Meeting planners from around the country look forward to the annual Small Market Meetings Conference because they learn about potential meeting sites from the many destination providers who attend. This year’s conference will be held October 4-6 in French Lick, Indiana, which is located next to the Hoosier National Forest in the southern part of the state.
Sponsors want to reach this valuable clientele because planners are the link to bringing future meetings business to their small to midsize cities and sites. The right messaging is vital, and the organizers of the conference help sponsors deliver their best information.
“We have sponsorships that are year-to-year,” said Joe Cappuzzello, CEO of The Group Travel Family, which operates the conference. “They may include sponsoring the registration at the beginning of the conference or a meal function or a guest speaker for an educational session. Some sponsors get to show a video that can make a big impression and can reach all planners in attendance, not just the ones a sponsor has an appointment with.”
Someone else can sponsor the conference’s transportation component. If a partner cannot attend but still wants their materials to be distributed into the meeting planners’ hands, conference staff can help arrange that.
The conference also offers social media and website sponsorships, and Small Market Meetings magazine has attractive advertising opportunities.
Vicki Logan, convention sales manager for Travel Juneau, said her CVB sponsored breakfasts at the past two Small Market Meetings conferences.
“It gave me the opportunity to show attendees Juneau, Alaska, through videos of our incredible landscapes,” said Logan. “I gained an entire room of people that learned what Juneau has to offer both for their personal travel and their meeting groups. Everyone wanted more information afterward. I do win more business with the exposure.”
Logan said her facilities can accommodate groups of 25 to 450 people. After last year’s Small Market Meetings Conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin, “I received requests for proposals for three more conferences of about 150 people each,” she said.
Visit Lubbock has been a frequent sponsor of name badges, which are worn by hundreds of meeting planners, destination providers and staff at the Small Market Meetings Conference.
“We see great value in sponsoring badges for events and conferences because it adds exposure for Lubbock,” said Amy Zientek, director of sales for Visit Lubbock. “Generally, attendees are required to wear name badges everywhere — during appointments, mealtimes and breakout sessions. We really think this amount of exposure keeps Lubbock at the forefront of their minds for the future.”
The conference’s marketplace includes 15 to 20 booths lining the main hall, and they can be sponsored, too.
“Those in the booths get to network with planners in an informal way before the individual marketplace meetings begin,” said Cappuzzello. “Booth sponsors give out auction dollars, which can be collected by planners and then used to bid on fabulous prizes at a rollicking auction later in the conference.”
Sponsorship Benefits Conference Attendees
Getting good value out of a Small Market Meetings Conference is the goal of all meeting planners who attend. Naturally, they want bang for their travel buck, and that means paying attention to conference sponsors.
“The sponsors are really important and rank right up there with our host cities in giving a great experience to our delegates,” said Joe Cappuzzello, president and CEO of The Group Travel Family, which manages the conference.
In turn, planners will see and hear about a wide variety of destinations at which meetings can be booked: hotels, convention centers, resorts, historic sites and quirky yet interesting places that boast one-of-a-kind experiences meeting attendees won’t forget.
“For sponsors, there are a variety of ways to get their messages out,” Cappuzzello said. “They’re all important and valuable. It’s just a matter of what level of commitment a sponsor wants to make.”