When meeting planners are asked about their biggest challenges today, the most common answer is that they have to do more with less. Limited staff, lower budgets and higher costs add up to seemingly insurmountable challenges in today’s meetings industry. On top of all that, planners are still expected to deliver a memorable meeting experience with high attendance! To the meeting planner, this looks impossible. But to you – the CVB/DMO – this should look like a new opportunity.
Today, successful cities are beginning to differentiate their destinations by selling themselves as business partners for meeting planners. They have destination experts on staff who are there to assist meeting planners with partnerships and programs that could not have been arranged directly with a convention center or hotel. These CVBs are offering expert assistance throughout the event planning process at no cost to the meeting planner. This is a departure of the old model of “dates, rates and space” and a shift toward partnering with meeting planners as strategic destination meeting executives.
Meeting planners share a common goal with CVB and DMOs – they want to drive attendance. High attendance means success for the meeting planner and means ROI for the destination. So it only makes sense for the CVB to act as destination consultants by partnering with planners to leverage their community relationships on behalf of the meeting planner, by assisting in finding speakers and local experts, by seeking out community partnerships, by helping boost attendance, by promoting the total value of a meeting to the community, and by helping solve any problems that may occur before and during a meeting.
Denver, Colorado provides a good example of this new strategic model. Denver’s CVB leadership has done a superior job of connecting their convention industry with local business leaders. Less than ten years ago Denver converted an army base into the Anschultz Medical Campus for the University of Colorado Health Science Division. During the conversion, the Denver CVB CEO and his conference services team went to the medical facility to meet with department heads, many of whom have served on national boards of medical associations. Through the series of meetings, they uncovered business connections that took it to the next level for meeting planners. As a result of their strategy, the World Conference on Lung Cancer met in Denver in September of 2015, which began as a collaboration of the CVB, the city’s economic development team, and the medical campus to bring that group to town. Their combined efforts resulted in Denver welcoming more than 7,000 medical delegates from more than 100 countries to the mile high city.
Instead of simply offering meeting planners financial incentives (subventions), today’s CVB/DMOs should provide a higher level of creative and personalized support to the meetings industry. They should follow Denver’s lead and solicit local corporate partnerships and local industry-specific intelligence, to create value for a meeting planner and their event.
These connections will not only raise the CVB/DMO relevance in the meetings and convention industry but also show real business outcome and financial return for both the meeting planner and the destination.