Sharon Morris, Exhibition Manager/Executive Assistant for RSSI, shares her thoughts here on the true value of using a CVB as a valued resource, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts lends an ear.
My interview with Sharon was inspiring in a world where many think that service and personal relationships aren’t nearly what they used to be. She has found that working with a CVB puts a “little skin in the game,” and that those with a vested interest in the success of a meeting work harder to ensure things go right. Read on for an inside look from Sharon’s perspective. We hope you will similarly discover a local friend who gives you the inside edge.
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourself and your planning background?
SHARON: I am the Exhibit Manager/Executive Assistant for Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc., (RSSI) a trade association for rail and rail transit communication and signal suppliers. I am a team of one, with the RSSI office in Louisville, Kentucky. I coordinate directly with the RSSI Executive Director who resides in Jacksonville, Florida. Seventeen years ago I left the accounting field to join RSSI, and found my real niche in life.
TERRI: How did you first become aware of the services CVBs provided?
SHARON: A little over a decade ago, I found out that CVBs are a fabulous resource for planners. Over the years, I have come to rely on the CVB to be an extension of my office.
TERRI: How long have you been working with the Omaha CVB? How has your relationship with the Omaha CVB grown/changed over time?
SHARON: I have been working with the Omaha CVB since 2002, when the Qwest Center and some of the hotels were mere holes in the ground. The CVB assured us the end result of the construction project would surpass the drawings and that they WOULD meet their construction deadlines. We signed our contract in 2002 for a large exhibition to be held in May, 2005. I have enjoyed a ten year relationship with the same CVB representative, Mark Rath, National Sales Manager. The Omaha CVB has been an outstanding resource for everything “Omaha.” RSSI held their exhibition in 2005 and again in 2010 in Omaha and we are looking forward to revisiting the city again in the near future.
TERRI: What do you most value about your relationship with Omaha CVB/other CVBs in general?
SHARON: The Omaha CVB is very different from any other CVB I have dealt with. Mark is my first call when we are considering issuing an RFP. With one call, I can find out the availability of the convention center and the numerous hotels required to house our attendees.
TERRI: How would you describe the relationship? What would you compare it to?
SHARON: My relationship with the Omaha CVB is like having a best friend in the city because I know I can rely on their outstanding relationship with the convention center, hotels and other facilities in Omaha. Their unbiased information, as opposed to a “sales” brochure, is assurance that the CVB believes in what they are “selling.”
TERRI: Which specific services do you rely on?
SHARON: The list is lengthy due to the trust and respect I have with the Omaha CVB. From the initial call to see if the dates are available with the Convention Center and the various hotels, the extensive list of convention services that are offered, and the many impromptu crisis they have gotten me through – the Omaha CVB definitely puts the “OH” in Omaha!
TERRI: What do you think is unique about the value CVBs provide compared to other planning partners you might use?
SHARON: A CVB comes to the table with a vested interest in the results. Their focus is to encourage tourism and commerce in their city. The CVB is only successful if the city and the event being held is deemed successful. Using other partners that do not have a vested interest in the outcome has proven to be one-sided at best.
TERRI: What is most compelling to you about Omaha as a meeting destination?
SHARON: Omaha offers something that a tier one city cannot offer a group our size – we feel “special.” Our presence in Omaha is seen as making an economic difference and the appreciation from the various establishments in the city has been unmatched in my 17 year history with this event. I feel that our partnership with Omaha is mutually beneficial – a win/win for all involved. The attendees love the close proximity of the airport to the downtown area. The downtown area has proven safe and diverse in what it has to offer.
TERRI: Why do you choose not to go it alone on the internet when planning a meeting?
SHARON: As a staff of one, I prefer to build relationships with those that will have a direct impact on our event. The internet has its benefits; but, I do not feel it will ever compare to the personal relationships needed in the meeting planning industry. I need a team to support the project –and the Omaha CVB has been an outstanding team member.
TERRI: How do CVBs make your job easier?
SHARON: The CVB has the city-wide support of the various establishments needed to assure a convention our size is successful. They have the “in” and know who to call when time is critical.
TERRI: If you didn’t use a CVB, how would you replace their services?
SHARON: CVBs provide a valuable resource for an association with limited personnel resources. The task of coordinating the various aspects of a production our size would be daunting. Our goal is to be good fiduciary stewards of the funds we have and to promote our convention as cost-effective to the attendees. Utilizing a third party would be cost prohibitive for an association such as ours. Other resources promote themselves as free, but in reality the attendees are paying though increased fees.
TERRI: What would you like other planners to know about using a CVB?
CVBs are a resource that has no cost but proves to be invaluable! They are your “local” friend and advocate. The CVB provides the local “edge!”