Conferences across the globe are increasingly opening their doors to let the public in.
While the main play of any successful event will always focus on the needs of the delegates, meeting planners are seeing how these types of public invitations and engagement — which show just how much goes on behind closed doors at a conference — are key to highlighting the organization’s mission to the general public and the broader community.
These public forums are also key to sharing the wealth of accumulated knowledge from an event with the host city. Recently, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, for example, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) ran a Brain Health Fair — a free, one day public program — during its conference of 12,000 neurologists and health care professionals. Part of a drive to open the lid on the wide-reaching aspects of holding conferences, people delved into the world of good brain health by holding a real human brain, fitting children properly for bike helmets and creating the opportunity for the public to attend and interact with top neurologists over the latest treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, MS, stroke and many others.
And the World Diabetes Congress hosted its first ever public awareness day before its conference in Vancouver in late 2015 — encouraging people, for example, to sit on any one of a sea of gym balls to reinforce the importance of getting physical to prevent developing type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Open Day also encouraged the public to meet the experts — from dieticians to endocrinologists — and take a free diabetes risk assessment.
Taking the importance of community engagement to heart, on Canada Day (July 1), we’ll be swinging open our doors again, too, and inviting the public to our Vancouver Convention Centre Open House. It’s also a chance to explore the world’s first LEED® Platinum-certified convention centre and learn about which types of events – from the diabetes congress, which attracted more than 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries, and the World Congress of Dermatology, to the renowned TED Conference, and the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual professional conference – run at the Convention Centre throughout the year.
And, of course, it’s a perfect way to show the significant value these conferences bring local regions across the globe. In 2015 delegates visiting the Vancouver Convention Centre brought approximately $311 million in economic impact to the city through their associated spending at local hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses in the area.
Letting the public in and allowing them to take away so much from conferences across the globe is clearly working as an imaginative win-win for convention organizers.