"The CVB is like your mom the night before the science fair. She sees how much it means to you, helps you out, and then let's you get all the credit."
Steve Mital, Sustainability Director for the University of Oregon blogs on behalf of Eugene Cascades and Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts asks the questions.
Steve has been the Director of Sustainability at the University of Oregon’s since 2007. He works to reduce the university’s environmental footprint and expand opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to engage sustainability issues. Only a small part of his responsibilities fall to planning meeting and events, and when they do, his focus is on getting the best leverage possible from his resources. He wants to focus on strategic and creative components and leave the logistics to the experts. If you are looking for a similar arrangement, read on!
Terri: First, can you tell me a little about yourself and your planning background?
Steve: I am the Sustainability Director for the University of Oregon. Part of my job requires me to plan events that inspire people and help them engage regional sustainability challenges.
Terri: What’s the hardest/most challenging part of planning events? What do you most enjoy??
Steve: There are so many conferences and events these days for people to choose from. To succeed you have to offer people excellent content. Because I’m in a small market and have a very modest budget to work with I take the “Moneyball” approach. It’s a lot of fun assembling a team of talented but undervalued speakers who can deliver hits as well as anyone in the big leagues.
Terri: How did you first become aware of the services CVBs provided?
Steve: I learned about the services of Eugene, Cascades & Coast CVB the best way…by word of mouth. In this case, from a colleague who had worked with them previously on a conference bid.
Terri: I know the Eugene CVB assisted you with the bid to host the International Sustainable Campus Network Conference in Eugene in June of 2012. How beneficial was their assistance? In what ways did they help you?
Steve: I went to the 2011 conference in Sweden with a goal of bringing the 2012 conference to Eugene. At the time, there was no formal process. It was all about corralling one particular person and convincing him you could deliver a success. I made my move at dinner one night. My competition was there with a pitch as well. The difference? I had a document (produced by Eugene, Cascades & Coast CVB) clearly explaining our hospitality plan. My competitor did not! I appeared much more prepared and committed.
Terri: What do you most value about your relationship with Eugene CVB?
Steve: They were super responsive, often answering my questions on the same day.
Terri: How would you describe the relationship? What would you compare it to?
Steve: The CVB is like your mom the night before the science fair. She sees how much it means to you, helps you out, and then let’s you get all the credit.
Terri: What do you think is unique about the value CVBs provide compared to other planning partners you might use?
Steve: I don’t know much about the market. But, I know the CVB’s services were free to me. I like to think they were broadly promoting hotels, restaurants, etc. in the destination and not just ones they had a special relationship with.
Terri: What is most compelling to you about Eugene as a meeting destination? What did your international attendees have to say about Eugene?
Steve: They loved the green culture, local food, bike-ability, and surrounding wine country. Pretty much says it all.
Terri: Why did you choose not to go it alone on the internet, or go direct to hotel, when planning your conference?
Steve: I wanted to put my energy into finding speakers and a few special touches to make the event compelling. I was happy not to have to devote much time to hotel logistics.
Terri: If you didn’t use a CVB, how would you replace their services?
Steve: I probably would have hired a temporary staffer to handle this. And I never would have had full confidence that he/she had found me the best hotels for our needs.