Presenting a United Front
By Marilyn Healey President , Association for Convention Operations Management | November 21, 2010
Throughout the overall meeting process, it is important for convention services managers (CSMs) at hotels, convention centers and convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) to work together to ensure their clients feel all three areas are united and collectively have their best interests in mind. CSMs must work together to sell the destination as well as the amenities and benefits their particular venue can offer clients and attendees.
Starting with the initial site visit to any city, a hotel, CVB or convention venue has the prime opportunity to unite in addressing the needs of a particular meeting planner. As a convention services professional, it is helpful to be a part of the initial site visit, as during this process, CSMs have an opportunity to establish initial rapport with the client, find out their objectives and any selling points or specialized needs.
Devon Sloan, CMP, Director of Events at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador indicates that at the Hilton, they are being asked to accompany the sales manager on more site inspections prior to the meeting being booked. "They want us there so the client sees a united front in the resort, so they obtain honest information about room capacities and capabilities and also so the client can see the caliber of person they will be working with when the meeting is booked at the resort," she said.
Working together does not end with the initial site visit, but continues throughout the overall planning process. "Many hotel CSMs are now working with the destination to coordinate the off-site excursions or other entertainment activities," said Mickey Schaefer, President, Mickey Schaefer & Associates LLC, who specializes in providing strategic direction for the meetings industry, tourism and associations. "It's challenging for the CSM alone to be more creative with the experience or activity, so working together with the destination CVB really helps the CSM create a unique way to engage the planner, helping them understand everyone is collectively committed to the experience of the attendee, especially when they are off-site."
Planning activities outside of the conference venue gives CSMs a better opportunity to create emotional connections with attendees, in turn, increasing the chance of them returning, committing to return at another time or having other groups return, according to Schaefer.
She added, "With new tools such as social media being utilized, meeting attendees can now tell thousands of their colleagues and friends whether they enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) their meeting experience," she said. "Therefore, CSMs and their clients working together to refine and define a customer's experience is crucial to the destination and the important 'word-of-mouth' or 'word-of-thumb' marketing that results."