Meeting planners look forward to the annual Small Market Meetings Conference each year. It’s an opportunity for planners to network, sit down with dozens of destination providers in a marketplace setting and also book future meetings in particular locations. The next Small Market Meetings Conference is scheduled for October 2-4 in Wichita, Kansas.
Some destinations represented at the conference also buy sponsorships, providing added exposure. Charlie Presley, a conference partner, says meeting planners need to pay particular attention to who is sponsoring the gathering.
“Those sponsors are really the main hosts for the meeting planners,” Presley said. “The sponsor, whether a destination or a venue, is interested in planners and wants to work with them. The planners should recognize that as a good thing for them.”
Sponsorships come in many forms. Some destinations will pay to sponsor the registration desk, name badges, signage, a breakfast, lunch or dinner, an educational component, or take advantage of website, social media and magazine advertising opportunities.
Greater Zion Makes a Splash
But one of the prize sponsorships is a podium appearance where a destination spokesperson delivers a carefully crafted message and shows a beautiful video that could entice planners to take a closer look. Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, based in St. George, Utah, for example, is sponsoring a luncheon at this fall’s conference.
“It gives us the opportunity to share a little more about our lesser-known destination to a captive audience of planners,” said Jacqueline Grena, meeting and convention sales manager for Greater Zion. “With Zion National Park in our backyard, our area is a bucket list destination for groups and leisure travel, but people don’t realize all we have to offer and that we’re greater than just one park.”
Grena says when she shares a video planners get a glimpse of the activities and facilities they offer, hopefully inspiring them to connect with her.
Greater Zion is investing even more dollars to reach these meeting planners. This southern Utah destination will host the 2024 Small Market Meetings Conference. By getting the word out early and often, Grena hopes to see an even bigger audience in 2024.
“We want to stay in the forefront of planners minds by building awareness and excitement during these sponsorship opportunities,” she said. “We hope to see even greater attendance at the ’24 conference so that planners can experience the area for themselves and bring their groups back.”
Sponsors Stepping Up
Presley likes to see sponsors use their influence whenever they can.
“Sponsors step up and say they want to host these planners and to get to know them and to try to get them to come to their places,” he said.
Among the other major sponsors for this year’s Small Market Meetings Conference are Explore Branson (Missouri), which will host the 2023 Small Market Meetings Conference; Visit Williamsburg and Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, both in Pennsylvania; Visit Henderson (Nevada); Kearney (Nebraska) Visitors Bureau; and Explore Utah Valley.
To register for the 2022 Small Market Meetings Conference in Wichita, Kansas, October 2-4, go to smmconf.com/registration