Monthly Archive: July 2010


Reaching Out To Global Markets Through Meetings & Events

The following post was written by Ajay Bhojwani, MCI director of association management, consulting and congresses for MCI Middle East in Dubai and published in ASAE’s Global Link newsletter, July 2010.

Paradigms of a New World

In an era of uncertainties, we are forced to think of innovative ways to tackle new obstacles every day of the week.  As the economies in America and Western Europe start to mature and reach their zenith, markets in Asia seem to be bursting with life.  A number of U.S. and North American corporations and industries have significant presence in these markets and have started to leverage the benefits of working in a diversified global marketplace.  Globally spread corporations such as General Electric already report that their early forays into the global marketplace have allowed them to weather the current economic storm; 50 percent of GE’s revenues are generated overseas.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers, in its 2008 report, “The World in 2050: Beyond the BRICs,” projected the following:

  • By 2050, the emerging economies of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey will be around 50 percent larger than the current G7 (United States, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada).
  • China is expected to overtake the United States as the largest economy around 2025.
  • India has the potential to nearly catch up with the United States by 2050.
  • The projected list of fastest growing economies to 2050 is headed by Vietnam, and the top 10 include Nigeria, Philippines, Egypt, and Bangladesh.

The International Monetary Fund, in its “World Economic Outlook: Rebalancing Growth,” April 2010, indicated that developing markets of Asia  are outperforming the developed markets of Europe  and the Americas by leaps.

Building Blocks

As an association, where funds are prudently spent, it is important to invest in the right strategy that would allow you to grow.  Choosing this strategy is obviously very important and critical.  Some of the numerous options include:

  • Remote online and offline services from headquarters;
  • Conducting meetings in the region;
  • Outsourcing services to an agency;
  • Investing in opening offices in the incumbent country or region.

However, in order to define the correct strategy, associations first have to evaluate how relevant their products and services are for international markets, and how ready the organization is for global expansion in terms of support and approval from their governance, capacity to increase economies of scale and a thorough understanding of the international markets.

Depending on the stages of your growth strategy, it is always advisable for organizations to test the waters and understand market requirements before foraying into the new venture.  Organizations can test the response from these markets by conducting focused market research and organizing meetings in the region of choice of varied sizes.

The question most commonly asked is, “Why is there a need to conduct meetings in new markets when we are a highly networked community of global professionals who can feed requirements back to the headquarters?”

The answer lies in the simplicity of understanding “the village needs to meet”.

Meetings offer the following opportunities for associations that are looking to expand their offerings:

  • Building a brand;
  • Knowledge transfer;
  • Creating research center;
  • Capacity building;
  • Trade development and building global partnerships;
  • Economic generator.

Case Studies

According to the World Bank, the number of countries with a strong middle class is expected to grow five-fold, leading to greater demand for access to higher standards of living, by 2025.  This in turn will drive a greater desire for education and credentialing from associations that can demonstrate their products are “generally accepted” by decision makers around the world.

Here are some international conference examples and keys to success that promote good international conference development as a means to global expansion that can tap into this growing opportunity outside the United States.

Emerging Market- Middle East

In 2009, in order to address issues and trends in the fields of allergy, asthma, and immunology and to widen the scope of their reach, three associations (The Asian Allergy Asthma Foundation, the Lebanese Society of Asthma & Immunology, and the Emirates Respiratory & Asthma Society) joined together to build a multi-regional meeting by combining their strengths and working closely to strengthen the brand of all three societies.

The meeting had an overwhelming response and was attended by 1,400 participants from 43 countries. The organizers managed to get the endorsements of all local stakeholders including the Dubai Health Authority, the Ministry of Health, and the Sheikh Hamdan Awards for Medical Sciences, which further strengthened the meeting and encouraged more sponsors and exhibitors to come on board.  For international participation, they built partnerships and managed to get support from the World Allergy Organization (WAO) in collaboration with the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (AAAAI), and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). Overall, the event attracted 29 exhibitors and 11 sponsors who helped them achieve their financial objectives.

The event was a huge success and achieved all its objectives in terms of financial gains, regional expansion, and industry trends, and now the event has been made into a bi-annual event with the next one scheduled for 2011.

Matured Market- Europe

Many U.S.-based associations find it more difficult to gain a foothold in a mature market like Europe, but the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), in partnership with several international and Europe-based societies, launched a new type of conference called Transatlantic Innovations in 2009.  The purpose of the meeting was to convene key thought leaders from Europe, the United States, and around the world to discuss and debate scientific advances, over-the-horizon technology, and socioeconomic trends affecting plastic surgery now and in the future.

Of the majority of surgeons who responded to an ASPS survey, 93 percent in total were interested in a European event, jointly organized by ASPS and another European association.  Several surgeons saw the benefit of bringing together the “best of” in European and U.S. techniques, with a multi-day event being more popular.  Other surgeons preferred an event organized with the leading European associations such as those in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, and Sweden, or alternatively a road-show event moving between the major cities.

The key was to have support and endorsement from key opinion leaders.  In fact, several leaders who participated in the telephone interviews confirmed that they were willing to work with ASPS on developing the project.  Also, members of the ASPS Industry Advisory Council were willing to sponsor this kind of event by giving it strong financial backing.

Despite the existence of several established plastic surgery events, ASPS and its partners held the meeting in Paris in April 2009 with an attendance of 202 delegates and faculty, representing 38 countries (62 percent of attendees were from Europe, 32 percent were from North America, and six percent were from other countries). Seventy-eight percent of participants noted they will implement new strategies into their practices as a result of the program, and 98 percent of the respondents agreed that Transatlantic Innovations should be repeated.  As a result of the success of 2009, the cosponsors agreed to run another event in Paris in March 2011

Success Factors for International Meetings

Some of the key success factors for organizing international meetings are

  1. Conducting market research to uncover opportunity and an event strategy for focus;
  2. Having endorsements from local authorities and partnerships for financial, content, and audience access support;
  3. Organizing committees with recognized regional knowledge opinion leaders to ensure content localization;
  4. Having direct and indirect marketing with direct sales (e.g. telemarketing) with a focus on local and regional markets where the meeting is going to be held;
  5. Focusing on local and regional press activities to build the brand of the meeting, create momentum, and attract participation;
  6. Having strong financial and risk controls supported from experienced regional event organizers;
  7. Using very simple and easy-to-understand language for all communication materials;
  8. Advising on international codes for telephone numbers and working hours, keeping in mind the time differences and weekends;
  9. Being persistent and patient, which is absolutely essential, because some of the agreements and discussions with local authorities and associations (in some regions) can take longer than expected;
  10. Being prepared for a significant amount of last-minute tasks and changes.