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Planners applaud 2012 conference in Jacksonville

Photo by David L. Malhalab, MNS Photo/M News Service

The third Small Market Meetings Conference followed in the footsteps of its predecessors, garnering positive post-conference ratings from meeting planner attendees.

Planner feedback from the 2012 SMMC, held Oct. 28-30 in Jacksonville, Fla., echoed the response to the first SMMC, held in 2010 in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., and to the 2011 conference in Little Rock, Ark.

Of the planners who completed the survey, 83 percent rated the overall SMM experience as excellent or very good. Eighty-five percent of them rated the SMMC Marketplace, during which planners and suppliers meet for six-minute, prearranged appointments, as excellent or very good.

Heartening for the industry partners that attended was the news that 97 percent of planners said they plan to do business with a supplier they met during the Marketplace.

The host city of Jacksonville also made a good impression, judging by survey results. In their survey responses, 95 percent of the planners said they would consider Jacksonville as a destination for a meeting or convention. Eighty-eight percent rated the host hotel Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront as excellent or very good.

The conference’s off-site events got great reviews. One Ocean Resort and Spa, in Atlantic Beach, Fla., hosted an appetizer and dessert reception. Guests also had tours of the oceanfront, boutique hotel.

The closing night reception was held at the Prime Osborne Convention Center, a meeting facility that incorporates Jacksonville’s historic train station.

Of the three speakers, keynote speaker Laura Schwartz received the highest rating. She talked of her experiences working as a meeting planner for former president Bill Clinton and of the power of social networking.

Planners said attorney Nathan Breen, who discussed ways to avoid contract issues, was informative; they described a workshop on improvisation led by Jessie Shternshus as unique and interactive.

The annual Diamond Drop, a closing day event where one planner wins a one-carat diamond, continues to be a hit.

The 2013 SMMC will be in Sioux Falls, S.D., Oct. 6-8. In addition, sites have been chosen for 2014 and 2015. Mesa, Ariz., will host the 2014 conference; in 2015, the SMMC will return to Little Rock, Ark.