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How ThinkOttawa is simplifying the conference planning process

How does an organization book 4,000 room nights across four hotels at the same time? ThinkOttawa makes it easy.

With an abundance of hotels, shops and restaurants situated in the downtown core, it took executives from the International Association of Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Societies only one visit to Ottawa to agree that the nation’s capital would be the perfect place for their conference in 2022.

Made up of scientists, federal employees and academics working to create policies and solutions to fight the effects of environmental chemicals, the association hosts an international conference every four years, bringing together members from more than 30 countries.

The organization has never held the event in Ottawa before, and association president Paul White saw the opportunity to showcase the city and the work happening within it when North America was chosen as the upcoming conference’s location. 

In order to put together a pitch that truly highlighted the best parts of the city, White enlisted the help of ThinkOttawa – a partnership between the Shaw Centre, Ottawa Tourism and Invest Ottawa.

The trio assists association leaders in planning conferences in the capital by helping organize bids and supplying marketing and promotional material as well as locating venues, hotels and excursions – free of charge. 

“It’s pretty simple – without the help of ThinkOttawa we couldn’t have done it,” says White, who works full-time at Health Canada in addition to running the organization. “We would have had to set everything up personally, which would have been nearly impossible.”

ThinkOttawa can help with: Accommodations

In preparation for the bidding competition, ThinkOttawa provided the IAEMGS team with a myriad of promotional tools, including an eye-catching video and a presentation  highlighting the key benefits of Ottawa in order to help White sell the city as the best location.

Before winning the bid in 2016, the team at ThinkOttawa organized and paid for a visit to the capital for association executives, which included a tour of amenities such as the convention centre, hotels and off-site venues, as well as the opportunity to visit areas such as the ByWard Market to get a feel for the city. 

“(The leaders) like for the delegates to be able to walk to get dinner, to shop and so forth,” says White, who was struck by the association’s enthusiasm for Ottawa. “When people came to visit, I think the proximity of it all was what was really impressive for them. It’s not very common that you have everything so close.”

Working in collaboration with White was Theresa Gatto, a certified meeting professional and a senior business events manager at Ottawa Tourism, who says the partnership that forms between ThinkOttawa and the association is what makes the program so successful. 

To help White win the conference bid, Gatto worked with him to figure out what kind of event space the association could use and what kinds of extra activities would be available for visitors, as well as how many hotels they would need to host roughly 1,000 guests. In the end, with Gatto’s assistance, IAEGMS successfully secured four hotels, totalling more than 4,000 hotel room night stays.  

“It’s really important for us to work with thought leaders within our community from various organizations such as Health Canada and the University of Ottawa to bring large conventions to the city because the ripple effect of what it is that we do together is huge,” says Gatto, adding that events such as the IAEGMS conference can inject millions of dollars into the local economy. “We do all of that legwork because that’s what we do best. That’s our expertise.”