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Events: quality not quantity | opinion by Julia Lo Bue-Said

How many conferences, seminars, roadshows and conventions are there on average every month in our industry? Judging by the invites I see, there must be at least 50 events in some shape or form.

It’s not so much the number of events I find frustrating, but their relevance.

I pity the poor postman who delivers to Advantage each day. He struggles in with a bulging mailbag, but I haven’t the heart to tell him many of the letters addressed to me go straight in the bin. Why? They are invites to events I’m never going to attend simply because they aren’t relevant to my role or our business.

Speaking to industry colleagues, the same picture is repeated at agencies and suppliers nationwide.

I know getting attendance numbers at events is increasingly challenging, and I’m a great believer in getting out of the office. When colleagues use the excuse that they can’t afford the time away from their businesses, I want to scream. For anyone in the business of selling holidays, making contacts, sharing ideas and keeping up to date with the wider world is an essential part of life.

So, what is the answer? On the retail side, I’d suggest every store owner sets aside a budget for event attendance each year so they can plan for their absence.

When choosing what to go to, the secret is weighing up the benefits to your business. For example, the Association of Cruise Experts expos are a must if you are specialising in cruise and your consortium’s conference is a definite to ensure you maximise your time out of the office.

Pre-plan your conference time, the sessions you are interested in and people you want to meet. Look at the networking opportunities and the quality of business sessions. The recent Institute of Travel and Tourism Conference in Cyprus demonstrated this for me. The meetings I had with senior business partners there would have taken three months to set up back home.

Those planning conferences should have the audience uppermost in their minds. Overseas events should have decent air access and be held over a weekend. And when it comes to speakers from outside the industry, make sure their sessions are relevant. Fewer, better-attended, travel events are in everyone’s interest – including the postman’s!

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