Martin Jack

Guest blogger Martin Jack from Think Different Events reflects on the importance of conferences to Glasgow’s economic success and, drawing on over 30 years event management experience, including organising Glasgow’s State of the City Economy conference, he identifies the key factors that make a truly successful conference.

Content is king for conference success

Modern day Glasgow has emerged as one of the world's leading conference destinations. This is no idle boast; as evidenced by the recent publication of data by Glasgow Convention Bureau, which reinforces the importance of business tourism to the city's economy.

The figures show that Glasgow attracted more conference business in the past financial year than ever before. Over 530 conferences were held in Glasgow in 2018/19, bringing nearly 160,000 delegates to the city. Collectively, UK and international meetings were worth just over £150m in delegate spend.

And, this success looks set to continue, with Glasgow confirming conference business on its books until 2024 and bids in planning through to 2026.


Martin Jack

Against this hugely positive background, it's worth reflecting on what makes a successful conference?

For me, the answer to this question is relatively simple. It's content.

Content is, and always will be, the driving force which motivates people to attend events like the State of the City Economy conference (SoCE), Glasgow's principal economic event, now into its 22nd year,

Yes, the venue is important, especially in its ability to cope comfortably with anticipated numbers. Glasgow scores highly in this respect, with a fantastic array of conference and event venues.

There's also when the event takes place and it's vital for the event organiser to understand and avoid times when the intended audience will have different priorities and competing demands. These can include key holiday periods, other competing events and important industry deadlines. For example, accountants tasked with completing tax returns for their clients are unlikely to sign up for an event in mid to late January!

Many business conferences are also rated by the networking opportunities afforded. As such, the who, i.e. the audience profile, is a further driver to attendance. In the case of SoCE, the public and private sectors, large and small, together with the third sector, are well represented. This underlines the city council's recognition that the future success of the city economy and its ability to deliver benefits for all is best achieved by a truly collaborative effort, involving the widest representation of our community.

Clearly, having the best venue, at the most convenient time with the right audience is hugely important but all of these prerequisites matter little if the content is poor, the presenters unremarkable, and the facilitation haphazard.

The content at SoCE focuses sharply on showcasing the economic development of Glasgow and the wider Clydeside region and looks forward to the next 12 months, offering an insight into the future direction of the city.

At the most recent SoCE, there were top quality presentations from authoritative speakers, including Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde and Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli , Principal & Vice Chancellor, University of Glasgow, all superbly facilitated by Greg Clark, the renowned global advisor on cities.

In terms of content, I believe the event is invaluable in providing a broad outline of how Glasgow will change in the months and years ahead.

It also provided an opportunity to discuss COP26, probably the biggest event of its kind to come to Scotland and Glasgow in particular. More information will be made available in the months ahead, though it can only benefit the worldwide exposure of the city in November and beyond.

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