Most of us who call Wisconsin home can come up with a significant list of reasons why we love it here. Wisconsinites are friendly. The scenery is diverse and exceptional. Our cities are culturally and intellectually rich. We have big-city amenities without the big-city price tag. There is an almost endless variety of activities and experiences that are uniquely Wisconsin.
A meeting planner weighing Wisconsin’s benefits against other and better known destinations is likely to be more objective and analytical.
What is it, then, that tips the scale to favor Wisconsin?
Sandrine Milanello, Events Director for the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), a Chicago-based organization that focuses on intimate neighborhoods over urban sprawl, is quick to acknowledge that Madison was a logical choice for their 2011 assembly of about 1,600 delegates.
“Madison is so perfect! It’s a beautiful, walkable city, and an excellent value. Everyone was very welcoming. All the elements we needed were there—well-located hotels, ideal meeting space at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, and the lake views are beautiful.
“We found restaurants within walking distance. It’s an eclectic city that complemented our dynamic group of members, and our agenda, including area tours that showcased many of our key tenets.”
Milanello’s early collaboration with the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau also was a key in the final decision process.
“The GMCVB did an amazing job. They offered a welcoming and supportive environment, working hard to bring us good prices. We are a small staff; their help was invaluable.”
In October 2013, about 2,000 biologists, wildlife professionals and students from around the world will converge on Milwaukee for The Wildlife Society Annual Conference.
According to Darryl Walter, Director of Membership Marketing and Conferences for the Bethesda, Maryland-based organization, conference locations have varied from Snowbird, Utah to Waikoloa, Hawaii and Portland, Oregon in recent years.
“We put each meeting out to bid, looking for a host city that has a lot to offer, including a strong convention and visitor’s bureau with substantial volunteer support.”
“Milwaukee came back a strong contender—a good value, a convenient convention complex, and they are proving to be great to work with, not only for the conference but pre-and post-tours, and evening events like restaurants. It’s a beautiful city, very dynamic.”
“Our choice is about academics too. The state of Wisconsin has a strong presence in wildlife programs, research, innovation, practices, especially at the UW Madison and UW Stevens Point, which is important to the critical new thoughts and ideas we bring to attendees. “
“We heavily promote the program with post card mailings, conference e-newsletters and at other industry conferences. It’s a scientific agenda so we talk to our audience.”
We also recognize that current economic conditions can impact overall participation, so to help members sell the benefits of their attendance to their superiors, we developed a “justification toolkit,” with talking points, available on our website.”
The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) is in its 121st year of advocating on behalf of Wisconsin dairy processors, focusing its efforts on maintaining a competitive climate for those that produce and market Wisconsin cheese and butter.
The organization brings much more than that to the industry, though, in the form of seminars, workshops and expositions that draw attendees from all over the world. The biennial International Cheese Technology Exposition, held this year at the Frontier Airlines Center in Milwaukee, attracted exhibitors and attendees from all over North America as well as Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and more.
Judy Keller, event planner for the association, remarked that the 2012 program was bigger than ever.
“This is the big one. They come from all over the world, to network, to tour the trade show, and to learn from leaders in the business. It’s a fantastic event.”
Keller describes Milwaukee as an ideal place to showcase the wealth of dairy knowledge that exists in our own state. The downtown convention complex is excellent, and hotels are clustered nearby. And because attendees return regularly, she points out, they have come to appreciate that Milwaukee is a great city to visit.
For the first time, the WCMA in early 2012 opened the annual final judging for the coveted title of World Championship Cheese to the general public (tickets required), turning the event from strictly business to an evening gala with cheese tastings and a cash bar at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
This year in July, the 10th Annual International Congress on the Biology of Fish will take place in Madison, chaired by Dr. Terence Barry, Senior Scientist at the UW Laboratory of Fish Endocrinology and Aquaculture. As a past member of the American Fisheries Society executive committee, Dr. Barry was in a position to select this year’s conference site, and without hesitation, he recommended Madison.
“We held our last (2010) conference in Barcelona, Spain, which of course is a great place, but it lacks the intimacy of Madison,” he said. “Once our group of scientists arrived in Barcelona, we rarely saw one another except at meetings.”
“Here in Madison, our events, both day and evening, are centered on the Monona Terrace Convention Center, the Capitol Square, State Street and the UW campus. You can walk everywhere, so we won’t be shuttling people long distances.”
“Madison has hosted at least some of the group’s scientists at past professional meetings. Even the most sophisticated international attendees were blown away by the great, fun, charming “little town,” as they called it.”
After-hours activities will showcase Madison’s outdoor options: a walking tour, dinner cruise on Lake Mendota, Concerts on the Square, and an evening outdoor banquet on the Monona Terrace rooftop.
Dr. Barry gives high marks to the staff at the UW-Extension who are assisting with arrangements. “Patti Thompson and her team are great. They’ve done all the work, really.”
Given the diversity of these four conventions, their reasons for selecting Wisconsin over other destinations are strikingly similar. Big-city amenities without the big-city price tag. A friendly and welcoming population. Excellent meeting facilities and lodging options, activities and experiences that are uniquely Wisconsin.
And skilled local support to help put it all together.