by Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM
• CVBs can help from pre-planning to post event
• Look into promotions and incentives that help your bottom line
• Get the 'complete picture' of an area from one source
Your boss announces that the next meeting you’re tasked with planning is to a place you’ve never been. The expectation is a budget and event storyboard will be delivered by this time next week. You’re expected to be an aficionado in a few short days so it’s time to get to work and do some research.
If it seems overwhelming, do not despair. There’s a one-stop shop that can offer you a full list of area attractions, hotels, restaurants, and more, with a team of people waiting for your call. And not only is the service free, you may get help to defray your site visit and meeting costs.
Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) are a planner’s best, but often overlooked, friend. The purpose of a CVB is to bring business to a particular region. To do that, they partner with planners considering the area, highlighting all their city has to offer in an effort to make theirs the destination of your choice. They are often funded through tourism taxes or city budget, so there is no cost to you to use them.
CVBs are staffed by experts in the region, allowing them to paint you a complete picture of the destination, not just the basics. Don’t know how many direct flights go into and out of their airport? They’ll email you the list. Not sure how to collect all the information about the location and present it to your attendees? They likely have a landing page you can add to your event site. Need to plan a site visit? Many CVBs have site visit packages that offer everything from detailed itineraries, behind the scenes info, a dedicated guide with whom you can tour the City, complimentary transportation to and from the airport, a list of area hot spots, and more.
Their help doesn’t end when you sign on the dotted line. CVBs will help you source area vendors, can update you on area festivals and fairs, help plan city tours, share insight on thematic giveaway items, provide trivia questions to work into your guest communications, and provide tips that only a local to the area would know.
If your event is large enough you may qualify for assistance to pay for your site visit airfare. Some cities offer promotions that translate into money back after hosting your event. All you have to do is ask if there are any city-wide promotions, meet the parameters, and fill out the paperwork. And, you guessed it, many CVBs will help you do that too.
So the next time you have to get up to speed on a new location, or even if you’re returning to one you know well, make sure you reach out to the CVB before you make any other calls. The sooner you loop them into the process the better. You can still use your global or national hotel rep when you book the business and you or your third party will still get the housing commissions. What you’ll also get is a knowledgeable, eager person to partner with you throughout all stages of the process. With help like that you can get those event storyboards done ahead of schedule!
When Christy joined the meetings industry 25 years ago, event planning was more of a concept than a recognized profession. In the ensuing two and a half decades, she proudly participated in its evolution.
Christy has earned multiple certifications, writes thought-provoking articles, and teaches strategic planning at the University level. Christy’s latest mission is to bring the industry and the talented professionals who share her passion for strategic planning the respect they deserve.