The second annual Small Market Meetings Summit will be coming to the Lone Star State this year. This important gathering of top meeting planners and destination providers will be presented in Fort Worth, Texas, May 2-3. The event will take place at the Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel and Golf Club at Champions Circle. About two dozen meeting planners who are looking for new and interesting destinations to book for their meetings will gather to hear pitches during the day-and-a-half Summit.
“Visit Fort Worth, the local convention and visitors bureau, has been attending various conferences staged by [Summit organizer] The Group Travel Family for a while, so when we had the chance to host one, we were excited,” said Stefanie Schaffner, the national sales manager for Visit Fort Worth.
Fort Worth is described as the city “where the West begins.” It was the jumping-off point for early settlers who wanted to cross the American wilderness. Visit Fort Worth wants to show off its Western heritage and modern delights to groups of visitors.
Because of an overflow of participants at the annual Small Market Meetings Conference each fall, organizers decided to host a smaller, handpicked group of 25 meeting planners for the spring Summit.
“The Summit focuses on building relationships,” said Charlie Presley, a partner in the conference and summit. “Meeting planners will meet destinations and venues that value medium and small events. The travel industry reps will enjoy the controlled registration. The Summit only accepts 75 travel industry delegates to create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere to develop relationships with meeting planners.”
At the Summit, the planners will meet in pods of destinations. Rather than a planner meeting one-on-one with a single vendor from a city, each planner will talk with three individuals from that location. During the appointment, the planner could be seated across from a representative of a CVB or a city, state or regional tourism official; a hotel or resort salesperson; a spokesperson from a specific attraction; or any combination of those professionals.
This format helps planners target the locations in which they are most interested while collecting a load of information. To help that process, the scheduled marketplace meetings will be 12 minutes, twice the length of the usual Small Market Meetings Conference sit-downs.
Presley often reminds planners how important the travel industry is to booking attractive meeting sites.
“They’re the backbone of our industry,” he said. “Because they understand meeting planners and know exactly what they need. They’re going to support you.”
The Summit begins on Monday, May 2, at the Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel and Golf Club at Champions Circle. The staff that will be taking care of everyone during the meetings will hand out badges and materials and answer questions. It is also a time for comradery as planners reacquaint themselves with colleagues they met at other Small Market Meetings events.
At this time, planners will also be able to stop by a few of the sponsor booths stationed around the marketplace room and get an early start learning about the destinations that are helping to sponsor the Summit.
Monday evening will be a fun time. Visit Fort Worth will be the host and promises to dazzle everyone with a Western-themed dinner and entertainment.
Tuesday is a full workday for delegates. Breakfast will feature travel speakers who are bound to spark ideas for potential meeting sites. Keynote speaker Dan Jaspersen will amaze the delegates with messages on how to deliver hospitality to clients. He will also be displaying his powers of telepathy and magic. His suggestions will hit home with delegates and make his stage time fun.
Then it will be time for the real purpose of the Summit: meeting planners and destination providers sitting down together to exchange information and see if they might strike a deal for future meetings. After lunch, it is back to work as buyers and sellers finish their list of appointments.
For those who are staying overnight or do not have far to travel, there will be a happy hour right after the conclusion of the Summit.
The city of Fort Worth hopes to make a lasting impression on meeting planners.
“Fort Worth is a city that will create memories for people,” said the CVB’s Schaffner. “We like to say that once visitors come here, they will get it. It is a special town to come to, a hidden gem.”