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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Think Like A Guest

Meetings and events–sometimes we attend them, sometimes we plan them. Oftentimes, we do both.

From corporate retreats to national conventions, board development sessions to employee appreciation events, meetings are the core of our business and a major revenue driver for many communities. But, as hosts or planners, are we doing more than chasing the meeting and landing it in our city to meet or exceed department goals? Yes, it’s a great feeling to know XYZ Company is bringing 400 room nights to our town for their annual conference, but are we going above and beyond to make sure they will come back in 5-7 years? Are we making their experience memorable? Are we thinking like a guest in addition to our sales role?

As a CVB Director, we sell more than just our community. We sell hospitality and it should be so good that people want to bottle it. Whether a vacationing family or a corporate event planner, we must make certain that every individual feels like they matter. Their business matters.

So, to better align our offerings with the needs of our event attendees, here are 10 tips to make meetings memorable while thinking like a guest:

  1. Find out the top priorities of the company considering your destination. If amazing meals and free Wi-Fi are at the top of the list, make sure you hear them loud and clear.
  2. Focus on what they need instead of all the bells and whistles you can offer. What good is a downloadable app for easy registration if the attendees won’t use it?
  3. Customize, customize, customize. From meals to pillows, guests like choosing their own comforts, so provide options. Think customized dessert bars and mix your own happy hour beverage stations.
  4. Speaking of comfort, have you ever sat in an upright chair for hours on end at a supposed “retreat?” Rethink the way guests learn and network. Hour-long keynotes are difficult to sit through, especially after a meal (zzzzz). Offer more education by varying topics and seat changing so people can move about more often.
  5. “Spending 10 hours in a hotel ballroom is so much fun,” said no one ever. Why host a meeting in sunny San Diego if no one can tell they’re in sunny San Diego? Infuse the locals into scheduled downtime to show off your community. Invite merchants to help with scavenger hunts in your downtown; host a fun cooking competition with a local chef using fresh ingredients; set-up teams to play minute-to-win-it games in the park. Build in a fun quotient so guests can get out and explore your destination instead of just the hotel ballroom.
  6. Keep it social, but with ease. #WhatsTheConferenceHashTagAgain? If you want people to interact on social platforms, give them a short, easy hash tag to remember and award a prize for best social share. Remember, not everyone understands social media, so offer a quick 101 at a tech station nearby registration.
  7. Supply attendees a mini cheat-sheet (include conference hash tag, Wi-Fi passwords, bathroom locations, scheduled feedings, best happy hour in town, etc.) Size it to fit the nametag/lanyard and I guarantee they’ll refer to it over and over again. Important details should be easy to reach.
  8. Support a local cause. At a recent convention I attended, the local animal shelter raked in over $25K in donations from event attendees. Cute puppies roaming about helped, but we are givers by nature, so offer some suggestions, partner with a great cause and enjoy the outpouring of generosity.
  9. Think about companion travelers. Families and partners love to tag along, so create a fun itinerary for those not attending the event. Offer transportation options or discounts and coupons to local attractions if you can!
  10. Utilize your CVB – of course this is on the list! We are happy to help. While we may not be able to work a registration table all day, we can certainly provide a welcome, share a community video, provide visitor guides, introduce a speaker or answer questions. Consider us when needing resources—what we can’t do, we can help you find.


Karen Crane is the Director of the Merriam Convention & Visitors Bureau for the City of Merriam, Kansas. Nestled just minutes from downtown Kansas City, Merriam is home to local favorites including K.C. Strings Violin Shop and Strawberry Hill Povitica, as well as the newest Midwest location of international furnishings retailer, IKEA! From sales to servicing, no two days are alike in Karen’s week as she could be welcoming a bus group or helping a visitor with directions to a local attraction. Having served in her role with Merriam since 2003, Karen is also the Marketing Chair for KC Destinations and the I-35 Tourism Coalition and is past-president of Tour Kansas. When not serving visitors to Merriam, Karen enjoys blogging, family sports and DIY home improvement projects.