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by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Ovation Global DMC

It’s not what I say about my brand, it’s what you say about it.

The first session at most industry events features a word of welcome from the destination’s official authorities – someone from the Ministry of Tourism, the Chair of the CVB, the Mayor etc. It’s a nice but ultimately anodyne touch that, once over with, allows the conference get on with its important business and the dignitary or official to get back to more pressing matters. Emmanuelle Legault’s presentation at the Opening General Session of ADMEI’s Annual Conference in Montreal yesterday, however, was way more than the usual polite platitudes. Vice President of Marketing at Tourisme Montreal, Emmanuelle gave us a vitally important lesson on how the significant changes in people’s interaction with brands is impacting hugely on destination marketing.

Sheraton City View

DMC as Destination Marketeer

Management Companies who prosper in today’s brave new world do so because they know their core function is destination marketing and Emmanuelle’s meaty presentation provided real food for thought and reflection in this regard.

A brand is no longer a logo, a visual, a packaging or a promise but the sum of the experiences of a traveller during a trip and the volume of stories generated

Thus destination branding needs to establish multiple points of contact with visitors and then turn these visitors into ambassadors who share their stories across the widest possible range of platforms. In a shouty, cacophonous marketplace the challenge to destinations is to be heard above the din. But people don’t listen much to messages delivered via old media like print and broadcast advertising. They listen to their peers. Segmenting the full gamut of destination experiences into precisely defined niches, destination marketeers can, from there source the niche experts who create content far more compelling than third party agencies. This is brand experience, not brand expression. It’s not what I say about my destination, it’s what you say about it.

Focus on Face to Face

Emmanuelle Legault was followed by David Adler, Founder and CEO of BizBash Media whose ambitious Prezi based presentation didn’t quite fit the time allocated to it. This was unfortunate as David’s content was top class, particularly his research, jointly conducted with psychologist Andrea Sullivan of BrainStrength on why leadership and effective organisational performance are connected to Face to Face Meetings and Events. David’s content , based on neuro-science, should be required reading for all events professionals as it provides evidence and proof of what we instinctively know to be true: that live events, face to face encounters between real people in real places in real time are transformational for individuals and for the organisations in which they live and move. One of his 10 points, for example, focuses on the importance of physical presence, body language, eye contact and touch – all of which, apparently, Bill Clinton had in adundance – and how research demonstrates that as much as 70 – 80% of our ability to influence is a result of face to face exchanges. Crucially, David’s main point was that we need to stop preaching to the choir and take this evidence to a higher level, presenting it to C-suite executives and decision makers in organisations. Face to Face is an investment, NOT an expense.

What else happened at ADMEI?

Industry events are as important for what happens outside of the business sessions and ADMEI is no exception in this regard. I caught up with my great buddy Dan Tavrytzky, Managing Director of the DMC Network and we explored some interesting potential synergies for our strategic alliance. I had some quality time with my favourite New York Italian, Cosimo Bruzzese, on the big questions – work / life balance, ambition, opportunity etc. I even reverted to high school high jinks by secretly playing “Words with Friends” with Rhonda Marko during an educational session where we both, and maybe some others, thought we might die from boredom (unfortunately all industry events have sessions which don’t quite hit the mark!). I also joined Cosimo on a panel discussion beautifully introduced by Emily Kratt of Red Velvet Events and expertly moderated by Lorenzo Pignatti of +39 events Italy. Focusing on international trends in destination services the strongest outcome of this discussion was the need for ADMEI to ramp up and claim global status as THE indispensable association within the Meetings and Events Industry for DMC validation and accreditation.

Padraic Gilligan is Vice President of Ovation Global DMC




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