tradeshow for the world’s convention industry, providing a global platform for event suppliers to meet face-to-face with up to 1500 pre-qualified meeting and event planners to showcase their destination, product or services.
“The show’s exhibitors come from all corners of the globe, with more than 70 international destinations represented, with a diverse exhibitor base, including hotels, destinations, destination management companies, conference centres, venues, and technology suppliers. Therefore, it’s naturally a pretty big deal for convention bureaus like us.”
And there’s an education programme that sits alongside the convention?
“Yes, that’s right. It’s designed specifically for the industry and aims to inspire people at all levels of the MICE (meetings and incentive travel) industry. It typically covers things like event technology innovation, industry trends, event marketing and research, meeting design, sustainability and diversity and inclusion.
“For example, this year I attended workshops and training on deaf inclusion, creating user-generated content to expand your event’s reach and using data to design a better event. It’s a very rich programme and it presents a more immersive way to meet people and make connections, as interactions are typically longer than they may be on exhibition stands.”
How would you describe your strategy at events like ‘The Meetings Show’? What’s the goal? How is this measured?
“Really the goal is to make the right connections and then follow them up. A successful showing at an event like ‘The Meeting’s Show’ should result in follow-up meetings. Lots of meetings. We try to position Liverpool City Region based on the needs and preferences of the event organisers themselves. It’s a great way to ensure you get the most out of attendance and we work hard to secure meetings beforehand with the organisations and people that we want to connect with and pitch to the most.”
Alongside members of the Liverpool Convention Bureau team, which other organisations made up our Meeting Show delegation this year?
“This year we were joined by eight partners, from across the Liverpool City Region, including; Liverpool Football Club, Hope Street Hotel, National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, ACC Liverpool, Knowsley Hall, Hilton Liverpool and RCP Spaces at The Spine, which was fantastic.
“With this one group of dedicated and knowledgeable Liverpool City Region ambassadors, we were able to tell event organisers all about our region’s event venues, sports industry, accommodation, culture and heritage and our knowledge quarter – which is world-class and continues to prove to be a great draw for events in the international life-sciences sector.”
What are the trends that are happening in the meeting and incentive travel industry today?
“Sustainability is huge, of course. Not only because of our strong international desire to tackle climate change but also because it can give you an incredible competitive advantage, when it comes to landing a major event, as well as attracting future talent. To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of money to be left on the table, if a destination or organisation has not yet started their sustainability journey.
“Here at Marketing Liverpool, we’re ‘walking the talk’ and we’ve developed a free programme of training, provided by the biggest experts in green tourism. This free series of webinars has only just begun and we’re encouraging all Liverpool City Region event organisers, venues and destinations to join us as we consider how they make their events more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.
It seems that ‘The Meetings Show’ helps to unite event organisers around specific issues, in order to drive progress forward. Would you agree?
“Absolutely and there is a special sense of togetherness at the event, which I love. Another critically important issue for the industry is diversity, equality and inclusion. We want people to really consider this at the very start of their event planning and to build inclusivity measures into the very design of the event, rather than as a tagged-on afterthought. In Liverpool City Region, we want our events to be accessible to everyone and education is really the solution.
“Closely aligned with this is the ever-growing importance of event legacy. This is when destinations, venues and event organisers consider the longer-term benefits of hosting a major event, outside of the immediate economic impact. What benefits to the local community might this event present? What social value does the event have? What opportunities will the event present for local businesses?
“This type of cohesive, longer-term approach to designing and hosting events has the power to greatly enhance an event’s impact and you start to see how transformative events can be and the broader benefits they can bring to communities, which can be very inspiring for organisations like ours. You can see this in action when you look at the work Culture Liverpool is doing post-Eurovision, with the jobs fair recruitment drives and their upcoming Eurovision Legacy Conference. It shows you how events can be further leveraged to bring greater benefit to communities.”
Speaking of Eurovision, what type of feedback did you get about Liverpool’s hosting of the event at The Meeting Show?
“It was overwhelmingly positive. People could not wait to tell us how much they enjoyed it and how well they thought Liverpool performed as a host city destination. It was a great ice-breaker for us, a great conversation starter on our Liverpool City Region stand. There was a clear uptake in enquiries this year, which is fantastic and we’re calling it the Eurovision effect.”
You mentioned the Liverpool City Region stand, which I believe always draws a lot of people. Tell me about that.
“Part of what we try to communicate through Liverpool Convention Bureau’s marketing and branding is the fun and friendly nature of Liverpool City Region itself. We’re not an anonymous place. We are a place of real character. A place that loves to have a laugh and show people a good time. Our presence at these big events needs to feel as inviting as the city region itself and as fun and as interested in people as our residents naturally are.
“Marketing Liverpool’s Senior Graphic Designer, Ian Slater, who also creates the design for the city’s exhibition presence at major events like MIPIM, has been evolving our look and feel over the last five years. Starting with a super-hero concept and evolving this into a Lichtenstein-esqe ‘pop-art’ aesthetic. This year we simplified the exhibition, going with a bold confident typeface, but still retaining a similar colour palate and look and feel.
“What’s great working for Liverpool Convention Bureau is that other cities and city regions often look to us and our exhibition design and we often see similar elements to our own pop-up on other stands in the following years. It’s great to be a trendsetter and I can’t wait to see where we take things next.”
It’s interesting to see how destinations can inspire each other. Ultimately we are in fierce competition with regions like London and Manchester. How does this manifest itself at events like ‘The Meetings Show’?
“The competitive element is always there, beneath the surface. But it’s not at all like we’re smiling through gritted teeth at other exhibitors or anything. Event people, on the whole, are ‘people people’ – you have to be in this industry and, on the whole, the industry is very open and happy to share insights with one another.
“It’s true that we are often looking to bag that same big event and we all firmly believe that our destination is perfect for it and can each quickly reel off all the reasons why. But it’s definitely more of a friendly, good-natured rivalry.
“Here at Liverpool Convention Bureau we try to lead the way, we try to set the standard and we are always aiming higher but we also keep a keen eye on other convention bureaus and can be inspired by them too. In business, you always have the twin forces of innovation and homage. You have to be open to both. Both things propel any industry forward and keep you competitive.
“Our strategy at events like ‘The Meetings Show’ is always to plan ahead, look around, listen, learn what we can and go on to innovate and hopefully lead the way. Securing major events is everything to us. That’s what we’re here for. In this industry, you have to embrace competition. We are not here to come second, we’re here to win.”
For more information on Liverpool Convention Bureau click HERE.