The Strauss Blog

Association Event Planning Tips – An In Depth Interview with DMOs

Event managers partner with a number of suppliers to ensure the success of an association conference or special event. One of the first partnerships for many successful events is with the destination marketing organization (DMO). A DMO is responsible for promoting a city in order to increase tourism and convention sales. The DMO is likely involved from the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage right up until execution of the event and even during post-event wrap up. DMOs are an indispensable resource that event managers should be taking full advantage of and at Strauss we work with a number of DMOs across the country. I reached out to a handful of them to gain some insight on partnering with event and conference managers. My goal was to learn from them and see how we can improve communication and overall collaboration moving forward.

Interviewees:

Angela Jefferies
Account Director, Canada and International Congress
Business Events Toronto

Holly Kirkpatrick
Consumer / Leisure Market Coordinator
Tourisme Fredericton Tourism

Stephanie Lynch
Business Development Account Manager
Edmonton Tourism

1. What are the three most important things that should be listed in an RFP in order to facilitate site selection?

Angela: Only 3 items? There are many key factors that facilitate site selection. The obvious ones include dates, space and room requirements. Other factors such as historical data, anticipated food & beverage spend, the group’s agenda and any offsite events help find the right location for an event.

Holly:

  • Number of delegates
  • Dates of the event
  • Meeting space requirements

Stephanie:

  • Location in the city; downtown, southside, open to all areas of the city?
  • Star rating/level of hotels/off-sites looking for. Are they focused on certain hotel brands or open to all options?
  • Hot buttons with overall conference logistics

2. Is there any information that is helpful to know about the event attendees when deciding which venues are a good fit in your city?

Angela: Understanding more about the demographics and gender of a group certainly helps to identify the best venue for an event. If you tell me the group have some spare time and like to shop, they probably want to be in a central location close to shopping. Likewise, if they like to socialize, it makes sense to have a good hotel bar.

Holly:

  • Do they prefer to be in a hotel? Convention centre? Does there have to be a hotel attached to the convention centre?
  • Will most be flying or driving? How important is it to be within walking distance to the downtown?
  • What type of extracurricular activities are they looking to include in their event program?

Stephanie: Yes, their demographic, what level of luxury they are looking for i.e. high end or middle of the road venues.

3. Do you prefer to be involved in an event manager’s site visit?

Angela: Absolutely! The more time spent with the event manager really helps to understand the program and ensures its complete success.

Holly: Absolutely! We love to showcase our city. We have a meetings and conventions partnership called Rendez-Vous Fredericton. As the DMO we facilitate site visits, FAM’s, etc. with our partners. A call to the DMO is a call to everyone in the city who deals in the meetings and conventions market, and who know it best.

Stephanie: Yes, absolutely! We are here to help and will make all the arrangements for you from booking your flights, accommodations, transportation to all of the hotel, offsite visits and activities.

4. Do you have any pre-event resources that you like to be shared with delegates?

Angela: As a DMO, we have many resources available to help promote the destination, such as videos, images, collateral, support letters to name a few. We encourage planners to take advantage of these resources to create energy and excitement about the destination, which in turn drives up registration numbers.

Holly:

  • We offer our destination video which can be shown to delegates at the previous year’s meeting and customized to their event. This really gets delegates excited to come to Fredericton.
  • Our website is a great resource. It showcases pre and post visit ideas in case any delegates are interested in increasing their stay.
  • As the DMO we are happy to help promote the meeting to delegates in any way we can.

Stephanie: Utrip (utrip.com, personalized travel itineraries), our 72 hour guide booklet, our social media handles.

5. Which component of an event is your favourite thing to be involved in as a DMO?

Angela: We enjoy being involved in the whole process of an event, from the bidding, to the site visit, the planning and finally, the execution of the event.

Holly: We love working with the client to bring a very unique and Maritime feel to their event. Fredericton is full of excellent offsite venues including the world-renowned Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Government House and the Boyce Farmers Market, just to name a few.

Stephanie: Site visits, we have an opportunity to really showcase our city, show what is new and how Edmonton can be a great fit for the event or conference.

6. Is there anything in particular that you offer as a DMO that you feel associations and event managers are not taking advantage of?

Angela: We have a team of service professionals to assist in providing a Signature Service experience customized to any organization and delegates. With a variety of complimentary services and tools tailored to suit all needs, a dedicated Client Services Manager will partner with clients throughout the planning process. Planners don’t always realize they have their own “city” concierge to help with their events.

Holly: We encourage our clients to come for a site visit even if they are not ready to commit to Fredericton yet. Once people get to our city for the first time they fall in love with Fredericton and know their delegates will feel the same way.

Stephanie: Our DMC’s, local event planners, offsite venues, our caterers, leveraging our social media platforms, and our attendance builders (pop up banners, videos, images, promotional content are all resources planners can have to promote the next year’s conference).

7. Do you get any requests from event managers that you feel are outside of your scope?

Angela: Not really….we put our heads together and use our network to make it happen.

Holly: Not often, in a city our size when a request is received if our office cannot respond to the request one of our meetings and conventions partners tend to have experience and are able to assist, in Fredericton a phone call to one of us really is like a phone call to all of us.

Stephanie: Helping to find fundraising and sponsorship opportunities can be tricky.

8. Event managers often ask for supplier recommendations from DMOs. What are some of the most popular requests you receive?

Angela: Restaurant suggestions are popular, as is off-site venue recommendations, printing companies and transportation.

Holly:

  • Local musician/entertainment contacts
  • Tour operators (craft beer, walking tours, etc.)
  • Event decorator contacts

Stephanie: Entertainment, audiovisual providers, and transportation.

9. What do you feel is the most important way that a DMO can be involved in an association’s meeting or convention?

Angela: DMOs offer complimentary services and clients need to engage with their DMO from the very early stages of their planning to get the most of their DMO. We are here to make a planner’s life easier so take advantage of it.

Holly: Helping the event manager to see the potential in the city for their respective event, helping them promote the event to their delegates, providing contacts for local suppliers; and helping them to create a unique and memorable event.

Stephanie: The DMO is the local expert and can really connect you with the suppliers that are the right fit for what you are looking for. We like to be part of the process from start to finish.

10. You likely receive a lot of repeat questions/requests. Is there a single request that you have received from an event manager that was so unique it stands out?

Angela: Yes….”Can you have Justin Trudeau speak at our conference?”

Holly: Each event planner and conference truly wants to set themselves apart to ensure their delegates experience is exceptional; we are always working on creative avenues to customize the program/theme to our destination. Some unique requests include turning a ballroom into an ‘outdoor’ campfire scene.

Stephanie: We received a request for rickshaws and live closed captioning that stand out.

 

I want to extend a huge thank you to Angela, Holly and Stephanie for participating in this interview. It was great to hear the perspective of the DMOs and hopefully their insights can help with your next event or conference.