Planning events outside your own town comes with a number of logistical and budgetary challenges. How can you know what the best venues are? The best local resources? Caterers? If you’re trying to stay green and under budget, finding suppliers and partners within the event city itself is essential.
Meeting planners who host conferences and events need ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground in the host city of their choosing. Such a helper can scout deals, make introductions, and leverage local resources. But how can event planners know they are selecting the right person for that job? How can they find a trustworthy person or organization when they’re not physically present in the city?
Finding good deals on quality local resources is a lot more straightforward and easy when you enlist the help of a CVB or DMO. While a phone call to these organizations is a good start, building a relationship with partners who prove trustworthy and reliable will open the door to numerous advantages for your event and workload.
What Is a CVB and DMO?
Some event planners don’t realize the power of these free-to-use organizations.
CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU (CVB)
Dedicated to the long-term economic development and marketing of an area. They are non-profits usually funded (in portion) by hotel taxes.
DESTINATION MARKETING ORGANIZATION (DMO)
A broader category that encompasses CVBs, ‘DMO’ is a newer term that is used in order to be more transparent about how the organization helps planners and other groups. The DMO can provide assistance in scouting, negotiating, and supplier vetting. Some DMOs market only to leisure travelers, while others market solely to meeting planners.
Both CVBs and DMOs provide their services for free to the meeting planner.
While there are slight differences between them, the benefits and value behind using these organizations are similar. They can assist meeting planners in several ways. One event planner recounted the following experience:
Sourcing, attendee info, and help with language barriers are only a few of the possible benefits to working with a CVB or DMO.
© Québec City Convention Centre
Simplify Your Meeting Planning with a CVB or DMO
Working with a CVB or DMO brings a lot of value to your meeting planning and helps improve the return on investment (ROI) in several areas:
Streamlining Planner Workflows
Event planners have to contend with a variety of local factors, which can be a challenge to do from afar and with limited familiarity with the area and options available within it. Having help from a local ‘on the ground’ professional with valuable connections can streamline the process and significantly reduce the guesswork and the burden of research.
CVBs/DMOs are able to help with sourcing and vetting local venues and vendors, cutting down on the time you have to spend researching, interviewing, or qualifying the right vendor. Partnering with a local team also helps you mitigate risk as a local organization is likely to be more familiar with those that have strong reputations and those businesses that are not in good standing.
CVBs/DMOs can also help streamline operations through event planning services and logistics by assisting with suggestions on successful local themes.
They become partners in your success. They want you to succeed because they want to continue to bring worthwhile events to their backyard. If your event is successful, it acts as a showcase to future events. If you are not satisfied with your service and assistance, that affects the CVB/DMO too.
© Québec City Convention Centre
Saving Planners’ Budgets
As locals, they know the top vendors that service the area and have access to them. More importantly, CVBs/DMOs can leverage local buying power as they’re working with many events, not just yours. That means they represent a larger business interest than you would represent with a single annual event to vendors and suppliers.
As such, the CVB/DMO enjoys the preferential rates and has access to better options within your budget, for which you might otherwise have to spend a lot of time and energy negotiating.
Supporting Local Promotion
Marketing in your host city from afar can be quite an undertaking, especially if it’s not a location with an established meeting reputation. Designing marketing collaterals, creating written and video content, and taking and posting images can eat up a lot of time – not only through the creation of those assets but also in the research and securing of all the necessary components.
If you work with a CVB or a DMO, they already have expertly created promotional tools and they can tailor them to your needs.
Creating Event Experiences and Increasing Attendee Satisfaction
The competition for event dollars is getting steeper. Attendees require more than a simple dinner in a ballroom. They want a memorable experience for their money and there are lots of groups out there willing to provide it.
A CVB/DMO is in a better position to determine how to effectively integrate local festivities and culture (through unique experiences like Québec City’s Summer Music Festival or Québec City Winter Carnival). Incorporating local experiences can give your event a unique draw.
CVBs and DMOs can help you build on local trends and innovative processes by featuring local organizations, experts and institutions you might not be familiar with. This localization can add a very distinct flavor to an event, but finding the right industry resources can take a lot of research and time if you don’t know the area.
The CVB/DMO can help you find the perfect fit in areas such as science, tech, or innovation and thought leadership. In addition to saving you time in research, they will also be aware of things that haven’t received national (or international) coverage yet and that you might not know about.
© Andre Olivier Lyra
How Does Working with a CVB or DMO Compare to Emergent Event Tech?
Over the past decade, we’ve seen an increase in tech used for venue sourcing. This can be an excellent and efficient way to narrow down venue options based on data and needs. So how can these services complement those of a CVB/DMO, and when might you use one rather than the other?
A CVB/DMO offers:
An analysis of the RFP and suggestions for other venues that you may not have thought of or simply do not know; they redistribute the RFP to partners that fit the criteria.
Personalized attention to things that can’t be communicated in a check box. Tools can be very restricting. Unmeasurable variables are not necessarily taken into consideration.
Familiarity with local vibe/culture that might be difficult to glean from a search, but that might produce more interesting or ‘authentic’ experiences.
Negotiated rates and local vendor vetting. (Many tech tools that purport to do this are just listing services populated by the vendors themselves with no third-party, unbiased verification, though that may change.)
‘Friendly faces’ or support teams to answer specific questions that don’t translate well to search. They can also make correlations based on your explanations, nuances that may be lost on tech, and can assist with multilingual interpretation services.
A site inspection visit to help you discover the destination’s key features, event sites, and accommodations — and some will also pay for flight and accommodation during the stay.
© Andre Olivier Lyra
Building a Relationship for Success
While CVBs/DMOs can be helpful at any stage of your meeting or event planning, the earlier you bring them on and the more consistently you use them, the more help they can provide. Look to establish a good working relationship with them.
Learn About Them
Do your research on the CVB or DMO to make sure you understand who they are, what they offer, what they represent, and how they differentiate themselves. This preliminary work is going to help you to be sure you made the right decision in selecting them.
Surveying their local market at the beginning of the relationship will help you to feel confident working with whomever you’ve chosen. Ask specific questions about their services and offerings, including their specialties. Some CVBs or DMOs can help in extremely specific ways.
For instance, they may have an extensive reputation in enticing sporting events to their city. Knowing this ahead of time can help you understand their area of expertise and align it with your own.
Read testimonials from planners and events similar to yours. Ask for a list of past events and what set their needs apart, or how they attended to them personally.
Ask about their busy seasons and standing commitments to other events, festivals, etc. A rather large festival in town at the same time as your event may influence your decision to host at that time.
Ask them about local differentiators to see if they’re in-the-know for all the things that make their city special. A good local marketer can be invaluable to you.
© Jeff Frenette Photography
Teach the Vendor About You
Having open, frank conversations about you and your event is only going to help your partner serve you better and do their part in determining your mutual fit. Doing this each time you have an event is going to give your partner a sense of context and history. This investment will become an advantage over other options you have yet to work with, as it will give them unique insight into which resources are best for your event.
Fully plot out goals and needs for your meeting or event. The better their understanding of your goals, the better they’ll be able to address them, assess them, and ultimately help you meet them.
If you’re flexible (or non-flexible) on certain planning components, make this clear from the beginning. Communicate the details in order of importance. Be very specific about your ‘must have’s and ‘nice to have’s. This cuts back on miscommunication. The more specific your requests, the better it sets your partners up for accommodating them (and eventually surpassing your expectations).
And if you have a creative idea, don’t stifle it because you don’t think it’s possible. Share it. You may be surprised what the CVB/DMO can accomplish or help you accomplish. If they can’t, they may have a better idea to help you reach your event goals.
© Manège militaire Voltigeurs de Québec
Foster a Feeling of Partnership and Connectedness
The most fruitful and loyal relationships often entail a little maintenance, and it goes both ways.
One way to do this is by grading the communication between your operation and theirs.
Communication is key to a successful relationship. If communications seem boiler-plate (i.e. consisting mainly of bland, non-personalized information) even after working with you and your event for some time, that can be an indication that your service is not being personalized as much as it could be.
It will be difficult for you to offer a memorable experience and use the locale as a key differentiator when the support you’re receiving is exactly the same as everyone else. You want someone who will strive to understand the intricacies of your event and tailor their offerings to increase your success.
Ask questions so you can understand the social media and marketing help they might provide. Get acquainted with their postings. Comment when appropriate. Be a good potential partner to them and watch your relationship flourish.
The other benefit to building a relationship is that you are now a ‘client’ or known professional and may be advised of FAM trips, educational tours / trips, and other specials in the future.
Working with a CVB or DMO can alleviate a lot of the struggles in planning a meeting or event in another city. If you want to increase your meeting ROI, improve your efficiency, and secure a unique experience for your meeting attendees in other cities, start building a relationship with a CVB/DMO now and contact Québec City Business Destination.