Welcome Newest Members

ConventionPlanit.com has been busy adding new venues to our portfolio.

Consider these newest members of ConventionPlanit.com for your next meeting:

Horton Grand Hotel – San Diego, CA
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress – Orlando, FL
Visit Huntington Beach – Huntington Beach, CA
Miraval Resort & Spa – Tucson, AZ
Myrtle Beach Area CVB – Myrtle Beach, SC

View more newest members.

Don’t forget, when you use ConventionPlanit.com, you can still send your RFP to your NSO reps!

Planners Helping Planners: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: How can I improve my vendor relationships?

A: It’s never too late to start forming good relationships with the facilities where you conduct business. 

For example if you are on a tight budget and are holding your meeting at a facility that is potentially oversold on housing, you have a great chance of negotiating an arrangement that is beneficial to both you and the hotel.

Contact your sales person or CSM and tell them you’ve heard they may be having some housing challenges and you’d like to offer them some help. If you are holding upgrade rooms, tell them you’d be willing to exchange your upgraded rooms for standard rooms in exchange a meeting comp. Suggest something you know the hotel will not cost them out of pocket (i.e., in-house technology, waiver of nonunion labor/delivery charges, comp room rental). Most of the time the hotel will be more than happy to negotiate because they will be able to happily accommodate both (or all) of their clients.

Submitted by: Tina Buehler, CMP Conference Planning Manager, with Q Center

An Idyllic Destination

fairmont mayakoba

Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico.  Bordered by a pristine tropical jungle, navigable water canals, and a secluded beach, all while radiating Mayan flavor, this AAA-5 Diamond and Rainforest Alliance Verified resort is an idyllic destination.

The Fairmont offers over 26,000 sq. ft. of indoor function space and two event lawns measuring over 20,000 sq. ft., in addition to a pristine beach, pool areas for events and El Pueblito Mayakoba, an authentic Mexican village square with restaurants, boutiques, a kiosk, and chapel for events of up to 1,000 people.

Amenities include world-class restaurants with Latin-Asian, Mexican and Latin-Coastal menus created by celebrity Chef Richard Sandoval, on-property boat tours, stargazing activities, nature/bike tours, cultural experiences, water sports, championship golf at El Camaleón—the only course host of an official PGA TOUR event in Mexico, and local inspired experiences at Willow Stream spa!

The resort’s Casita-style accommodations—all featuring spa-style bathrooms and furnished private balconies—are elegant yet practical. With flexible meeting space and meal plan options, meeting planners can select from a wide selection of options, including Premium Appetite for Luxury, the resort’s signature inclusive package or design a package suited to their specific needs. Learn more about the Fairmont Mayakoba.

Connecting Conference Goals to Conference Results

By Erik Schonher

You’ve probably set some ambitious goals for your 2017 conference(s).

They probably include quantitative goals such as attracting more attendees, generating more revenue, increasing the number of exhibitors, and selling more products in your on-site bookstore.

You may also have other more qualitative goals such as providing quality programming, adding new programming or tracks, and making registration operate more smoothly,

Like most things in life, what gets measured typically gets done, and this is certainly true for your meetings. So what are you doing to track results and gather data and insights that will help you improve your meetings for the future?

During the planning phase, you need to feel confident that the content of the conference is of interest to your prospect base and develop your promotion list. The use of data-analytics and data-modeling, in conjunction with more traditional forms of qualitative and quantitative research, will help you with these tasks. These tools help you aggregate data to develop the best content for your conference, create compelling messaging, and identify those traits that best represent prospective attendees which can be used to target prospects from internal and external list sources.

Once at the show, focus groups are a good choice to collect qualitative data if you want an in-depth sense of what some attendees are thinking regarding a few specific topics. The ideal focus group consists of 8-12 people. Aim for a mix that represents the geographic and tenure of your organization. Good questions to include are:

  • How did you make your decision to attend?
  • What other annual meetings do you attend and why?
  • What would make you choose our meeting over another?

An alternative to focus groups are attendee intercepts, where someone from your association randomly selects attendees on the floor of the conference to interview with a short list of questions. Be sure to develop a short and easy script for the interviewer. This is also a great way to develop fresh testimonials for marketing materials.

To answer questions concerning member responses to programs, on-site product purchases, and other criteria that can provide insight for future meeting elements and their related marketing strategies, you can use two techniques: surveys (online, paper, phone) and database analysis.

A survey, when constructed properly, offers you the ability to collect the hard data on an extensive or complex range of issues and provide a measure of confidence that the decisions you make based upon this data are good ones. These will typically be delivered by email, although today social media opens the door to data collection on a multitude of levels. As with any methodology, be sure to get responses from a group that most represents your overall market.

Finally, database analysis allows you to look at what people actually did. Who attended? Where did they come from? What sessions did they attend? Did conference attendee purchase more products from us than non-attendees? If so, from where: the show floor or the website?

Analyzing your data to make comparisons allows you to know who your most productive targets are. Given the amount of data you have and how many years it covers, through cluster analysis, regression analysis and other research techniques, you may be able to uncover the hidden trends and “linkages” from year to year that will help make your next conference even better.

Erik Schonher is Vice President of Marketing General Incorporated and is also the Corporate Engagement Officer for EurekaFacts, a research company providing market research, marketing analytics, social research and human factors located in Rockville, MD. He can be reached at (240) 403-4800.

Last Chance for Incentive Travel Exchange Hosted Buyer Program

Incentive Travel Exchange
As the MICE industry continues to enjoy monumental growth, more and more events seem to clutter the marketplace, making it difficult to know which may be the most beneficial to you.  But don’t worry – the BEST event to network with the largest selection of travel suppliers is still to come in 2017!

Join us for Incentive Travel Exchange, April 23-26 at The Delano Las Vegas for two days of focused meetings and exciting networking activities, while making lasting relationships with industry colleagues and suppliers.

If you organize, influence, plan or recommend MICE travel program purchases, you are invited to apply for one of the fully hosted buyer positions.

Hosted buyer participation includes:

  • Complimentary airfare to/from Las Vegas from home airport
  • Three nights’ accommodations in a suite at the Delano Las Vegas
  • Transfers to/from McCarran International and The Delano Las Vegas
  • Two days of pre-arranged meetings with leading incentive travel suppliers of your choice
  • Event meals and receptions
  • Networking activities including Brooklyn Bowl, dining at Smith & Wollensky, and a show!

Apply now for a fully hosted buyer position or visit IncentiveTravelExchange.com for more information.

Hola LatAm Welcomes Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has an excellent selection of five-star hotels for planners to choose from. The Grand Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta All Inclusive in South Vallarta is an adults-only luxury property right on the beach with 443 suites all ocean-view and 10 meeting rooms in their Convention Center that can accommodate up to 1,300 people—the largest in Puerto Vallarta.

Nearby, the newly opened in a completely renovated building, the five-star Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, tucked away on a secluded cove with 335 all-inclusive suites and over 6,500 sq. ft. (603 sq. m.) of meeting space and beautiful outdoor gardens. Their “Evolution of All-Inclusive” is a boon for planners, which includes Resort Butlers, concierge service, and a dedicated Tequila Sommelier and tequila tastings, always a hit with groups.

The award-winning five-star Barceló Puerto Vallarta is located on Mismaloya Beach in the southern area of Puerto Vallarta with a view of Banderas Bay, just 15 minutes from the city center. Its all-inclusive 316 suites include access to specialty restaurants, Lounge Premium, in-room service, Internet and more. For meetings and events, the Barceló has a large Convention Center with capacity for up to 600 people, as well as six fully equipped function rooms.

The new AAA Five-Diamond Hotel Mousai Puerto Vallarta takes luxury up a trendy notch with white glove service, 72 lavish all-inclusive suites, and a private event room that can host up to 200 people. This adults-only retreat offers an all-inclusive plan with gourmet dining options and premium spirits, and your VIP clients will enjoy personalized check-in and concierge service.

Dena’ina Center Blends New Technology and Rich Culture

Wanted: a convention center that incorporates 10,000 years of human history, and has Wi-Fi capabilities for up to 4,000 simultaneous users. Anchorage’s Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center successfully combines the rich traditions of Alaska with a modern meeting facility.

Artwork and room names in the Dena’ina Center tell the story of the Dena’ina Athabascan people in the centuries before Anchorage was established. For example, a stained glass mural depicts scenes of traditional life in the region.

The Dena’ina Center may tell a story thousands of years old, but it is also loaded up with enough technology to keep the proceedings firmly in the 21st century. The center’s wireless network can handle thousands of concurrent devices; there’s no searching on the tradeshow floor for a signal, even on a busy day.

The largest convention center in the state, the Dena’ina Center is ideal for national conventions and tradeshows and has all the elements expected in a world-class convention center.

The 2015 GLACIER conference was a prime example of Anchorage’s world-class standing. Foreign ministers joined President Obama for an Arctic issues conference. Anchorage met the demanding security, communications and conferencing needs for world leaders and is ready to serve you.

Learn more about Anchorage.

Creative Conference Gift Ideas

Ever joked about “gifts that keep on giving?” Sometimes you don’t want certain gifts to keep on giving, but in the case of members attending your conference, you do want the gifts you give them to mean something and leave them with fond memories of your event.

So what’s appropriate? What’s unusual and memorable? And what won’t break the bank?

Industry professionals who use ConventionPlanit.com posted some of their own gift ideas in the Stellar Tips section of the ConventionPlanit.com website. Here’s what some of them had to say:

What Can You Buy for a Buck?

Not much, you say? Maybe not, but add up some dollar-priced items and you may soon have something worthwhile. Denice Cajigas, Executive Assistant with the Crop Insurance Research Bureau, has learned how to work this angle.

“Purchasing gift baskets for your meeting guests can be quite expensive, not to mention the baskets just never seem to have the variety/quantity or theme you may want for your meeting, or fall within your budget,” she says. “At our meeting I shopped at one of the local dollar stores and purchased the following items to make 65 gift baskets for our Southwestern Theme meeting: China dinner plates with a festive southwestern design; large cans of Arizona Iced Tea (2 for each basket); large bags of Dorito chips; large jars of salsa; bags of assorted mini-chocolate candy bars; and colored party plastic wrap and ribbon. I loaded them in my vehicle, returned to the hotel, and assembled the gift baskets for our guests in my room. Avoiding the $3/$5/$10 delivery room charges that a hotel/resort charges, I borrowed the bellman’s baggage cart and delivered the baskets to our registration table where the guests could receive them. Total cost of 65 ‘awesome’ guest gift baskets: $196.75. The baskets were definitely a hit, and the China southwestern platter could easily be wrapped up to fit into your suitcase to take home with you!”

“Regifting” in a Silent Auction

Did you think that Denice Cajigas (who offered the tip above) had only one idea? Hardly! Here’s her tip on getting some free gifts to then auction off in a Silent Auction:

“A good tip for meetings/events that are planning a silent or live auction as part of their activities is to solicit area vendors in the area (provide vendors with your organization’s mission/purpose and event info). You can request a complimentary gift certificate/tickets/coupon from their establishment (i.e., hotel/spa amenities, restaurants, mall stores, theatres, museums, excursions). You’d be surprised the vendors that will oblige!”

Reward Your Hospitality Partners

The hotel staff at your meeting site work hard to help your meeting succeed. So why not reward them with a few trinkets from your hometown?

“No matter where we travel, in the United States or outside the United States, we try to bring small gifts of thanks from Chicago or Illinois for the bellman, wait staff, the administrative staff and even our sales manager,” says Susan J. Rosen President of In the Event, based in Palatine, IL. “Nothing says ‘thank you’ more than something from your own home town! No matter how small the token – a key chain, a t-shirt or a coffee mug – it has always been appreciated!”

Submit a Card, Get a Gift

“All of us in this business want feedback on our events especially so we can calculate the ROI,” explains Vicki Corson, Senior Events Planner with EDS. “At my company we work very hard to get our subject matter experts as speakers on conference agendas and we want to know what the audience thinks of them. One very successful tactic I use is to distribute comment cards to the attendees at they enter the room (or place them on the chairs). The card includes the speaker name, topic, time, etc. and 3-4 evaluation questions about the speaker. Then I ask for attendee information; the kind of information you would collect from a business card or scanned badge.

“Stated on the card is ‘Turn in this completed card for a free gift.’ I also add that if any required fields are left blank they’re not eligible for the free gift. The gifts are usually a business item such as flash drive, journal/pen combo, etc. My return rate on the card is around 95 percent. I’ve accomplished two goals: feedback on the speaker and contact names for our sales folks. I’ve tried a few variations. Instead of handing out the gifts as they leave the room, sometimes I’ll ask them to return the card to our exhibit booth so that our sales folks can speak with attendees directly. Or I’ve entered the cards into a drawing for a higher-priced gift such as an iPod, iPhone, GPS, etc. The most successful is the immediate gratification – turn in the card, get the gift. Make sure you look at the cards and don’t be shy about asking people to complete all the required fields.”

Scavenging for Gifts

Just like asking attendees to fill out a feedback card, they might be willing to do a little searching to get their gift.

Al Rickard, CAE, President of Association Vision, offers this idea: “Have a quick scavenger hunt during meeting breaks that prompts people to walk around a certain area looking for hidden gifts – some of the gifts might be in other people’s pockets, so it encourages conversations to ask if they have them. Put attendees in teams of three or four to enhance the networking.”

Turn Gifts Into Lower Room Rental Rates

“Improve your ROI by negotiating deeper discounts on room rates,” suggests Paulette Miklas with M&T Bank. “If the Sales Manager is willing to give you a few special concessions (VIP gift baskets, comp dinners, etc.), instead request a further discount on room rental rates from the price you’ve already negotiated. Depending on your room block size, you may receive an even greater cost savings (versus the VIP gift basket). Plus you hopefully helped yourself in establishing a good rate for the next time your group returns.”

Berlin Claims the Top Spot

For the first time, Berlin has claimed the top spot in the current ranking of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). International organisations from around the world are increasingly choosing to meet in the German capital. They appreciate the modern hotel landscape, the numerous special venues, and also the city’s unique role as a magnet for science, culture, and innovation.

The new Meeting Guide Berlin provides all event planners with an indispensable tool. Accessible at www.meetingguide.berlin/en, the online tool with around 300 entries makes it possible to find the right hotel, venue, incentive, and service partner – such as PCOs, DMCs, catering and technology companies, suppliers, or mobility partners – for your event in the city of Berlin. The Meeting Guide Berlin includes newly opened hotels like the Riu Plaza near the famous Kurfürstendamm, the 4-star Hotel Titanic Chaussee Berlin as well as modern conference centres like the CityCube Berlin and Estrel Berlin, Germany’s biggest hotel.

The visitBerlin Berlin Convention Office is your first contact in the city. Established in 2001, the BCO offers comprehensive support for the organization of conventions, meetings, corporate events, and incentives in Berlin. Benefit from an experienced team, free-of-charge agency and reservation services for hotel allocations as well as a vast network of national and international contacts.

Learn more about Berlin.

Receptions as Fundraisers, Family Events, and More

networking By Al Rickard

Networking is an essential part of every major meeting, and arranging a comfortable venue with the right atmosphere, food and drink, and the ability to foster meaningful connections is important. Adding a theme can make them memorable, some can serve as effective fundraisers, and many can even help foster a family atmosphere at conferences where attendees bring their kids. At the same time, controlling costs is also critical.

Industry professionals who use ConventionPlanit.com posted some of their own pointers for receptions in the Stellar Tips section of the ConventionPlanit.com website. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Fundraising Leverage

“ASAE has created a powerful fundraising reception with its popular ASAE Foundation Classic event that attracts a sizeable number of annual meeting attendees each year, who pay extra to attend,” says Al Rickard, CAE, of Association Vision. “It even has a VIP pre-reception event for an even higher fee. They bring in big-name entertainment and make it memorable experience, providing a strong event that fills a key night at the meeting, brands the Foundation, and raises significant funds for it.”

Rickard adds, “Receptions are also ideal venues for silent auctions, as PCMA and other associations have done successfully. They add an interesting dimension, spark friendly competition in bidding on popular items, and raise money for worthy causes.”

Family Affairs

Many major conferences have become “family events” as attendees bring their kids and turned the trip into a vacation.

“Since our convention has become a family vacation, we created a teen hospitality suite and program,” says Kristin Lewis with the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers. “The first night – during the welcome reception – we have a teen activity such as bocce games, croquet or wii bowling so the kids get to know each other, and then each teen gets a key to the teen hospitality suite where they go to load up on snacks and sodas, play video games, watch movies and hang out (the suite is attached to a staff member’s room so they can check on them). It keeps the teens entertained and connected and they want to come back every year to see their friends again – bringing their parents along.”

Watching the Bottom Line

Karin Soyster with the American Bakers Association has this advice: “If you have attendees who travel with children for meetings, consider having a pizza party for kids during the opening reception. Have an age restriction (over 6) and consider charging a nominal fee ($10). Many resorts and hotels have kids programs anyway. Parents can drop off their kids when they go to the reception, and kids have something to do.”

“For welcome receptions and tradeshows, I arrange to have some food passed by the servers (the most expensive stuff!), rather than leaving it all out,” says Marion Fuller, CMP, with the Canadian Medical Association. “The food can then be distributed as attendees arrive and also enables attendees to move around exhibits, talk to each other and network without diving immediately for the food tables. The server can also explain what they are serving.”

Debbie DeJacques with the Grocery Manufacturers Association adds, “If you’re having a reception, pass/butler the more expensive items (you’ll be able to make them last longer and save money) and don’t set plates on the display table – use only napkins (this will ensure your attendees get to sample all the offerings but won’t walk away from the display station with a mound of food). Also stick with beer and wine at the bar.”

Mark Gable with the Federal Business Council also has this cost-saving advice: “When planning a reception menu, do not order hors’ d oeuvres by the piece because they are eaten rapidly, and can quickly become very costly. Order items that are carved (turkey, ham, etc) and chef stations (pasta, Mexican, etc.), because people won’t fill their plates as full, making the food last longer. Sheet cakes are also a good dessert for the same reason.”

Promoting Upcoming Destinations

Many associations like to close out their conferences by promoting the next one and a reception can be a great way to do that.

“Hold a destination luncheon or reception during your current conference,” advises Angela Orlando with the American Society of Home Inspectors. “Drum up support from next year’s host city by bringing in a destination specific band, decor, food, etc. A sign or banner may work, but why stop there? You’ve got a captive audience…give them the whole experience!