“Meetings are not just about economic impact and visitor expenditure; we want to go beyond that,” says Ho Yoke Ping, general manager, business events, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), at the recent Malaysia Business Events Week.
The "beyond" that Ping speaks of refers to legacy, a concept that defines the societal and cultural impact of events on communities. Examples of this are a greater awareness around a medical issue, or the addition of talent in a local community.
“Meetings create a legacy because they can provide benefits to a wider community. It’s not just for the participants who attend, or the local hosts, but it can also affect the general public,” says Jane Vong Holmes, senior manager, Asia, GainingEdge. “They don’t want to just have meetings, they want to add value to the communities that they visit.”
The concept of leaving behind a legacy is more suited to association meetings as they are geared towards achieving wider objectives compared to most corporate meetings. However, legacy is not to be confused with corporate CSR activities such as beach clean-ups or tree-planting.
“When we talk about legacy and impact, it’s beyond CSR. It’s more long-term and it’s more intangible. It’s about how meetings affects society and policy and governance,” said Holmes.
As ideal as the it sounds, legacy is not incidental in the meetings process. "Legacy and impact do not happen by accident. They need to be planned for. [Associations] first need to have a vision of what they want to see," said Holmes.
Naturally, a good place to start is passion, said Holmes. The rest of the nitty-gritty is very much shaped by data. For instance, if an association feels strongly about creating jobs for the local agricultural industry, data must first support the need for this cause. Post-event, data can also help meeting planners measure the "return" of their legacy program.
Measuring this outcome is something that MyCEB is looking to inspire more asociations to take on. Ping noted that while Malaysian associations do think about adding value to their community, they tend to do so "unintentionally" rather than it being a planned, strategic process.
'We’re trying to educate them to measure the outcome so that they can look back and maybe do more," said Ping.
On top of that, MyCEB has initiated legacy clinics to educate local associations about going “above and beyond” and motivating them to provide “additional value” to meetings.
An example of this type of potential “value” is the World Federation of Haemophilia World Congress set to take place in 2020 in Kuala Lumpur. During the bidding process, Ping and her team spoke with local organisations about why they wanted the conference to be held in Malaysia, and the feedback indicated a lack of awareness about the importance of medical equipment for blood donors and patients.
Through the conference, Ping said that the local community who are in need of better equipment can get their needs heard, and the event could even pressure the Ministry of Health to take action.
Another example for Malaysia was the recent World Urban Forum in February where participants signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration to localise and scale up the implementation of sustainable goals as discussed at the event.
According to Ping, not only will legacy positively impact the local community, it can also craft a niche marketing standpoint for a destination. “We’re not just going to talk about our culture and food, but this is another way we can position Malaysia,” she says. “We need to communicate the value that meetings bring into Malaysia.”