"A great indicator of their (CVB) quality is their willingness to research our group and our respective needs."
Natasha J. Ross, CMP, Director of Education and Events,for Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) shares some great insights from her planning experience and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts gets the inside track.
Natasha is the 2014 meeting planner of the year for the Event Service Professionals Association! Here she clearly articulates the value she discerns from working with her CVB partners in Virginia Beach. In fact, she wishes she had discovered the power of the CVB contact earlier in her career. She urges you to connect with your destination expert to see if something is possible before you spend the time and energy to find out it’s not.
TERRI: First, can you tell me a little about yourself and your planning background?
NATASHA: I am an association planner, mostly working with health care related organizations. I began as a meeting assistant, handling exhibits and small meetings. I have been with the Association of Air Medical Services since 2004.
TERRI: What’s the hardest/most challenging part of your job? What do you most enjoy?
NATASHA: The answer to both of these questions is the same. Never knowing what’s next is hard and challenging, but that’s also part of the joy…figuring it all out and then having it all work.
TERRI: How did you first become aware of the services CVBs provided?
NATASHA: In my current position, I really needed to truly explore what CVBs offered. Everything for our annual meeting is based in a convention center, usually a city owned product. I’ve found it’s much easier to have someone introduce you, and then move to other aspects of a location. The easiest and fastest way to get all of the information is to start with the CVB. They know everything about their location (at least they are supposed to). They know who all the players are and can start you off in the right direction.
TERRI: What do you most value about your relationship with Virginia Beach or other CVBs in general?
NATASHA: Most valuable, I knew that I could ask any question and they would help me find a solution. It was nice to have a resource to collaborate with on the project, externally.
TERRI: When you reach out, what is your litmus test for a quality CVB partner?
NATASHA: A great indicator of their quality is their willingness to research our group and our respective needs.
TERRI: What do you think is unique about the value CVBs provide compared to other planning partners you might use?
NATASHA: They know a little about everything. They can tell you if it’s even possible before you spend the time and energy to find out it’s not.
TERRI: What is most compelling to you about Virginia Beach as a meeting destination?
NATASHA: The state of the art convention center was perfect for the daytime activities, and being on the oceanfront for nighttime activities brought an entirely different dimension to our meeting.
TERRI: What do your attendees have to say about Virginia Beach as a meeting destination?
NATASHA: Our attendees had reservations because of old images of Virginia Beach being a vacation beach town. They were pleasantly surprised by the ‘new’ Virginia Beach. It was nothing like they expected and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Some even went so far as to write to the CVB to let them know what a great time they had.
TERRI: Why did you choose not to go it alone on the internet, or go direct to hotel, when planning your conference?
NATASHA: We have aircraft and other large pieces of equipment in our trade show, which is a central piece to our showcase event. Very few hotels can manage the housing of this vital component. Even if I find a hotel that can house everyone, it still won’t work without a state of the art convention center and hotel package nearby.
TERRI: If you didn’t use a CVB, how would you replace their services?
NATASHA: I don’t want to think about that. I suppose I would end up traveling a lot more and doing a lot more ground work ahead of time. The internet is awesome for initial research, but having real people providing feedback in addition is key.
TERRI: What would you like other planners to know about using a CVB?
NATASHA: I wish I had used them when I first started planning meetings. They are fantastic resources for many things you may not have ever considered.