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Destination known: How to maximize your partnership with a CVB

DC CVB

As an association management company, successful outcomes for our client meetings and conferences are often the result of partnerships forged across many industries. One such partnership that our organization places high value on is that with local convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) in destinations that are being considered or have been selected to host our client events.

There are a plethora of resources available to planners in support of the skills necessary to execute a successful meeting, but few of them combine destination knowledge, local expertise and connections to leverage in-market relationships. CVBs offer a wealth of resources and are the experts of their destinations, making a planner’s job more efficient.

“I not only use the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”  — President Woodrow Wilson

A CVB’s role is to promote the long-term development and marketing of a destination, focusing on convention sales, tourism marketing and services to meeting planners and leisure travelers. They work with groups of all sizes and are a go-to resource for helping to connect with the right venues and businesses for successful events. In the initial phase of planning, they can also advise their customers about potential conflicts related to other events, major construction projects in the city and traveling into the destination. Especially helpful for long-term planning, CVB’s have a great understanding of which development projects are in the pipeline that could be an asset to an event.

AMPED recently engaged Destination DC, the local CVB in Washington DC to assist in the planning process for one of our client’s large citywide conferences taking place in 2020. This event will draw 12,000 attendees worldwide and use over 6,000 rooms on peak night — quite a large undertaking, even for our experienced planning staff! Meeting in our nation’s capital has multiple unique attributes no other city can offer. Here are a few valuable way in which we partnered with the CVB to assist us in the initial planning process:

Request for proposal distribution
Instead of doing research ourselves in an unfamiliar city, we sent our RFP to the CVB and asked them to distribute it to all hotels that would be willing to host the event based on specifications like location to convention center, meeting space requirements, hotel room accommodations and guest room rates. Their sales team understood the value of this meeting to the city and served as our advocate to the hotel community. They prepared a detailed RFP which generated over 30 responses from hotels interested in working with us.

Site inspections
After committing to hold the meeting in DC, we were ready to conduct a site visit to become familiar with the destination, visit potential hotels and meet with vendors. The CVB saved hours of planning by coordinating our itinerary for four days, including transportation to and from the airport, meeting with convention center staff, touring 15 hotels and off-site venues, showcasing area restaurants and arranging a city tour to see the highlights. Additionally, CVB staff arranged for multiple vendor interviews to assist us in our decision to find and work with the best suited partners based on our service requirements. In the end, the CVB staff provided us with undivided attention for our trip and arranged this visit with our priorities and needs at the forefront.

Services
There are many other valuable ways to use the consultative services of the CVB to help succeed in other aspects of planning. They include services such as:

• Marketing of the conference
• Supply of promotional materials such as their visitors guides
• Printing and mailing services
• Sponsorship assistance
• Discount coupon programming
• Attendance-building
• Social responsibility
• Customized attendee website
• Housing and conference registration
• On-site staffing
• Access to image galleries

In summary, a good CVB is a true partner, an extension of our staff, and can become a great resource about a destination. CVBs want events to be successful in their city and engaging them as a strategic partner from the beginning helps puts us on a great path to success.

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How to be a reporter’s favorite source: Ten tips, plus bonus tips for recorded interviews

reporter

A call from a reporter is an opportunity for you and your association to share valuable information and build your reputation among readers and viewers. A little preparation will help you get your message out and pave the way for future interviews.

  1. Ask who the reporter’s audience is, if you’re not familiar with the publication. Consider the audience and their knowledge level, and then tailor your comments accordingly.
  2. Identify what you believe is most newsworthy to his or her readers. You have a limited time to tell your story, so get to the point.
  3. Make sure you know the basics, i.e., the five Ws and H: Who will benefit? What is new or innovative? When will an event occur? Where? Why is this important? How does this advance knowledge?
  4. Be prepared with some short anecdotes and examples. Reporters will be looking for information that helps their readers relate to your comments. While you should have one or two stories in mind, be careful to avoid scripting your comments.
  5. Speak slowly; allow the reporter time to take notes.
  6. Avoid using acronyms and technical jargon.
  7. Don’t speculate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, offer to investigate and follow up with a response.
  8. End the interview by summarizing your two or three main points.
  9. Offer to share photos, graphics or links to videos that illustrate the subject. Visuals can be as simple as your head shot or your organization’s logo – anything that will add color and draw the eye to the article.
  10. Make sure the reporter has your correct name, title and organization’s name. Offer your contact information and volunteer to answer follow-up questions. Do not ask to review the article before publication.

Four Bonus Tips for Video and Audio Interviews

  1. Remember to take a millisecond break between sentences. The reporter may not be able to use your entire response. A brief pause allows for editing, without cutting you off or omitting your comment entirely.
  2. Repeat the subject of the question in your response. For example, let’s say you’re asked, “How long have you been working on this project?” Don’t say, “Five years.” Instead, say, “We started developing this project five years ago.” Parroting back the subject allows the video editor to delete the reporter’s questions and keep the focus on you, the expert.
  3. Avoid wearing small prints, checks or plaids, which create a moiré effect or rainbow pattern on camera.
  4. Offer to meet in a quiet space, away from the crowd. Not only will the sound quality be improved, but you won’t inadvertently film other people without their permission.

Finally, remember that reporters are working on deadline. If you aren’t available to comment, they will move onto someone who is. The more accessible you are, the more likely you and your organization are to be featured.

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Packing hacks for meeting planners

packing

Spring is full of travel for several members of the AMPED team. With client meetings across the country and site visits to future locations, our bags are packed frequently, and we’ve gathered some great travel tips along the way.

At our last client meeting, I received important advice for staff working onsite at a meeting: Eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty and use the restroom before you have to go. It is easy to feel run down when you are constantly on the go but keeping this mind can help you stay energized and prepared for a long day.

And when it comes to packing, remember a few of these hacks:

  • To maximize space in your luggage, roll your clothes instead of folding them.
  • When packing clothes that wrinkle easily, lay the clothing flat inside a dry-cleaning bag, and then fold as normal. The plastic will prevent creases from setting in.
  • Pack a dryer sheet to help keep your clothes smelling fresh.
  • Space is premium in your suitcase so fill your shoes with socks or other small items.
  • Keep the dirty soles of your shoes away from your clothes by sticking them inside a shower cap.
  • Attach a binder clip over the blades of your razor to keep them protected.
  • Keep smaller jewelry in a pill container to keep them from moving around and organized.
  • Keep all your gadget cables in a sunglass case to keep them neat and tidy or use the case for necklaces and bracelets.
  • Pack a reusable, compact tote bag or plastic bag to stuff your dirty clothes into and keep away from clean clothes.

Other travel tips for your flight and hotel:

  • Leaving your car at the airport? Take a photo of your car’s location to help you find it when you return.
  • Pack an empty bottle and fill it up with water once you’re through security. It’s important to drink plenty of water before and during your flight.
  • Pack earplugs for your flight and hotel in case your neighbors are noisy.
  • To help stay germ-free, use disinfectant wipes to clean the airplane tray table, seat belt buckles and overhead air vents at your seat.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean your hotel room- especially spots like the remote control, alarm clock, sink and toilet. Or, for those of us who are extreme (like me), wrap the remote control in the ice bucket liner.
  • Pack a flashlight and check your hotel bed for bedbugs.
  • Bring flip flops or slippers to avoid picking up dirt on your feet from your hotel room floor.

With a little bit of planning, you can take the stress out of traveling and be prepared to enjoy your next trip. For even more packing hacks, check out this article and read Brittany’s blog post form last summer for healthy travel tips.

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Growing your association and yourself through real connections

Network seedlings
I heard someone say in a presentation recently, “Don’t let technology rule you. Be a champion of personal relationships.” As an association manager, I do exactly that – pick up the phone and meet face-to-face as often as I can to grow relationships and, in turn, my association clients through personal contact and real connections. This face-to-face time with our clients and members is the foundation that our associations were built on and it benefits us all both professionally and personally.

I’ve seen the power of these connections first-hand with one of my clients. A year ago I invited a woman who was a long-time member, but not very involved, to be the subject of an executive profile in the association’s magazine. The profile led to a face-to-face meeting about a program that her organization offered and an additional article in the magazine. She then agreed to serve on a panel at our annual meeting and, there, met a contact from a large organization. That contact led to an opportunity to meet with them about one of her organization’s programs and now they’re working on a future collaboration. It’s the perfect example of how a small outreach can lead to bigger things and turn a checkbook member into an engaged and happy one!

Here are some quick ways to make personal connections.

Pick up the phone. With all of the ways to contact people these days, we often neglect to pick up the phone and actually make a call. Sure, you may get voice mail, but even that counts.

Handwrite a note. In the age of email and the multitude of other ways to contact people, the art of the personal handwritten note may seem outdated. However, people appreciate when you spend a few extra minutes to write a note. On more than one occasion, I’ve received a handwritten thank you in response to my note!

Visit members. Making an appointment for a quick visit with a member is a wonderful way to make that personal connection, get feedback on your association’s offerings and learn what else you can do to assist your members. If it’s not possible to visit your members due to geographic or financial constraints, see if they’d be willing to Skype.

Make a personal ask. The next time you’re looking for volunteers to serve on a committee, participate in a panel discussion or write a blog or article, reach out personally as opposed to sending a blanket call for volunteers. People will love that you recognize they have a talent you’re interested in utilizing and appreciate that you are taking the time to personally invite them to participate.

I challenge you to start connecting by making one phone call, writing one letter and asking one person to participate in your organization at a more engaged level this week. I promise you’ll be glad you did!

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Whistle while you work

smiling dog

We’ve all heard the grumblings from co-workers, friends and family, “I wish I could talk to a 'live' person.” It’s a sure thing that you have recently encountered recorded messages, instructions to “press 1,” or long wait times.

So if someone actually does get you on the phone, he may not be in the best of moods.

As a serial tasker (thanks to Emily Wiseman for that insight!), I find it difficult to focus fully on callers and give them the attention they deserve. In the past, they have probably heard my computer keys clacking, or the shuffling of papers in the background as they try to explain the reason for their call. With our ever-increasing workloads, it is difficult to keep the focus on the caller.

So what do I do when receiving a call in the middle of a very busy workday? Stop, listen and smile.

Why smile? When talking on the phone, you are at a disadvantage in that the caller cannot see your body language: the tilt of your head, facial expressions and hand gestures. All are lost in today’s emails, texts and phone calls. Your voice is the only clue as to your attentiveness.

Professor John J. Ohala, University of California, Berkely, Department of Linguistics theorized in his research paper The Acoustic Origins of the Smile, “…words sound better to humans when accompanied by a smile. By smiling, the cheeks are pulled back reducing the size of the mouth cavity and this produces higher vocal tract resonances.”

From Improving Your Inflection on the Phone:

  • A monotone and flat voice says to the customer, "I'm bored and have absolutely no interest in what you're talking about."
  • A high-pitched and emphatic voice says, "I'm enthusiastic about this subject."

Don’t just go through the motions
According to Dr. Mark G. Frank, et al, Physiologic Effects of the Smile, a smile with Duchenne marker is the “enjoyment smile” and is one that involves specific facial muscles creating an upward pulling of the lip corners and crinkling of the eyes. Individuals who smile with the Duchenne marker “…are perceived as more sincere, honest, friendly, and approachable…” Well, that’s all well and good when someone can see your smile, but why smile when talking on the phone?

In an interview with NPR, Amy Drahota with the University of Portsmouth, discussed a study conducted by the University, in which she posited that you can tell the difference between an enjoyment smile, and one that is “non-Duchenne.” The test involved participants answering a series of questions with just one phrase. The test was designed so that the one-phrase answer, in response to the questions, would increasingly cause the participant to (a genuine, Duchenne) smile. The sound bites of the one-phrase answer were then played to a second set of participants who were asked to determine if the person in the sound bite was smiling. The study concluded that people are able to detect a genuine, enjoyment smile by the sound of your voice alone.

The sound of a smile will convey to the caller you are friendly and approachable, and able and willing to help. I find that taking the time to smile puts me in a better mood and better able to handle any of my clients' needs. 

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