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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Experts Bring Insight to 
Small Market Meetings Conference

Speakers at the Small Market Meetings Conference brought presentations that entertained delegates and enlightened them on numerous issues in the business of planning meetings.

Sunday’s keynote address was presented by business expert Frank Pacetta, president of the Central Ohio Region for ComDoc. Pacetta was funny, enthusiastic, infectious, self-deprecating and all over the place at times, but he delivered strong business messages to attendees.

He warned about always doing things the same way.

“When you hear company leaders say, ‘This is how we’ve always done this,’ get the body bags ready because they’re in trouble,” Pacetta told the audience.

Other nuggets from Pacetta’s talk were the following: Believe in the impossible. Be willing to take risks. Pacetta gave examples of FedEx and Southwest Airlines being different when they began — and succeeding. He also urged managers to create a great environment for their employees and “find people that make your customers feel good about meeting them.”

Sue Tinnish, dean of the School of Hospitality Management at Kendall College in Chicago, was another enthusiastic presenter. She told seminar attendees that meetings are changing and formats need to resonate with today’s audiences.

Tinnish cited four new realities in the meetings game: There are mixed generations within today’s audience; everyone’s got an opinion; the world is complex, global and puzzlelike; and people expect to be entertained.

“Those four realities require us to do something different and not just rely on PowerPoint,” she said.

Tinnish described seven new meeting formats, some quite a departure from the norm. Some are fast-paced, others use open space, and some collect everyone’s opinions.

Travel attorney Jonathan Howe gave an industry update. Business travel is up, but new large-hotel and resort construction is down. Smaller, limited-service hotels are growing but don’t offer meeting space. Group bookings are way up, but many groups book further out to get the best spaces. Daily rates are up, and there’s a consolidation of hotel brands.

Howe jokingly referred to contracts into which planners enter as “self-inflicted wounds.”

“Make sure they do what you want them to do,” he said. “Contracts can be your best friend or your worst enemy.”

Howe said when negotiating a contract, planners should draw three columns on a legal pad: “A ‘my needs’ column — ‘I absolutely, positively have to have this’; a ‘my wants’ column — ‘I need it, but I’m flexible’; and a ‘my interests’ column — ‘Hey, it’d be nice if I got it.’” Howe said never give up something without getting something in return.

Howe added that people like to do business with professionals they trust and like, and will even follow them if they change jobs. It’s all about relationships.

And finally, Greg Nahmens of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration told the audience about the Look Before You Book safety campaign. FMCSA tracks compliance records of motorcoach companies and rates them. Planners were urged to go to the FMCSA website and check the records of the bus companies they’re considering before hiring them.

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Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.