If you are one of the thousands of meeting professionals who partnered with convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) last year to place your meeting or event, you already know CVBs are destination experts who help you find the right fit, regardless of size. CVB professionals possess in-depth knowledge about every pertinent aspect of their destination and have a keen understanding of the hotels and venues, plus a sincere desire to bring your business to their destination. Hopefully, you’ve taken advantage of CVB insights and local expertise, have worked with your representative to craft the most effective request for proposal (RFP), completed your site inspection, and ultimately confirmed the facilities for your meeting. Is this where your relationship with the CVB ends? Not if you’re a savvy planner!
Providing information about the destination and working with you throughout the RFP process are only two pieces of the CVB pie. The third big slice is the services you receive after the RFP. The CVB’s mission is accomplished only when your event has successfully concluded, your delighted attendees have returned home, and you’ve closed the meeting’s three-ring binder and put it on the shelf; so, once you’ve negotiated the contracts, CVB services kick in to help with the logistics of meeting production.
The breadth of specific services offered depends to some extent on the budget and size of the destination and the size of your event. A meeting that produces $2.5 million in direct spending can command more CVB-provided services than a meeting that produces $75,000. However, many services are standard, across-the-board fare offered by all CVBs, regardless of your group’s size or financial impact. Post-contract services are grouped into five main categories:
- Event and Off- Site Selection Support
- Attendance Promotion
- Political and Community Liaison
- Public Relations Services
- On-Site Services
Event and Off-Site Selection Support
By the time you’ve selected your hotel(s), your CVB partner has a strong handle on the flavor of your meeting, your budget parameters, and the demographics of the attendees. He or she will combine that insight with their destination knowledge to recommend off-site venues and support service vendors, often introducing you to places and companies you might not have discovered on your own.
Talley Management Group, headquartered in Mt. Royal, NJ, provides management services to many associations whose meetings range in size from 10 person board meetings to the 50,000 person International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous held every five years. Gregg Talley, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO, gives an example of discovering the perfect venue with the assistance of the CVB. “For one of our smaller groups, American Headache Society, the Philadelphia CVB helped us find the perfect location for a special event – way off the radar screen and a real “find” – the Mutter Museum at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, totally unique to that city.” Talley continues, “ We have always worked with CVB service departments for several reasons. They know the city way better than we ever will – from contacts to opportunities, they’ve got it covered. They have great ideas from seeing what other groups have done, so they become a valuable resource.”
The CVB is happy to send leads to companies providing group related services such as restaurants, transportation companies, golf courses, and destination management companies (DMCs). If a trade show is part of your convention, you know that happy, well-cared-for exhibitors equals increased revenue; based on the size of your event, many CVBs assist with exhibitor site trips, education, and suggesting venues for ICW (in conjunction with) programs.
You’ve chosen an appealing destination, picked the perfect hotel, nailed down great speakers and activities. Now you have to entice the people to register. Helping planners promote meetings to potential attendees is perhaps the most important – and most requested – service that CVBs provide. The CVBs of all meeting destinations provide complimentary maps and general destination information, logos, destination videos, and photo albums which you can use to build awareness and excitement about your meeting’s location. Some of the many additional attendance promotion services which CVBs may provide, based on the size of your group, are:
- A customized landing page or link on the destination website
- Small logoed promotional items
- Destination materials to promote next year’s meeting
- A destination representative to promote next year’s meeting
- Assistance with securing sponsorships from local companies that partner with groups for exposure during the meeting
Political and Community Liaison
No entity has stronger contacts within the local political, education or business industry than the CVB. The CVB is your advocate, able to explain your meeting’s value to the destination, and often pulling the impossible out of a hat.
“For the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous, our largest meeting of 50,000 attendees,” says Gregg Talley, “we frequently need and ask for things like shutting down streets and controlling public spaces and having access to the city’s emergency management system – actions that require governmental permission, coordination and information. The 2010 convention was held in San Antonio, TX, and the CVB always came through saying ‘yes, we can make that happen’ and then they pulled together the right decision makers and told them why this was important.”
Many meetings now incorporate a social responsibility project into their schedule and incorporate green practices whenever possible. The CVB can connect you with appropriate charitable organizations to be the recipient of your good works, and can suggest green practices, suppliers and support that are available in the destination.
Public Relations Services
Unless you’re planning the next Annual Conference of CIA Double Agents, you may want to alert the local media that your meeting is coming to town. Good press is invaluable! If there is an aspect of your meeting or organization that is especially timely and newsworthy, or ties into some aspect of the local community, you could get image-boosting print or local TV news coverage — good for getting your message out there and reassuring the attendees that they are participating in a meaningful event. Your CVB partners can provide media lists and help you make connections.
And speaking of the media. . . unfortunately, and thank goodness infrequently, your meeting paradise can be transformed into a disaster zone by an unexpected earthquake, hurricane, flood or fire. In times of crisis and doomsday headlines you need to be able to separate fact from fiction and determine how these current events will impact your meeting and attendees . The CVB is an accurate and direct source of information, and a trusted local partner to help you develop a reasoned course of action.
Similarly, the CVB can troubleshoot on your behalf to overcome manmade problems. Being well connected to local government, politics, and the entire hospitality network enables your CVB expert to engage in proactive problem solving on your behalf.
Want to make your attendees feel especially welcome and important as soon as they step off the plane? Ask the CVB about providing airport welcome signs, banners throughout the downtown area, and meet and greet services. Some of these services may have meeting size requirements or require purchase, but their impact is huge. Similarly, the CVB may be equipped to provide registration support, a welcome desk, and a restaurant reservations booth.
CVB Services at a Glance
Meeting planners have given us feedback that they want to be able to determine quickly which services CVBs provide from destination to destination. We have responded by including a services checklist for each destination as part of empowerMINT.com, the virtual national sales office for convention and visitors bureaus.
To find out exactly which services each destination’s CVB provides, visit empowerMINT.com , choose the locations you are researching in empowerMINT’s Destination Finder, and click on the services tab for each. If there is a particular service you would like, but don’t see listed, just ask. The CVB will try to make it happen.
You rely on the CVB’s comprehensive view of their destination for knowledge, their local expertise to deliver your RFP, and their ability to get viable and timely hotel responses, so trust that their skill and extensive in-market relationships will deliver the services to make your event stellar. It’s a win-win-win for everybody: you get complimentary or cost effective expert assistance, your attendees feel special, and the CVB accomplishes its mission of delivering an excellent experience.
Enjoy your piece of the service pie!