Use a Local CVB to Meet with Success
Planning a meeting or event? Convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) are ready to support you each step of the way.
By Kath Usitalo
The concept of a convention and visitors bureau (CVB) or destination marketing organization (DMO) charged with promoting a location and bringing meetings and conventions to fill hotel rooms is not new — and it is rooted in the Midwest. In 1896, a Detroit journalist named Milton J. Carmichael was instrumental in convincing businessmen to form the first such effort to enhance the local economy and boost the image of the city. As the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau recognizes its 125th anniversary, this year is also a celebration of the founding of the industry.
For the corporate employee tasked with planning an occasional sales seminar, a professional meeting planner responsible for producing conferences, conventions, exhibitions and tradeshows, or someone organizing a board meeting or large family reunion, a CVB or DMO can be valuable resources with a common goal of a successful event that benefits both the attendees and host destination.
And the best part — the bulk of services typically offered by a CVB are usually available at no charge to groups utilizing a block of hotel rooms.
While the type of services offered by CVBs are fairly standard, not all offices are organized in the same way. Some are the official marketing arms of their city, funded as a department; others are independent, non-profit operations financially supported by hospitality industry memberships and may be limited to working with those businesses. It’s important for a planner to understand the type of organization they are working with, and any limitations that may influence the services it can offer.
One of the key benefits to working with a CVB is the deep knowledge that its staff has of the facilities and resources in its community. A planner can turn to a CVB with its needs, budget, dates and other parameters, and the CVB staff can save time by suggesting best-suited venues or even making the connection between planner and sites.
“I like to send out a bid to hotels for the planners and compile the information for them to work directly with the properties,” says Sharree Brenneman-Reehling, the conventions, meetings and events director for Visit Greater Lima in Ohio.
A CVB is a liaison to officials such as the mayor or governor, who may deliver welcoming remarks. It is a resource for local entertainers for social events as well as business, university, science, tech, creative, corporate, or industry experts and leaders who are potential program speakers or panel participants.
Incorporating the flavor of the host destination makes for a memorable event, and a CVB can suggest ideas and unique locations and experiences for receptions, dinners and team-building activities. The CVB knows its area attractions, and can develop itineraries for spouse and family tours that enhance a meeting and may help to build excitement about attending.
During the event itself, some CVBs offer on-site information booths staffed by local volunteers who are familiar with the area and can answer questions about things to see and do and where to eat, shop and find personal services.
Sure, an internet search of an area may turn up lists of meeting spaces, hotels, event locations, suppliers, and other vendors and resources, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when a CVB has that information readily available. In addition to raw information, a CVB has a support staff in place to assist the planner throughout the entire process, starting with a site inspection of the destination, arranged by the CVB.
Shayna Keanaaina, marketing manager for Enjoy Eagan, the Minnesota desti- nation’s CVB, says that “Enjoy Eagan is a meeting planner’s ultimate one-stop shop when planning an event. In addition to traditional venue support, Denise Olsen, our senior sales director, can help planners find off-site venues, transportation companies, party and event rentals, and other providers.”
In some cities, the CVB has done the legwork and provides extras such as welcome bags for all attendees. Enjoy Eagan provides bonus goodies — a Twin Cities Premium Outlets VIP coupon book voucher, an Enjoy Eagan dining guide and more exclusive area information.
Getting the word out about the meeting or convention is important for promoting attendance in advance, as well as in reporting news during the event itself. It’s common for CVBs to have short promotional videos and photos, information, brochures and other tools available for planners to
share with their attendees to build excitement for the event and destination.
A CVB also has the local digital, broadcast and print media contacts a planner might want for publicizing its convention, meeting or other event. And some destinations even assist with developing and distributing press releases.
For groups of a certain size (for example, attendance of 30,000 in Lima) some CVBs will produce welcome signage for display throughout the area.
Tammy Tritz, executive director of the Waukesha Pewaukee, Wisconsin CVB, neatly summarizes the main benefits of working with her organization, which offers three types of services that are fairly typical of other destination marketing offices:
With all of the limitations necessitated by the pandemic, CVBs have gotten creative in working with planners. In bidding for future business, Brenneman-Reehling has pitched Lima virtually in presentations that traditionally have been conducted in person. There have been virtual site visits, and hotel and facility walk-throughs. Even now, as face-to-face meetings are returning, hybrid in-person and online events are not unusual and, according to some, are likely here to stay.
Tritz says, “We recognize that change is taking place in the association world and even corporate world and we want to take some of the work off of the planner. Their resources are stretched, and we want to see what we can do to help; we try to make our services more personalized. We truly want to let the planners know that we really want to work with them.”
Kristi Lee, executive director of Visit Leavenworth, the Leavenworth, Kansas CVB, simply states, “We know our community and will work with the planners on customizable services. We want to bring them to our town.”
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