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Bringing an Event to a New Country? “Glocalize” It!

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Sarah O'Connell, MBA

Guest Author

INTA

Julie Krueger

Business Development Director, International

How show organizers can adapt to new audiences without diluting their message

By Sarah O’Connell, MBA, Director of Education, INTA and Julie Krueger, BD Director Int’l, Freeman 

When show organizers or associations take their events to the international stage, they must walk a tightrope between two opposing — and equally important — forces.

On one side, there is an emphasis on consistent messaging and experience. This should set the association apart or make that specific show different from the others. The goal is to cement an image — a brand — in the mind of the audience, sponsors, exhibitors, and the public. Many brands even use experiences to create emotions that further strengthen their image. For example, think of an energy drink company hosting extreme sporting events.

To maximize their branding efforts, associations and show organizers try to keep the messaging and mood consistent from show to show.

On the other side, though, is the very real fact that audiences around the world are not interchangeable. To connect with attendees, these associations and show organizers must account for local customs, preferences, and cultural differences.

How can organizations remain true to their voice and their message while being relevant and respectful to diverse audiences?

Striking this balance is often called glocalization. And it’s the challenge the International Trademark Association (INTA) faced when it organized its 2017 Annual Meeting in Barcelona.

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A Glocalization Case Study

INTA is a truly global organization, with more than 7,200 members from 191 countries. Headquartered in New York and with offices in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Singapore, and Washington, D.C., the Association holds its Annual Meeting in different locations each year, taking the meeting outside the U.S. every third year.

Yet, despite its global footprint, INTA has learned that it must tailor its Annual Meeting to its location.

To help “glocalize” its most recent meeting in Barcelona, Freeman supported INTA to help develop a strategy for INTA to methodically adapt its event to this new location without losing sight of its brand.

Identifying the Opportunity

While planning for the event in Barcelona, INTA’s organizers poured through past event data, uncovering insights about regional differences.

When INTA held previous Annual Meetings in Europe, attendance from the specific region grew almost 50 percent. The makeup of registrants shifted to about 40 percent from Europe. The remainder came from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. When the Annual Meeting has been in North America, the Association sees a much stronger attendance of North Americans, composing about 37 percent to 40 percent of total registrants.

Other regional differences were noted as well: For example, Europeans were less concerned about staying at the host hotel. They were also not as responsive to “early-bird” discounts on registration fees.

To create a consistent brand experience, the 40 to 50 global volunteers planning the INTA event focused on three questions:

  • What are our organization’s top priorities?
  • What is our vision for the future?
  • What are our strategies for executing this vision and achieving our goals?

Keeping this focus allowed INTA to create a consistent brand experience, regardless of location.

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Creating the Plan

When INTA was formulating its plan, organizers acknowledged that attendees value networking opportunities at its meetings as much as scheduled educational sessions.

So, the organizers resisted the urge to overload the schedule. Instead, they allocated ample timeslots for face-to-face meetings, excursions, and receptions.

To service the event, they chose a mix of U.S.-based and local vendors with both global and local expertise. This helped provide the inside view on how local audiences may interpret specific aspects of the event, while still offering a trusted home liaison and logistical support that leads to innovation, time efficiency, and risk minimization.

Building The Event

The build phase is where it all comes together. Planners implement the designs and concepts, launch their teams, and leverage the expertise of their vendors.

Top of mind is that local flavor can — and should — veer from stereotypes.   

For example, at the Annual Meeting in Barcelona, having Flamenco dancers on every floor of the event would have been heavy-handed. Instead, attendees appreciated the local food, décor, and entertainment offered at related social events. Moreover, INTA made the Annual Meeting about the INTA experience itself: the content, the speakers, and the topics. This allowed an immersive brand experience while still paying respectful homage to the host location. 

Looking Back

After the event, INTA and Freeman took the time to debrief while ideas and reflections were still fresh in mind. INTA organizers learned a few valuable lessons to apply to their next event, including:

  • Work with a local housing vendor.
  • Be aware of local politics and current events.
  • Enlist a customs broker.
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Strategy Brings Global and Local Priorities Together

As organizations take their events global, careful strategy is critical for maintaining a strong brand identity while still connecting with new international markets.

But it does not have to be complicated. Get started today by working with your stakeholders to determine a few key factors that should remain consistent from location to location. This could include things like branding, topics, etc. Next, analyze your data to determine who is actually coming to your event, and let the customization begin! You can customize important aspects such as messaging, education and networking formats, dining considerations, and more.

Implementing strategic planning and design provides show organizers a roadmap to success that can be replicated in each new location. The result is a brand that is strong but flexible, and altogether memorable.

Learn more about how to drive engagement when your event switches geographies.

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