Convention bureau allies.
An association meeting planner and a CVB marketer on the advantages of working together.
As the bureau sees it
Ten days before the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, D.C., in New York City, APA Director of Meetings Management George Campbell had a logistics nightmare come true. One of his meeting coordinators left--the one who was responsible for all meetings at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and the New York Hilton, 20 blocks away. He found salvation in the most unlikely of places: the convention and visitors bureau--the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.
At the suggestion of Tom Muldoon, the Philadelphia bureau president, Director of Convention Services Philomena Petro stepped into action, assuming all responsibilities of the departing meeting planner. Petro handled the job like a pro and the meeting ran smoothly.
Why would the Philadelphia bureau lend staff for a New York meeting? We wanted to be prepared for the APA annual meeting to be held in Philadelphia in 1994.
While association meeting planners cannot always expect such extraordinary service from convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), they can expect to find professional, competent assistance at CVBs from Philadelphia to Sydney, Mobile to Madrid.
Begin with calls to sales directors at CVBs in cities you are considering as a meeting site. Many bureaus have sales directors assigned to the association market. Prepare a checklist before the call: preferred dates, number of sleeping rooms, number of meeting rooms, number and size of exhibits, arrival and departure dates, and past attendance history.
Within a week or so, expect to receive a proposal from each bureau outlining availability of hotel and meeting space as well as exhibit capabilities. The bureau should also send a list of services that staff can provide.
To help with site selection and to save time, the bureau will arrange a tour of hotels, meeting sites, and even tourist attractions. Once you select the city, have a heart-to-heart talk with the bureau's convention services manager.
Be open and specific about your group's needs. The manager and other staff have inside information such as how available hotel space will change, what construction projects are planned in the city, and what labor contracts will be renegotiated. Each bureau maintains a list of members and local contracts, including caterers; special-event planners; suppliers of banners, balloons, and badges; and many others. The bureau will be unbiased in selection.
The bureau can also customize a number of major services.
Housing. For groups requiring three or more hotels, many bureaus provide computerized housing services, some including an 800 number. The convention service manager will give a detailed explanation of the bureau's system, including the frequency and kinds of reports the planner can expect to receive and what kinds of confirmation the attendees will receive.
CVBs may also provide on-site housing assistance. For the Rotary International convention in Philadelphia in 1988, the bureau spent two days assisting attendees with more than 300 reservations made on site. When all the hotel space was booked in the tri-state Delaware Valley, four people from Germany arrived. A bureau staff member provided the next best thing to a hotel room: a room in his own house for three days.
Registration. If you need 4 or 104 people to help with registration, the bureau will arrange for qualified local people to handle on-site registration. Bureau-related staff are trained and familiar with the city, the convention center, and the hotels. The association usually will be expected to pick up the cost. Give the bureau staff your specific personnel requirements, such as computer experience, typing, or languages. Cashiers should be bonded, and you should provide an orientation program.
Transportation. The bureau is knowledgeable about trains, planes, and buses. They'll give you a list of cabs, limousines, and public transit from airport to hotels. Staff can help with names of local bus carriers and planning a shuttle service between the convention center and hotels. The Philadelphia CVB, like others, will go a step further and include a shuttle desk for large conventions.
Welcome program. Bureaus provide a variety of special greetings to association groups through an ambassador or volunteer program. An attendee at a large meeting in Philadelphia can expect an airport greeting, a local snack, and even a band. And for large groups, the bureau provides a booth that will make restaurant reservations for your attendees.
Sightseeing tours. If attendees bring spouses or combine the meeting with a vacation, make sure the CVB knows. Staff will arrange sightseeing trips and provide information about local events coinciding with your meeting.
Publicity and publications. The bureau can help with preconvention publicity by attending the prior year's convention to promote the coming meeting. And don't wait until the convention is at hand to think about press coverage. Bureaus have communication staff to alert media days or even weeks in advance of program highlights. For the Philadelphia Craft Market in 1991, the Philadelphia CVB helped plan a press conference, is coordinating the issuance of a mayoral proclamation for "World Craft Week," and is helping the show's publicity director with visits to local press, months before the show.
Publications are also available, most free, to send to your potential or confirmed attendees. And after your meeting is completed, the CVB can help you with a postconvention critique and provide housing statistics to let you even more accurately plan your next meeting.
Andrew S. Tod is vice president of sales and marketing at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.
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|Title Annotation:||meeting planners and convention bureaus work together|
|Author:||Woodcock, Deborah A.|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1991|
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