What do you do to incentivize attendees to visit a city? Are there exceptional experiences? Is there a goal toward a common good? Are they just there for a good time? What if there were a way to check all the boxes on the same trip?

In a recent Smart Meetings webinar, “The Cure for the Boring Conference: How a Chicago Event Leveraged Local Resources to Engage Attendees and Raise Money for an Important Cause,” learn how American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Choose Chicago’s partnership does good for the community, raises awareness for a cause and supports Chicago’s businesses.

“We are lucky enough to have a long-term partnership with Chicago; that played into a lot of these decisions,” said Mandy Davis, vice president of meeting services for ASCO.

Davis said that ASCO’s relationship with the non-profit Conquer Cancer Foundation put her organization in a unique position to see what their community needed to host an engaging event for attendees coming from around the world to visit Chicago and learn about the event’s core mission.

Experiencing Chicago

A key step was inviting local restaurants, shops—and even the Chicago Cubs—to partner with meeting organizers and show off all the city has to offer. Since curing cancer is a goal almost everyone shares, ASCO was able to partner with local vendors to offer donations, which got meeting attendees out and about in town while also doing good.

This started on a small level, with Shop and Dine to Conquer Cancer, where local restaurants and shops participated with the organization.

“We would advertise their business in exchange for them giving a donation back to the Conqueror Cancer Foundation,” Davis explained. “Attendees got the best of both worlds. They knew which restaurants and shops they should look for, they got to go out to dinner, and they got to feel like they were doing something good for the community.”

Conquer Cancer Foundation first decided to partner with the Chicago Cubs in 2016. It was a lucky choice for everyone, because that was the year the Cubs broke their losing streak and won the World Series. ASCO did branded giveaways and got national attention for their cause from the Series win. The special partnership with the Cubs continues today and is one of the many ways ASCO gives its meeting-goers a taste of Chicago.

Moving Forward

With Covid concerns still on people’s minds, Davis acknowledged that in-person meetings need to bring a little something extra if they want people to travel. Davis said social events and networking are now an even bigger part of conventions than they were pre-Covid. “What makes people not want to join a Zoom, but instead fly to Chicago for five days?” she asked. It’s not just about watching the sessions, whether in person or virtually, it’s about having dinner with friends you haven’t seen for a year and “the conversations in the hallway.”

In addition to Davis, Andy Blackburn, vice president of strategic partnerships for the Chicago Cubs/Marquee 360, and Brad Weaber, founder of Brad Weaber Consulting Group, continue the conversation about how this multiyear collaboration came to be, how the Cubs got involved, Covid’s impact on attendee numbers and the differences between connecting with small vs. large groups.

Join them here.