Increasing attendance by 320% by successfully switching over to digital
The 29th congress of the World Association for Buiatrics (WBC) took place in Dublin on the 3rd till the 8th of July 2016. The bidding process for the 2016 edition of the “Olympic Games of conferences” for people who study cattle and their diseases had begun in 2008. And in those 8 years the WBC attendances dropped from over 2,000 in 2012 to just under 1,000 in 2014. With that record of low attendance at the 2014 iteration, the Local Organising Committee knew a plan was required to reinvigorate the congress and the association.
In an age of digital tactics, sending out printed invitation once every couple of years to the membership no longer worked. A digital switchover was necessary, yet it needed to be implemented without alienating the association’s traditional, core audience.
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- WBC needed to:
Update its database to its 2016 target market
- Determine attendance numbers to appoint budgets
- Reach new markets to attract potential new delegates
Abstract numbers would give a great indication of the final attendance and therefore the committee needed a congress organiser with the technology and systems to host and collect them. Additionally, in order to reach new markets and increase the numbers of new potential delegates, advertisement needed to be moved away from traditional print to digital media. The organising committee was therefore looking for a dedicated team of congress management professionals with a proven track record, experience, industry knowledge and the expertise to deliver specific needs to create a lasting legacy.
Solutions & Results
With that mandate, MCI Dublin put in place a global digital marketing strategy to generate engagement, creating a WBC brand personality, creating a genuine community online through humour and good content, backed-up by logistical excellence and customer support, and running fun campaigns (such as the #CowSelfie competition which had nearly 100 entries from around the world).
Over the course of 12 months, the following was achieved:
- a record number of abstracts were submitted
- the database tripled in size
- the #WBC2016 hashtag received 11.3 million impressions on Twitter
- the Facebook page received over 100,000 interactions
- digital media partnerships were created to expand WBC’s presence online
- a record 3,198 delegates registered for WBC 2016 – an increase of more than 320% compared to the previous congress in 2014.
Additionally, all elements of the congress expected to have a negative impact on the environment were stripped back and replaced with digital alternatives to produce the most environmentally sustainable congress in the association’s history. It included a digital distribution of the abstract book, a printed pocket programme alongside the congress app (100,000 page views) and physical delegate bag inserts replaced with banner adverts on the app.
The Congress received an 89% satisfaction rate from the delegates in Dublin, with crucial elements such as on-site registration being rated ‘very good – excellent’ by 97% of attendees.
"The MCI’s team’s attributes of hard work, good humour, commitment and capacity to patiently work with our local organising committee to effectively deliver on time, every time.” - Michael Sexton, Chair World Buiatrics Congress 2016