ThinkOttawa engages business community to bring more conferences to the capital

Lesley Mackay

Three key Ottawa organizations are joining forces in a new effort to assist local businesses and organizations become industry champions by helping to bring conferences to Canada’s capital.

Welcoming business partners, suppliers and peers to Ottawa for a conference benefits local firms and associations in several ways.

It allows hosts to demonstrate industry leadership, share their knowledge and broaden their networks – all while showcasing their Ottawa pride and making a direct impact on the local economy. According to Ottawa Tourism’s 2019 economic impact study, visitors to the capital spent $2.2 billion in 2016, supporting more than 30,600 tourism jobs.

ThinkOttawa is looking to boost that even further.

The new program’s support can include assistance in developing a bid, help with marketing and promotional materials as well as providing guidance on selecting venues and accommodations.

The new program is a partnership between Ottawa Tourism, Invest Ottawa and the Shaw Centre.

“Hosting an event here is a great way to network and reach a wide audience,” says Lesley Mackay, Vice-President of Meetings and Major Events at Ottawa Tourism.

One of the groups that’s already benefiting from the initiative is the local committee organizing the 2020 International Society of Oncology Pediatrics annual general meeting.

ThinkOttawa helps source pricing and availability for hotel accommodations and meeting space during the bidding process, allowing organizers to focus on finding speakers and planning interactive sessions.

“We sold them on the city,” says Dr. Donna Johnston, chair of the committee and Division Chief of the Hematology/Oncology Department at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. “ThinkOttawa created a presentation on how we have this great location on the banks of the Rideau Canal.”

ThinkOttawa also helps support “homegrown” events such as SaaS North, AccelerateOTT and Impact AI conferences in hopes they can grow into even larger conferences one day. These homegrown events help local businesses connect with others in the region and showcase local expertise.

How to create a winning bid for an international conference

Hosting an international conference is a tremendous opportunity for local organizations to showcase Ottawa’s strengths.

When evaluating a city’s conference bid, organizers typically review the number of direct and connecting flights, hotel room inventory and a city’s overall safety, says Lesley Mackay, Vice-President of Meetings and Major Events at Ottawa Tourism.

Ottawa scores well on all counts, she says, adding it’s a matter of telling the city’s story and helping to put the leading edge work happening in this community on the world stage.

To make your bid stand out, local organizers should get letters of support from key stakeholders, partners and municipal government to show that there’s local interest for the conference.

“Sometimes we’re too humble and don’t speak enough about the great things going on here, but the truth is that Ottawa is a great place to meet with a wide selection of hotels, convention space, and offsite meeting venues,” Mackay says.