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Offer Meetings Education at SMMC 2016

The Small Market Meetings Conference always presents top experts in fields related to meetings. Attendees at this year’s conference in Huntsville, Alabama, heard from speakers who taught them about networking, marketing, contracts and technology.

Shawna Suckow, a buyer behavior expert, asked delegates a question. “How many of you are sitting next to someone you already know? It’s easy to do that. We look for people who are like us in some way because we feel safer.”

Suckow said that most meeting attendees who are surveyed rank community or networking as their No. 1 reason for attending conferences. She encouraged attendees to adopt a “tribes” mentality and to meet and talk with many people.

“My theory, based on research, is that if everyone at a conference meets eight new people, a lot of good things can happen,” she said. “Overall satisfaction with a conference goes up.”

Jonah Berger, author and expert on word-of-mouth promotion and how things catch on, delivered the keynote address.

“Word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of traditional advertising,” Berger advised delegates. “Not just TV or radio spots or a company-generated piece of communication like a print ad, mailed brochure, booth at a conference, website or a testimonial. A dollar spent on word of mouth goes 10 times as far as a dollar spent on traditional advertising.”

Word of mouth from people you know and rely on helps. “We trust our friends or colleagues much more than regular advertising,” he said. “Rather than us guessing who to reach out to through word of mouth, what if we could use others to do the work for us?”

Berger shared the example of preview copies of books that he frequently receives from publishers. He once received two copies of the same book and was asked to give a copy to someone he thought would enjoy it. He ended up doing the word-of-mouth work for the author. Uber did a free holiday ride promotion last year and asked users to offer a free ride to someone in their social network. Jonathan Howe, a travel industry attorney, warned attendees about what’s in the contracts they sign. He said it is crucial to read contracts entirely and understand everything in them.

“My simple definition of a contract is that it’s ‘a self-inflicted wound,’” said Howe. “You’re totally at the mercy of what you put on paper. When you ask some people, ‘What did you mean by this?’ they’ll look at you and say, ‘You’re the first person to ask me that.’ That’s a red flag.”

James Spellos of Meetings U discussed hot technologies anyone can use in their meetings or businesses. Although some people are resistant to new technology, he said, more keeps arriving every day. Spellos said some emerging mobile and social technologies include blended and virtual reality, wearable tech devices and artificial intelligence.

“All these things push the envelope and go way beyond just having a cool phone with a great app,” he said. “You need to know what you can do to differentiate yourself and your company.

“You should have already embraced social media by now. Change is tough, but you’ve got to push through,” he said.

For more information on the Small Market Meetings conference go to

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.