Conferli: “We are driven by our passion for this market to come up with new solutions”

17th Nov, 2020

Conferli has recently announced the launch of its innovative platform, a solution that streamlines the process of matching association events with destinations and venues. HQ interviewed the CEO and founder Nienke van der Malen.

1) Can you tell us how Conferli was born?

During my career in the MICE industry from venue sales to destination marketing, I have found that there is a huge lack of independent benchmarking options for cities and venues in our market. There are so many different parameters that matter when a conference organiser chooses a destination. We decided to build the solution to the problem we have been dealing with for years, so we can help hundreds of associations, destinations and venues across the world.
Conferli was officially piloted on the 3rd of June, featuring all of its core functions: from matchmaking, to benchmarking and RFP management. This launch was preceded with an intense period of business and technical development. Our team of experienced professionals in the field of destination marketing, convention bureaus, conference organisation, MICE, hospitality and digital technology joined forces. As a team, we are driven by our passion for this market, our curiosity and our ingenuity to come up with new solutions. We let go of old structures and give the power to our users.

2) Who are your clients?

Conferli is the world’s first match-making platform for association events that helps associations, destinations and venues find each other directly. The platform revolutionises the way associations structure their tender process, by introducing a data-driven city-matching tool. We are currently operating in Europe, we do feature 275 destinations. Our clients are cities, associations and event venues. We do focus on the smaller associations events up to 400 people.

3) What do people need when in the process of organising an event?

As content is getting more and more important, a link to a destination is often key for associations. Until we launched Conferli, there was no global service that provided associations with information about destinations. Nowadays, it’s not just the number of hotel rooms you are offering anymore. Times change and in modern times organisers are looking for a number of metrics when deciding where their next event will be held. They need stronger content, knowledge hubs, more delegates, marketing support and so on. Cities evolve and invest in certain sectors or knowledge hubs, differentiating themselves from their competitors.
Associations, venues and destinations need each other to organise conferences, but they have no way of finding each other easily. Smaller associations do not have resources to conduct a thorough research into destinations and venues that meet all their needs. On the other hand, destinations and venues don’t have easy access to the market of smaller association events, which would help with long-term booking. Conferli solves both of the problems with its match-making and benchmarking tools.

4) What challenges do you face?

Launching a new platform during a crisis was our biggest challenge. While everybody is on a tight budget and uncertain about what the future will bring, being the new kid in town is challenging. Then, we had to adapt to the everyday changing needs of our three target groups (associations, destinations and venues) especially in times like these. For the long term, focus on safety and security (1,5 meter distance) and changing of hygiëne measurements will impact the industry. Furthermore, for the delegate there is uncertainty about travelling across borders. In a traditional sector like the associations, it will be a challenge to convince them to virtually find their new destination without seeing it first. It will impact the associations, but also the way destinations and venues are doing sales.

5) How has your business changed through time, especially in the last eight months?

Of course our launch during COVID-19 was rather controversial. We were hesitant about continuing with our launch, but soon we realised that our platform can play an important role in the recovery of our industry. We offer virtual matchmaking and, in times where it is impossible to meet, it appears to be a great solution. We needed to adapt our business model and, because we just started, we were flexible to do so. We temporarily lifted our membership fees, we set up an integration with the World Travel and Tourism Council to mark destinations with a safe travel stamp. Through these kinds of actions, we can unite our industry during these difficult times and enable all participants to find each other and make plans for the future.

6) Do you believe new technologies are surrounded by a lot of hype, or is there a real potential for future development?

We truly believe in new technologies, by using techniques like AI, it can save time and money during the process and will make the end result much better. Technology can help to broaden your horizon, gives inspiration and stimulates your brain to explore the world.

7) What do you foresee next year will look like for the industry?

Without a doubt we have been hit hard and it is not over yet. But we foresee that there will be a slight recovery in 2021. Meetings might get smaller and more regional but virtual will never take over face-to-face. We showed as an industry how flexible and creative we are. Assets that will help us to come out of this stronger and better than before. Conferli is ready for that.

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Caption: Nienke van der Malen 

Article Included in our HQ#96 October 2020

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Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.