Meeting planners have a lot on their plates: From the initial stages of choosing a destination and venue to managing hurdles on the day of the event, there are a lot of moving parts to keep an eye on.
Luckily, planners don’t have to do it alone. Convention and visitors bureaus can be incredibly valuable assets at every stage of the planning. Most CVBs offer a wide range of complimentary or discounted services before, during and after meetings to help planners execute successful events. And since CVB staff are local experts, they can ensure planners and attendees alike get the most out of a meeting or event in their city.
“At the heart of what we do is making that event planning process for a planner as easy as possible,” said Jim Mahon, vice president of marketing and brand management for the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau.
We spoke to Mahon and two other CVB leaders to find out more about the services their organizations offer to meeting planners.
Shortening Your To-Do List
When it comes to making meeting planning a little more manageable, CVBs are a planner’s best ally to help save time and energy.
The first step in meeting planning is choosing a venue. This includes generating a request for proposal, or RFP. CVBs can work with planners to generate one and send it to local hotels or similar venues for bidding. Some CVBs even organize RFP responses for planners. The Akron/Summit CVB can create a consolidated RFP presentation as a digital flipbook to help planners choose their best option in a simple, easy-to-understand format.
Visit Park City doesn’t just send out RFPs to every venue in the area; they analyze which ones make the most sense given a planner’s needs and send out RFPs to those specific venues, which cuts down on the planner’s workload.
“We’re actually doing the legwork for the meeting planner,” said Tonya Sweeten, vice president of group sales at Visit Park City. “We’ll find what we deem to be the best fit.”
Another way CVBs lighten the planner’s load and take some of the guesswork out of planning meetings is through arranging site tours of prospective venues and off-site destinations. This allows meeting planners to see for themselves what the city has to offer before they decide on booking. For those who can’t travel to a destination, the Akron/Summit CVB offers virtual tours and site visits through a website created to showcase some of the area’s attractions.
Some CVBs, like Visit Park City, offer complimentary transportation and hotel stays for planners considering a venue in their area and even reimburse them for airfare if they book their event at one of those venues. Other CVBs provide similar incentives for booking; the Akron/Summit CVB offers planners an Amazon gift card for booking at one of the CVB’s hospitality partners.
In addition to arranging site tours and helping planners secure venues, CVBs often provide event planning guides, which ensure that planners have the most up-to-date and accurate information to map out the specifics of their event.
“We’re a one-stop shop for proposals, site tours and resources,” said Amy Rivera, group sales manager at the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Adding a Personal Touch
CVBs have the tools to assist planners with creating a memorable, one-of-a-kind event. They can provide welcome materials such as signage, information tables, maps, lapel buttons, name badges and information kits. Many offer custom details, such as company logos on name badges, which add style and professionalism to events.
The Akron/Summit CVB offers a popular service known as personalized concierge service, meaning they create custom materials for meeting attendees using information provided by planners, such as profiles on keynote speakers or the event’s agenda. It can be offered in a digital or physical format and also features information on local attractions and event accommodations.
“To have that visitors guide embedded in a digital concierge that’s going to be answering specific questions to that group is where that customer service and attention to detail is elevated,” Mahon said.
CVBs can help give attendees a personalized experience from the moment they arrive. The Fox Cities CVB can arrange for an address from local officials or a color guard appearance to give attendees an unusual and entertaining welcome to the area.
Event promotion is another area where many CVBs are happy to offer customized assistance to planners. Services such as press release creation and distribution and connecting planners with local media outlets help an event get the publicity it requires. Using a CVB for help with advertising and media makes sense because they’ve been part of the planning and already have a sense of the event’s goals and objectives.
The Akron/Summit CVB has an in-house advertising agency to best cater to the individual needs of every planner and event.
“There’s a little more synergy than trying to bring a true outside party to design a flyer or write a press release,” Mahon said.
Creating a Seamless Experience
An important part of event planning is making sure things run smoothly during the event itself. Because they’re local experts, CVBs can help planners anticipate and avoid problems with their events. Their knowledge of the area’s weather, sports, updated business hours and other events can be extremely helpful for planners who are hoping to avoid surprises on the day of their meeting.
“It’s a really good starting point, especially if you’ve never been to the area,” Rivera said.
CVBs also ensure that meeting planners are connected with the best resources in the area, which makes for a memorable experience for attendees. CVB staff are trained to recommend the best caterers, restaurants, shopping, entertainers, keynote speakers and local attractions. They can also design group tours and activities for attendees to enjoy during downtime or as part of a meeting or conference’s agenda. Visit Park City offers itinerary building and team-building activity planning so attendees can get the most out of their event.
“A lot of these can’t be found on Google,” Rivera said of local activities and attractions in the Fox Cities area.
On the day of the event, most CVBs are willing to lend a hand with everything from greeting attendees at the airport or host hotel to helping out with event registration. They’re also there to help when things don’t go as planned and can keep the meeting or event on track even in the face of obstacles such as venue closures or technology issues. This assistance means planners have less to worry about when it comes to running their events.
For large groups, the Fox Cities CVB provides volunteers to assist with registration and wayfinding. They will also provide printers for last-minute event materials, such as name badges.
Though the event’s planning, promotion and execution are extremely important, there’s another aspect of meeting planning that contributes to its success: post-event feedback. Some CVBs, such as the Akron/Summit CVB and Fox Cities CVB, offer custom surveys for attendees to fill out. This feedback can then be analyzed and shared with the meeting planner, which can be used to plan more successful events in the future. This is especially important if the event is held annually.
“If we can be there after the event and help mine some of that information in a way that’s going to be useful when they go back to planning the next year’s event, we just think that’s invaluable,” Mahon said.