Whether you’re planning a one-day symposium for a small group or a high-profile international conference over multiple days, the rules are just the same. Popular opinion has it that there are four essential elements to choosing a conference destination: travel, venue, accommodation, and the ‘beyond conference’ experience: those extras that only come from being in that particular place, whether it’s purely content-related, because of the knowledge that is there, or because there’s a strong entertainment component to it.
The ‘whole-of-a-city’ approach is also important: as a meeting planner, you should be able to access the right people, the right speakers, the right sponsors, the right suppliers, and it’s usually the job of the local convention bureau to make sure this happens flawlessly, to make sure everybody works hand in hand for event success.
The 2022 European Society of Endodontology Biennal Congress, to take place at HUNGEXPO Budapest Congress & Exhibition Center in September with an expected attendance of 3000 dental professionals, is a good example of that. As Szilvia Böjte from AIM Group International puts it: “When we decided to bid for the Congress, negotiations went smoothly with all stakeholders involved: HUNGEXPO, and the Hungarian & Budapest Convention Bureau, who has been in contact with the Municipality of Budapest and who managed to get the free public transportation passes as city support for all delegates. Everybody was on the same page to put Budapest in pole position and that clearly worked..”
What also can help is to have a unique ambassador on site, who will be, in a way, the ‘face’ or the spokeperson of the event. Case in point: Eurohand 2017, which the Hungarian Society of Hand Surgery was instrumental in getting to Budapest. Nandor Matrai, Managing Director at Asszisztencia Congress Bureau,explains: “The unique feature of the conference, in addition to the live surgeries and excellent professional content, was the presence of Zsolt Szabó, who, at the time, was not only the President of the Hungarian Society of Hand Surgery, but also the Chair of the Organizing and Scientific Committees. He made sure that in June 2017 Budapest was not only the centre of Europe but also the capital of hand surgery and hand therapy. Since then, he has become President of the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand, definitely putting Hungary on the map in this very specialized field.”
Some destinations can help you take to places you’ve never been before, figuratively speaking for that matter. The 14th Congress of the World Federation of Interventional and Theraputic Neuroradiology (WFITN), which took place at the Vigado Concert Hall in Budapest in 2017, is a good example of that, where a lot of efforts were made to reduce the ecological footprint of the event, from a no-paper policy to a drastic recycling and waste management program. “This was the first congress that we were able to hold in a green way,” explained Andrea Székely, Weco Travel. “We tried to apply sustainable solutions in Hungary before, but the international audience proved this time to be more receptive, and we found that they were in fact ahead of us in all this. We received good feedback, our efforts were much appreciated. For us, this event broke many obstacles we encountered before.”
And perhaps most surprisingly, destinations can also be there for you even if – for reasons you will easily guess – you can’t meet in person. This is what happened with the 2020 Lymphoma Conference in Kecskemét. Originally, the event was meant to be hybrid, and Régió-10 was appointed to develop an interface that was supposed to replicate a conference hall – but online of course – where people who couldn’t travel could learn and network. “But further restrictions did not allow for an in-person component,” explains Ákos Farkas. “So we completely revamped the online interface a week before the event. As a result – and according to feedback we received – exhibitors received a lot of virtual visits, interactions on scientific topics increased and the number of participants augmented by a fifth. All in all, the event was a great success without any technical glitches.”
These are just brief overviews of how destinations like Budapest can add value to your event. If you choose them rightly and wisely, there are no reasons why great things shouldn’t come out of it.