Lisa L. Dyson, CMP, Director of Conference Services with TESOL International shares some great insights on meeting planning “intel,” and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts gets the inside track.
My interview with Lisa was straight forward and engagingly informative. She has a fresh perspective on getting the job done quickly and efficiently. She has found CVBs to be valued planning partners and has a special appreciation for the experts at the Seattle CVB. Here’s a look at what she knows best and how you can put similar time saving strategies to work for you.
TERRI: First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your planning background?
LISA: I began my meeting and event planning career in 1997 planning social activities for active duty military families for the USO of Metropolitan Washington. From there, I worked for the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry for more than 7 years, and I have been at TESOL International Association since November 2006.
I have a BS in Marketing from Johnson & Wales University. I have been married to my wonderful husband, Eric, for 17 years and we have a 15 year old daughter, Rebecca.
TERRI: How did you first become aware of the services CVBs provide?
I first became aware of CVB services when I began at AWCI as an Education Programs Coordinator. While there, part of my responsibilities were the site selection for our certificate programs. My boss at the time said to contact the CVB for help with finding the hotel options. I actually became aware of CVBs before I was aware that we had national sales reps for the big chains!
TERRI: How has your relationship with the Seattle CVB grown/changed over time?
LISA: The Seattle CVB will always hold a special place in my heart as Seattle was the location of my first convention for TESOL in 2007. When I came on board, I didn’t even have copies of the hotel contracts and had to contact the CVB to get them! The bureau also helped me with setting up a team leader meeting and site visits in January – I had never seen any of the facilities so it was a whirlwind and very necessary trip 2 months out! I couldn’t have pulled that convention off without their help. Since then, the relationship has really become one of mutual respect and partnership. They have bid on our annual a couple of times since 2007 and each time I go through the process with them, I am more impressed with how professional their staff is and how well they know their city and can showcase it so very well.
TERRI: What do you most value about your relationship with Seattle/other CVBs in general?
LISA: The Seattle CVB (or any other CVB) becomes an extension of my staff. I have a very small staff and am the only actual meeting professional on staff so I depend on them to help me do my job effectively.
TERRI: How would you describe the relationship? What would you compare it to?
LISA: A CVB is like an old friend because they are always there when you need them even if it has been a while since you’ve done business in that city.
TERRI: Which specific services do you rely on?
LISA: RFP distribution for our citywide and site selection is the biggest thing I rely on in the early stages. Then once a city is chosen I tap my CVB folks for referrals for vendor services, restaurant options for our special dinners, destination marketing assistance, registration clerks, microsites for our web sites, collateral to promote the city the year before. We have also used bureau housing services which are a great bargain if you do not have housing and registration services tied together through a registration provider.
TERRI: What do you think is unique about the value CVBs provide compared to other planning partners you might use?
LISA: For me, the CVB is always the best option. Their services are free and they are the EXPERTS on their city. Other third parties can offer free site selection services but they are by no means experts on every city. Plus, the number of services the CVB provides at little or no cost is really convenient and they are top-notch. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” doesn’t hold true when it comes to a CVB!
TERRI: Why do you choose not to go it alone on the internet when planning a meeting?
LISA: Particularly for our annual convention and expo, the meeting is too complex to dump into an online RFP form and expect it to make sense. As detailed as my RFP is, there are usually still a few questions and I find that when using on online submission form if there is incomplete information or missing information the request just gets ignored. Besides, the hospitality and meetings industry is all about relationships. Kind of hard to have a relationship with an online form.
TERRI: How do CVBs make your job easier?
LISA: They make my job easier with all of the services they provide. It would take such a long time for me to do everything they do on my own…time I do not have. Heck–just the hotel piece alone for our annual would take a long time if I had to contact them all individually and get proposals!
TERRI: If you didn’t use a CVB, how would you replace their services?
LISA: ACK! I don’t even want to think about that! I suppose if the world was suddenly without CVBs, I would have to use another third party provider for the site selection process but the rest would be left to me to figure out.
TERRI: What would you like other planners to know about using a CVB?
LISA: Using a CVB is your secret weapon to saving time, money and looking great in front of your boss!