Living and working globally is more than just a trend.
Companies exist and thrive while coordinated remotely by teams spread all around the world these days. Brands have combined local aspects with an international outreach. Professionals are traveling across the globe for business, work, and networking.
The global movement of assets, resources, and people has imposed a radical shift and made us rethink the way we build strong brands, exchange value, and interact with others.
Obviously, this reality is true for the events industry.
An event’s location—whether it’s a city, state, country, or retreat—has a multidimensional impact.
First, it’s all about the logistics and costs, plus the easiness (or difficulty) of getting familiar with the place, find helping entities (such as Convention Bureaus), and plan the event.
Second, the location will affect your attendees’ holistic experience, involving both the travel and interaction with the new environment.
Finally, your event’s outreach will extend over to the local economy, including financing the event suppliers, increasing the flow of people with purchasing power, and ensuring accommodation revenue.
That’s why choosing a city for your next event is not a task to take lightly—there are multiple conditions and aspects you must consider.
And if big cities would usually be more appealing for planners and international attendees, thanks to the easy access and built-in event infrastructure, smaller cities are slowly transforming into true gems.
Growing … smaller
As Allan Leibowitz indicates in a Skift article, “Smaller cities are aggressively chasing major events to capitalize on rising costs and availability constraints in the traditional convention capitals.”
He also adds, “Cities like Manchester in the UK, Gothenburg in Sweden, and Adelaide in Australia are harnessing all their resources in both private and public sectors and academia to attract major events and to ensure good outcomes for event organizers and delegates alike.”
Less costly, quickly developing, and interested in attracting big events to build a location brand and strengthen the local economy, smaller cities have become an important global player in the events industry, along with usual MICE cities.
According to Leibowitz, “Traditional conference cities are still the default choice for event organizers, but rising costs and strained capacity are making secondary cities more appealing. And some are working hard to show their unique benefit.”
Considering this new pool of infinite options, how do you choose the best small city for your next event?
We’ve put together a few tips to help you:
Tip #1. Define the caliber of the local expertise
Planning an international congress in a different city (or country) comes with an imposing pack of risks and problems.
However, you can overcome these challenges by preparing yourself in advance with in-depth research about the destination, visiting the location and interacting closely with the convention bureau.
No matter how big or experienced your planning team is, you’ll still likely need the help of local event professionals or institutions. Not only do they know the local customs and how things work better, but they can also bring the unexpected local value that can make your event memorable and impactful.
So before choosing a city for your next event, you must first evaluate its offer and define the caliber of the local expertise by analyzing the city events and who planned those events.
Tip #2. Evaluate the destination marketing efforts
There’s a big difference between small cities and small cities that want to attract more international events.
The former may be focused on generating programs for tourists at its best, while the latter will be actively building the necessary event infrastructure that will attract different international representatives of the industry.
Apart from that, they’ll have a strong destination marketing strategy in hopes of transforming their city into an appealing destination worth visiting and enjoying.
Pay attention to the effort these local authorities are putting into marketing their city to attract international events.
Tip #3. Assess the profile of the local authorities
When choosing a city for your event, it’s important to understand the level of collaboration that exists between the public and private sectors.
On the other hand, you also need to analyze how involved the local authorities are in promoting their city as an event destination. Usually, the degree of involvement will tell you how well the event infrastructure is developed and how welcoming the city is.
Tip #4. Search for organic networking opportunities
According to a Skift report, “Cities are repositioning their downtown cores as ‘Innovation Districts’ to better connect their high-tech and creative industries, research institutions, cultural venues and convention center districts. The goal is to create a richer attendee experience with more opportunities for organic networking and knowledge sharing between local and visiting industry leaders.”
The presence of different industry clusters and knowledge hubs will multiply the networking opportunities your attendees will have when attending your event, which will make their experience more gratifying and truly valuable in terms of business and collaboration with the local entities.
Tip #5. Identify potential logistic challenges
From travel and accommodations to venue facilities and public transportation, you must scrutinize every single aspect that may complicate the planning.
Is the city a reachable destination? While an exotic location always sounds exciting, if your attendees have to travel two days to reach the city, it may not be worth it. If the venue choices are slim, maybe you should be looking for a different location.
Finally, if the city lacks transportation options and the attendees will struggle to get from their hotels to the venue, you’ll have to look somewhere else.
In other words, before choosing an event destination, it’s important to consider all the logistic aspects to reduce the uncertainty levels and provide a truly gratifying experience to your attendees.
A small, yet impactful city
London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Miami, Las Vegas … all these destinations are wildly popular major event destinations.
However, there are so many other opportunities and smaller cities that aren’t only beneficial in terms of ROI, but can provide an incredible authentic planning and attending experience.
So instead of going for the next big, “hot” city, maybe it’s time to downsize and increase the impact of your event by choosing a lesser-known, yet cozier and more intimate city where you could invite your attendees to reunite and enjoy a few delightful days together.