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Can Your Meeting’s Legacy Be Measured?

A recent report helps associations quantify the long-term impact of their events on host cities—and on their own brand reputation.

As we prepare for the return of in-person meetings and events to the business landscape sometime in 2021, destinations around the world will be chomping at the bit to fulfill the needs of associations that will put on conventions and trade shows.

But with so much pent-up demand, planners might encounter strong competition in many popular meeting cities for space, rates, and dates. As a result, associations that can demonstrate the overall value of an event to potential host destinations could have the inside track to convene in their preferred destination in their preferred time frame.

To help associations do that, BestCities Global Alliance, a consortium of international convention bureaus, began a project about a year ago with consulting firm GainingEdge to help associations figure out the totality of their value both to their host cities and to their own industries.

This value comes not only in the form of economic impact for a host city but also through three other factors:

  • Professional advancement of the industry among the host region’s related organizations and institutions as well as its related workforce and aspiring students
  • The political, social, and environmental benefits of association-led initiatives in the host region
  • The positive impact across the entire industry that’s served by the association.

Based on more than 50 interviews and surveys of convention-bureau leaders worldwide as well as association executives from various sectors and disciplines, the alliance’s report, titled “Advancing Event Legacies Through Impact Measurement,” is now available for associations to benchmark and refine their legacy efforts.

Here are a just a few of the main conclusions from the 25-page report:

Legacy is unique to every association, and there is no single blueprint for building one. The reason: The end goals should be aligned with each association’s unique vision and mission. What’s more, associations are at different phases of their legacy-building process. The report identifies four levels and offers suggestions for advancing to each subsequent level.

Meeting outcomes are not meeting legacy. Granted, they are significant drivers of legacy. But they are usually short-term in nature and should not be confused with the long-term legacy itself, which is the product of several years’ worth of meeting outcomes that show consistent progress on the association’s vision and mission.

Two key factors influence an association’s best approach to legacy building. They are the complexity of the organization’s theory of change and the complexity of the organization’s strategy for evolving.

Host destinations are critical partners in advancing associations’ legacy-building approaches by helping them coordinate the most impactful actions around a given event.

“This report is an extremely useful tool for members of the association industry to apply to their everyday thinking and to their approach to planning events,” says Sarash de Wilde, executive director of the International Society for Microbial Ecology and a contributor to the report. “It allows us to put in place meaningful indicators that demonstrate the positive societal impact of international association meetings, and this will hugely benefit any group that might be struggling to clearly articulate its true worth.”

User feedback to the report will be used as building blocks for future research. Later in 2021, BestCities will conduct a feasibility analysis on the development of a updated legacy-impact framework and model that possibly could be widely adopted by both associations and destinations.

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