Leeds Briggate in the daytime with a blue sky.


Annual Great Ambassador Networking (GANG) event in Leeds discusses importance of maximising cities’ knowledge hubs

This year’s Great Ambassador Networking (GANG) event, hosted by ConferenceLeeds and Well Met Conferencing, put a spotlight on utilising knowledge hubs throughout a destination in order to win more association conference business.
Delegates from Dublin, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Harrogate, Aberdeen, Brighton, London, Torquay and Bristol came together to highlight the expertise on offer in their cities and share best practice from their own ambassador programmes.

The day was a huge success, including a talk from Steve Lewis, CAT publications, on how a city’s knowledge hubs and ambassadors are as important as the meetings infrastructure itself. Steve continued this topic into the afternoon, hosting a practical workshop on how to maximise a destination’s knowledge hubs to win corporate and association business. Delegates were challenged to deliver a five-minute sales pitch on their chosen destination, using a sector approach and incorporating key buzzwords from the day.

During his update Anthony Cassidy, Senior Sales Manager at Marketing Manchester, highlighted the importance of the ambassador when bidding for association conferences – showing an 80% conversion rate on bids with an ambassador compared to just 15% without. He also presented to the group Marketing Manchester’s recently launched Global Ambassador Programme that has been set up to support its strategic objective of promoting the city region on a national and international stage. Manchester has currently recruited 17 Global Ambassadors, all of which are well-connected leaders in target sectors and international markets, who promote positive national and international perceptions of Manchester, and support aspirations to attract talent and investment.

Sam Johnston, Manager, Dublin Convention Bureau emphasised the importance of completing the relationship cycle when working with ambassadors, and the significance of upholding the relationship post conference. To assist in their relationship cycle, Dublin Convention Bureau this year launched a Conference Ambassador Awards scheme, to help show appreciation and recognition to their ambassadors, as well as maintaining their motivation and aiding in the recruitment of new ambassadors.

Emma France, Marketing Manager of Business Tourism and Trade at Marketing Sheffield, discussed the importance of developing a program that works for your own destination and utilising the resources available; a lot of the work in Sheffield could not be done without the support of the Sheffield Hoteliers Association. Emma also highlighted that the city is particularly looking forward to celebrating its ambassador programme’s 10th year in 2017.

The final ambassador programme update from Emma Gough, Conference and Events Officer for Well Met Conferencing, discussed the benefits of a personal approach in recruiting ambassadors and stressed that trust is essential when working with key representatives.

Jennifer Young, Associate Director of Visitor Economy for Visit and ConferenceLeeds, commented:
“The ConferenceLeeds team worked really hard to win the bid and to attract a high calibre of guest speakers. The GANG event in Leeds was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase what our city has to offer. The conference was well attended with representatives from across UK destinations, universities and venues coming together to have incredibly insightful discussions about the value of conference ambassador schemes. The talk from Steve Lewis was a particular highlight from the day, showing the importance of maximising everything you have at your disposal within your city. It was a pleasure to welcome everyone to our city and we are particularly grateful to Well Met Conferencing for hosting the event.”

Kate Davis, Head of Business Development for Campus and Residential Services at Leeds Beckett University comments:
“It is a huge testament to Leeds that the city was selected to host this year’s annual GANG conference and we were delighted to welcome the delegates to the Rose Bowl. Ambassador programmes are vital to generating conference business; our ambassador programme here at the University continues to grow as we work with more and more colleagues and staff to facilitate their conferences. The event was a fantastic opportunity to hear how other cities are developing their ambassador programmes and provided a platform to discuss how they can be improved.”

Other topics discussed on the day included funding for ambassador programmes, the benefits of destinations and universities working together and ways to engage existing ambassadors over long periods of time.