How Local Ambassadors Can Impact International Meetings

Learn how 11 forward-thinking destinations are elevating the expertise of their locals and why planners and communities are reaping rewards.

Few planners would dispute the wisdom of working with CVBs and DMOs when ironing out the details for international congresses, conferences and events. But the value of a great convention bureau partnership should go far beyond the “room block + meeting space + economic impact = value” equation. Working together as the Best Cities Gloval Alliance (BestCities), 11 forward-thinking domestic and international destinations are striving to create meetings that will transform the philosophies and infrastructures of their host communities. But the leaders in BestCities know they can’t do it alone; instead, they’re counting on a key asset that can prove to be a big difference-maker in shaping a more dynamic global conference: local ambassadors.  In fact, most conferences that operate on an international basis (outside of North America) require the involvement of these ambassadors to represent the association in the host country.

By developing robust ambassador programs, these destination marketing organizations tap into local experts in key fields – from science and medicine to social work and education – who are willing to work in concert with meeting planners to bring successful congresses and events to their cities. These local experts help planners and attendees connect with the local community, enriching the event experience for everyone.

But the true leave behind, for both their ambassadors and communities, goes well beyond just visitor spending.  Beyond their role as warm and welcoming hosts, ambassadors play a key role in attracting world-class conference speakers, identifying research grant opportunities and attracting future congresses and events. More importantly, they often spearhead the long-term legacy projects that come as a result of their efforts.  “The legacy created from hosting a congress can be far reaching – not only for their university, association, or organization, but the lasting impact on their city is huge,” says Jane Cunningham, Manager of Business Development for BestCities. “For associations new to doing business globally, or in regions they haven’t hosted congresses previously, this is a fundamental requirement,” says Cunningham. “The program is such an important asset for the destination.”

At the upcoming BestCities Global Forum in Dubai, the alliance will host some 50 representatives from International Associations based all over the world. There, they’ll explore the possibility of developing a Global Ambassador Program that would bring together thought leaders, deans of colleges and universities and other bright minds in an effort to promote better local involvement in global meetings and events. A program at that level would be a huge leap forward for planners looking to maximize their relationships with DMO/CVB allies to make their events bigger, better and more appealing to the general public.

When I caught up with Cunningham and her BestCities colleague, Elaine Miller, Ambassador & Association Bid Manager at Convention Edinburgh, Scotland, they shared their top reasons why planners would be best served by working with destinations and convention bureaus in which ambassador programs exist.

CVBs Research And Connect.

Because they are the destination’s eyes, ears and feet on the ground, CVBs can often connect planners with key local movers and shakers. “We work hard to keep our eye on the people in our destinations that are involved in new scientific discoveries that might help to secure a related meeting,” says Miller. “We watch the news. We review the trades and search through databases, looking for local contacts. Then, we take the time to reach out and touch base with them – to ask if they’d consider becoming an ambassador, or if they might provide an introduction to someone who would. Often our existing ambassadors will introduce us to their professional colleagues.”

They Recruit And Train Local Hosts.

CVB-run ambassador programs give planners access to highly-qualified destination experts. “It is the convention bureau’s role to facilitate, educate, guide and advise these ambassadors,” says Cunningham. “They have to present the benefits of why being a local host for an international association is a wonderful opportunity.”

While the role of ambassador may mean greater personal and professional exposure, these local hosts also play a key role in selling the destination. “We like to host events which give them a chance to find out about venues and services,” agrees Miller. “They get the chance to see and do things that might not yet be open to the public. It keeps them involved in the destination from an educational and social perspective.”

They Deliver A Consistently High Level Of Service.

Planners know first-hand that destination experiences vary from city to city. It’s a big part of the impetus behind the drive by BestCities members to create an international program that guarantees planners consistent service in any one of their 11 destinations. And while the program is currently individualized by destination, the global ambassador concept is proving to be a powerful ace in the hole for planners hoping to build on success and leave a positive post-conference legacy.  “We hope that after Rehabilitation International’s (RI) World Congress in Edinburgh this October, we shall have been able to help realize the goal of making this city even more beautiful and inclusive of persons of all abilities,”  says Venus Ilagan, Secretary General, Rehabilitation International.  “We are happy to know about the support and interest of the city government, the people of Edinburgh and so many others to welcome members, partners and friends of RI from across the world.  We’re counting the days and are all excited to be there.”


Written by Jeanna Hofmeister, on behalf of BestCities and PCMA