“Our aim is to help shape a future vision for national convention bureaux globally, including a visionary roadmap of the most relevant tasks ahead,” says Matthias Schultze, GCB German Convention Bureau and Co-Chair of the Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe.

Matthias Schultze has written the recently released white paper with Eric Bakermans, Director Marketing Meetings & Conventions at NBTC Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, and Co-Chair of the strategic alliance. The coauthor of the white paper is Felix Rundel, Futurehain.

“We want to actively shape the future by defining near and short-term opportunities and challenges. For example, the importance of creating awareness for the need to reach industry-wide carbon neutrality and embracing and developing new technologies, novel forms of meeting design and programming innovation,” says Matthias Schultze.

“Also, the white paper should act as a conversation starter, and we would like to extend a warm invitation to our peers and partners globally to join in the dialogue on how we can come together to actively shape our future as a community and an industry.”

Below you find an excerpt from the white paper The Future Role and Purpose of Convention Bureaux. A collective vision and roadmap for redefining the role of national convention bureaux in the coming decade by the Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe, NCVB.

Redefining roles and purposes

What are the key roles that define national convention bureaux in the future?

From past to present  Since their inception and over the past decades, NCVB mainly acted as destination scouts, points of contact for liaising with regional suppliers and as the main promoters of their countries’ business events markets.

However, with the increasing power of the new platform economy providing digital tools and data for event planners, this role has already started to evolve before the onset of the pandemic.

And while promotion, liaison support and other services are now provided by regional and local convention bureaux as well as destination marketing organisations which are closest to their respective markets, NCVB are increasingly focused on adding value by connecting their countries’ meetings industries with global markets, by highlighting long-term trends as well as providing relevant market insights and data.

From present to future  At present, more than ever before, NCVB, their functions, tasks and self-image, are in transition. During the past months of the crisis, it has become clear that national business events markets are in need of impartial organisations that can reliably distribute up-to-date information, provide data, mediate between industry and government, and help form new initiatives and alliances. But the new, future roles of NCVB will not be limited to crisis management.

Looking into the future, there are three main aspects that define how NCVB can find their ideal form for creating value:

A truly global outlook, big-picture perspectives on emerging trends in the business events landscape at large, and the ultimate goal of providing leadership and guidance for the successful and sustainable development of their respective home markets and all stakeholders.

By combining all three aspects, NCVB will put themselves in a key position to shape the transition of the business events platform to the next generation.

Based on these important factors and goals, the NCVB of the future can be described in four elementary roles, for example, strategist, facilitator, expert and communicator.

The role of strategist  Future national convention bureaux will serve as agenda setters providing leadership, strategy, foresight and critical impulses for the development of the events industry.

In the upcoming years of disruption, uncertainty and volatility, NCVB will act as purpose-driven think tanks and innovation hubs for the evolving business events sector.

By evaluating and analysing the latest trends and influences on a global scale, and by translating insights into business intelligence, they will be able to catalyse innovation in the business events communities.

This role will be particularly relevant in four key areas:

  1. driving the event industry’s necessary shift to sustainability and carbon neutrality;
  2. incentivising the industry’s commitment to impact-orientation and legacy;
  3. providing guidance in the impending technology and data disruption of the coming years;
  4. pushing for improved social equity and inclusion in the industry and beyond.

By applying a strong focus on industry relevant data analysis and global trend research, as well as the principles of open access and data sharing, NCVB will feed and host open innovation platforms and experimental spaces for research and development in the events landscape.

Overall, NCVB will take the lead in the development of a clear vision and strategic roadmaps for their industries and stakeholders in the business events sector. These efforts will also include necessary steps towards more agility, resilience and being prepared for future crisis situations.

“Collaborating on long-term strategies, and sharing insights and data between international partners will be key to our collective success in the future”

Sigurjóna Sverrisdóttir, Meet in Reykjavík

The role of facilitator  Future national convention bureaux will take on a central role in the meetings industry as bridge-builders, integrating and connecting a wide range of communities and sectors.

Undergoing accelerating change in an increasingly VUCA (short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) environment, the events industry will not only be in need of guidance and leadership, but also of stronger, consolidated networks and unprecedented levels of cooperation. It will be the role of NCVB to hold together and connect the various sectors and stakeholders in and outside the meetings industry.

As central and proactive network players, NCVB can act as coalition-builders and facilitators of a broad exchange among all stakeholders – ranging from business and industry to science, NGOs, media, culture and citizens. In consultation with lobby associations and governments, they will act as go-to sources for relevant data and analysis on demand development, changing customer behaviour and market trends.

In the role of facilitators, NCVB will continuously bridge the spheres of local, regional, national, European and global networks. By fostering dialogue, creating new network connections and pushing intersectoral and interdisciplinary exchange, they will be instrumental in the cocreation of new, multi-stakeholder solutions that benefit the entire business events landscape.

“Our ambition as connectors and facilitators cannot be limited to organisations inside the meetings industry. Academia, NGOs, politicians and citizens in particular will play an ever more important role in the future development of our sector”

Kit Lykketoft, Meet Denmark

The role of expert  Future national convention bureaux will expand their roles as competent, accessible resources and consultants to all stakeholders, contributing to economic development and adding value to event success at scale.

Building on their traditional function as experts for event ecosystems, NCVB will expand their role as a specialist resource providing know-how and advice in a wide field of domains ranging from meeting design innovation to insights into changing customer behaviour. While their main goal is to be an accessible, agile partner and consultant to all stakeholders, in their work, NCVB will be impartial and transparent, client-focused and driven by highest standards of purpose and impact.

Through increased cooperation and communication with global peers and allies, NCVB will also strengthen their role as experts for international and intercultural exchange and therefore act as a go-to resource and consultant for national stakeholders looking to expand collaboration and business abroad in order to promote their services and products in their respective home markets.

NCVB will ultimately be able to tackle their key goal of being able to demonstrate and promote state-of-the-art business events as a powerful solutions tool – towards business, government and the public. In order to succeed in this and contribute unique value-added to event success and delegate satisfaction, they will continuously develop and refine their broad knowledge and expertise in the business events space.

“We must not duplicate the work our partners in hospitality, in local convention bureaux and destination offices are doing, but rather set a clear focus on strengthening our unique expertise and apply it to create added value for them”

Neil Brownlee, Visit Scotland

“We would like to extend a warm invitation to our peers and partners globally to join in the dialogue”

The role of communicator  Future national convention bureaux will serve as media and communications platforms, distributing information and inspiring the community.

In order to inform about new strategies, spark innovation and broadcast the latest news relevant for their industry, future NCVB will adopt the functions of highly specialised media houses. As independent platforms that disseminate valuable information and create proprietary content to motivate and inspire their communities, they will grow to become trusted sources and providers of data, statistics, business and market intelligence.

As communicators, NCVB will provide relevant and up-to-date information that supports life-long learning and the skill development of event professionals throughout their entire careers. As platforms that help educate and train the next generation of outstanding industry experts and leaders, these education hubs will become vital institutions for the future development of the business events sector.

As advocates addressing a wide range of target groups inside and outside the professional events industry, NCVB will be able to set a special focus on fulfilling two essential communication goals:

  1. succeeding in explaining their own value, competencies and USPs in order to secure public support and legitimacy for the future; and
  2. succeeding in not only explaining, but demonstrating (for example, using data & statistics on event legacy) the value and importance of business events to governments and other public and private stakeholders outside the meetings industry.

“Educating and supporting the next generation of business events professionals, our young colleagues that will shape and lead our industry in the future, will be one of the essential tasks for us to prepare for”

Tobia Salvadori, Convention Bureau Italia

The Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe is a network of national destination marketing organisations. As a collaborative industry platform, it concentrates on strengthening Europe’s position as a leading destination for international business events. The purpose of the Alliance is to create a beneficial working relationship amongst the NCVB of Europe in order to sustain and further develop the position of Europe. The idea of creating synergies and establishing a joint platform for Europe as a destination for business events on the international stage continues to gain traction. Officially launched at IMEX 2014 in Las Vegas with nine founding countries, the Alliance is now a 28-member strong network that has steadily grown over the past couple of years. Since 2014, the Alliance has met twice a year in rotating host destinations.