Current Affairs

A Delicate Match-Making

Nienke van der Malen, CEO & founder of Conferli, argues that a good technology that helps you match your organization’s value and mission with the destination that will host its event is instrumental in making its activities a success.

The technology of venue matching has been evolving in the past years, and certainly generated a lot of benefits – and challenges – for the event industry. However, there are only limited technology options available when looking for the relevant destination for your congress, although the majority of associations have practiced the destination-first approach for decades.

In addition, the pandemic has created new rules and requirements which association planners must bear in mind. Also, the developments of the last two years have pushed the technology sector to support the event industry in multiple new ways, building a more diverse ecosystem.

In this context, it is interesting to explore the role of destination matching technology and the additional benefits it provides associations. The more established approaches, such as a specific rotation pattern or the role of local societies and associations, of course continue to play a role, but new avenues bring new opportunities.

Make or break

In this emerging ecosystem, successful events start with an intelligently matched destination. Whether the destination was chosen through a local host or because of a previous positive experience, the destination becomes an entry point to a venue as well as a broader network within the area. 

In many ways, destinations can make or break the life-cycle of an association. However, today organizers must consider something that goes beyond the internal factors within their decision-making process. With the fast-evolving health regulations on national and city levels, societal pressure on sustainability, and the growing competition for sponsors and members, having a wider range of destination options is certainly a strategic advantage. 

Additionally, there is high uncertainty about travel and safety restrictions. Decision-makers are not just putting out their bids, but they are proactively inviting local hosts and looking at the hybrid options offered by destinations. All of these changes are making a dent in the traditional rotation area pattern.

New game, new rules

The pandemic has changed the rules of the game. In many ways, for example, it influenced the decision-making process for conference destinations. Inclusion of protocols and safety measures, virtual site visits and the inclusion of virtual participants and contingency plans in bids are some of the more telling examples. It is expected that these changes will last and get even more established.

Recent studies show that 70% of planners are looking to organize hybrid events in the future, and you might be one of them. It’s not just about a venue anymore: virtual will be an important factor, as many attendees will not be able or willing to attend in person, especially if they have to travel. This results in smaller and more local or regional events, and a reliance on virtual event components to engage and reach a much wider audience. 


With this in mind, it is important to consider how a destination can contribute to the success of your event and how unbiased fact-based structured data can be integrated with technology to save time, money and resources when choosing the ‘right’ destination.

Finding subsidy and sponsorship 

Back to the strategic decision of selecting the right destination. Cities evolve and invest in certain fields or knowledge hubs, differentiating themselves from their competitors. A typical scenario would involve the following: if you organize tech events, a city with a high-tech knowledge hub can be a smart move. Since cities want to boost their profile by becoming a knowledge hub in a specific field, they are eager to host an event that will showcase it. This also means that organizing your event will be easier, as local governments are more likely to invest in an event in their field of interest. There is a greater chance of attracting more sponsors and finding local talent such as academics, researchers, businesses and public speakers that align with your event’s mission and goals. When you genuinely partner with a destination, rather than only transact with them for your meeting needs, you could discover all kinds of new opportunities!

One would argue that this approach and its benefits have long been part of the process. On the other hand, for many congress organizers, it remains difficult to dedicate resources for following through with this approach. It can be very labor intensive to find and benchmark destinations, and technology has the potential to make this process more accessible.

Unbiased decision-making

The world is information rich: one must be a dedicated event planner to find all the data that is needed to make a well thought out decision. Technology keeps improving and many great initiatives are available that can assist in finding unbiased data-driven information which is easy to compare and give great overviews of your options. 

By carefully selecting a platform where destination finding, benchmarking and tender processes are combined, time and money can be saved and invested in other important parts of the organizing processes such as member engagement or attracting more attendees. 

Increasing member engagement

Choosing the right destination can also help you to increase member engagement. As an association, you are constantly trying to find new and innovative ways to provide value to your current members, to keep them engaged and to attract new members. 

Diversifying the location of your event will help with increasing member engagement and will prevent some members from lapsing. Why? Well, when you select a new destination for your event every year, it is likely that the members of your association won’t feel left out. 

Attracting more attendees

A good match with the destination has always increased the chance of success of events.  In fact, a well-selected destination is the second most important factor in the decision to attend, according to research by the University of the Aegean & University of Peloponnese and the University of Birmingham. Nowadays, factors such as safety, quarantine rules and regulations are a higher priority than the distance to an international airport. In virtual conferences, the number of attendees is higher compared to live conferences. The challenge is to keep up the numbers when returning to in-person conferences. As attendees still wish to enjoy the destination outside of the meeting rooms, adding a couple of days of fun to a conference can increase attendance. 

The industry is showing that destinations, or even multi-hub destinations, are doing their utmost best for returning delegates, which in the end will contribute to the success of your conference. Partnering with a destination also provides great options for the delegates to discover the area and a way that feels safe and comfortable.

Destinations are no longer primarily selected based on rotation pattern and past choices and experiences. Uncertain where to start benchmarking? At conferli.com you are able to find out exactly what a city has to offer for your next event, based on new parameters as key selection criteria, such as hybrid and virtual meeting support, safety, sustainability and knowledge clusters. You can always sign up for free and explore the platform – this will help you to experience the potential benefits of the close event ecosystem in which destinations play an increasingly important role.

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