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Winning Over Convention Delegates

Image credit: Explore St. Louis

Each year an estimated 1.9 million meetings take place in the United States, with convention delegates spending a whopping $325 billion nationwide in the local economies they visit.

So, when convention delegates come to town, there’s plenty of reason to cheer.

With millions of tourism dollars in play, not only do convention centers, hotels, and restaurants benefit by convention delegate spending, but museums, cultural institutions, and other attractions can increase foot traffic and revenue from these business event travelers as well.

Laying the groundwork in advance and engaging with convention attendees while they are in town can significantly add to your visitor numbers.

Here are just a few ways to connect with meeting delegates to bring them through your doors.

Promotional Material in Convention Delegate Bags

One of the first signs that convention delegates are in town is the sea of matching ‘swag bags’ that can seemingly take over a city.

Often given out during a delegate’s registration check-in, these bags are filled with information about a convention’s program of activities as well as details on local attractions, dining options, transportation, and other specifics to make the most of a conventioneer’s time in town.

Include information about your museum and highlight current and permanent exhibitions, hours, and admission fees so that delegates can plan their visit to your institution around their other convention commitments.

And while a simple rack card will do, consider offering a gift shop discount, a museum pin, or another small keepsake to promote your institution in the registration bag.

Coffee and Culture

If you’re looking to grab a convention delegate’s attention, there’s no better way than to serve up your message with a cup of joe.

Reach out to your local tourism organization, convention center services team, or convention organizers to host a welcome coffee kiosk or coffee break during the first day of the group gathering.

Be sure to include plenty of signage about your museum and hand out information about what delegates can experience when they step through your doors.

Also, think about additional ways to interact and make the most of your coffee connection. Ideas might include setting up a specialty coffee or smoothie station or implementing an ice-breaking exercise to encourage group photos and social media posts with branded cardboard picture frames (don’t forget the hashtags!), fun (and relevant) bubble quotes, and other cut-outs for fabulous poses.

Show Your Badge Promotion

One way to increase visitors during a convention is to team up with your tourism community to offer a ‘Show Your Badge’ program for convention delegates that’s both easy to organize and implement.

Work with your local tourism organization and partners to offer a range of discounts on museums, attractions, dining and retail outlets that delegates can enjoy with just the flash of their convention badge.

Baltimore’s tourism marketing organization, Visit Baltimore, has a hugely successful ‘Show Your Badge’ program regularly used by convention organizers and promoted to attendees in advance of their events in the city.

Dozens of groups to Baltimore have made use of the program, which offers discounts and deals to the city’s top spots. By making the program details easy to upload into dedicated conference apps, the program provides maximum exposure for the program partners to convention delegates.

Geotarget Convention Delegates

In the age of digital technology, timing is everything. With geotargeting technology, your museum or cultural institution can showcase an ad or promotion to any convention delegate carrying a smartphone, laptop, or tablet at just the right time and place.  What does this mean exactly?

Using demographic, proximity and location marketing, work with your online advertising partner to implement a ‘geofencing’ campaign to draw a virtual advertising radius around buildings such as a convention center, surrounding and host hotels, and even popular restaurants near the meeting site. Be sure to also lock in on the dates and hours of the convention to coincide with your advertising campaign.

Keep in mind that top social media platforms offer geo-targeting options for advertising, too. We can safely assume that a tradeshow audience is on Facebook & Instagram, sharing the latest photos of speakers or promoting the tradeshow’s hashtag. So why not show these digitally active individuals an ad for 10% off admission to your newest exhibition? Provide delegates with compelling content and imagery, detailing your museum’s current exhibits with click-through capabilities to your website. Don’t forget to A/B test your ad copy to see what type of messaging works for different types of convention groups who are using the convention center.

Rock star marketing tip: Consider offering special delegate hours or tours that coincide with the convention’s ‘free time’ periods or that incorporate a convention’s theme.

Attendee Add-On Activities

More and more meeting delegates today are traveling with a spouse or guest, often adding days to the beginning or end of their convention dates for personal pursuits.

This trend of turning a convention experience into a ‘bleisure’ trip – one that includes business and leisure — offers an excellent opportunity to increase museum visitation.

Work with convention organizers and your local convention bureau to create pre- or post-convention suggestions that include your institution. You can also team up with other area arts and cultural centers to offer a convention-specific pay-one-price, all-inclusive ‘arts pass,’ featuring pre-paid admission to all participating partner institutions.

And when it comes to catering to those visitors tagging along to the convention, consider organizing private lectures, gallery tours, or art demonstrations during peak convention program hours for a memorable experience for visiting guests.

A Room Rental Reminder

Don’t forget, meeting planners are always looking for memorable locations to host their programs and are eager to arrange experiences outside of the walls of a convention center for their delegates.

Maybe your cultural institution would make an excellent backdrop for a welcome reception, or your museum restaurant would be perfect for a private board dinner. Or perhaps your meeting and theater space would be ideal for a smaller conference.

If this is the case, be sure to keep your local convention sales team updated about your meeting and event space offerings, seating dimensions, and catering and AV services. That way, your organization can be part of the proposal process when meeting planners consider your destination for a future convention or other meeting or event.

Want to talk more about how to draw more meeting delegates to your museum? That’s our specialty. Reach out. We’ve worked with some of the world’s top convention destinations and museums to help them meet their goals. Contact [email protected] to learn more about our museum marketing capabilities.


Written By

Stella Tsitsipatis

Stella is a destination marketing veteran with experience in marketing communication campaigns and leisure/business tourism sales efforts for destinations in Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.

More Articles by Stella Tsitsipatis

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