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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Planner spreads the word at the SMM Conference

Gwen Knight with speaker Naomi Angel

Gwen Knight is a certified meeting professional from Lincoln, Kan. Here’s what she had to say about her six-minute appointments, the lineup of speakers and other aspects of her first Small Market Meetings Conference.

My best appointment
It was a networking opportunity with Steve Wahrlich, general manager of the Best Western Clocktower Inn in Billings, Mont. Billings is too small for my group, so we discussed overflow hotels and I received great advice on how to work with independently owned hotels for small room blocks.

High praise for the speakers

I was tempted to skip Jeff Ferrazzo’s session because of the ‘social media’ in the title. That evening at the Falls, I told him how much I learned from his presentation. It wasn’t all about Twitter and Facebook; it was about how to grow your business with good meaty ideas.

Shawna Suckow: Seeing her name on the program was the kicker that made me decide to attend. I have been a member of her SPIN [Senior Planners Industry Network] group since its inception and I have a great respect for her. I had no idea she was such an experienced speaker.

Naomi Angel: As an independent planner, I must stay up to date on contract language and trends. I couldn’t write fast enough to take in all Naomi’s tips. No problem. Give her your business card and you get a response.

Taking action
After returning to the office, I sent our 2018 RFP to nine of the CVBs and/or hotels I had had appointments with. Typically I work with national sales offices and CVBs of cities that I’m familiar with. This year, my inquiries went to six smaller cities with large convention centers. I had no clue. I can’t wait to receive their proposals.

Spreading the word
I’m a past president of the Kansas City MPI Chapter. Our Past Presidents Council touches base frequently, and we’re not shy about sharing the good, the bad and the ugly about our industry. I told several of these planners that SMMC was well run and a good use of my time, and not just for  “small” program planners. I found multiple opportunities for first-, second- and third-tier cities to host my national conference.