Friday, January 29, 2010

What do Meeting Planners want?

What do meeting planners want? What makes them choose one city over another? And what can DMOs/CVBs and tourism boards do to make their destination the obvious choice?

The easy answer is they want you to customize your sales pitch to address their needs and concerns, offer added value and help them find creative solutions to the specific planning challenges they are facing. But before you can get there, you need to ask the planner a lot of questions, listen hard and develop a compelling story about why your destination is a perfect match for their group.

Here are some questions to ask and things to think about that will get you headed in the right direction.

What are the goals and reason for meeting? What needs to be achieved? How would being in your destination help the planner achieve those objectives and reinforce the meeting themes in a unique and meaningful way?
What are the group's needs? What are things that the planner needs to provide for their group? Is it airlift or easy drive-in access? Who is their audience? Do they need a specific kind of property, amount of meeting space, combination of venues or amenities? How can your destination best fulfill those needs?
What's the group's history? Have they met in destinations similar to yours? Why/why not? What was their experience (pros and cons)? What is the planner looking to improve on with this next event? How can your organization help them do that?
What do they know (or think they know) about your destination? Perception is reality. So, do they have the right picture, or do you have information they might find surprising? Where do you need to fill in the blanks?
What do they like about your destination? What do they perceive as your destination's strengths? Why are you being considered as a potential destination?
Who is the competition, and are your strengths evenly matched with theirs?
What reservations do they have? What would keep them from choosing your destination? Find that out and address those concerns, don't just take "no" for an answer. Don't ignore negative press or sensitive issues, either. You are in control of the story and whether it gets blown out of proportion. Engage in an open dialogue with the planner so they understand the context of negative reports and can determine if it's really an issue that would affect their group.
What kind of added value can you offer? The relationships your organization has with local hotels, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, educators, businesses and facilities are incredibly valuable. They allow you to create packages and programs that can enhance attendee education, promote cross-cultural understanding and create transformative experiences. What kind of value-adds can you offer that will help planners wow their attendees, and/or save time and money? Is there something that another destination is offering that they find more attractive? If so, find out if the group would commit to you if you could match or top it.
What kind of planning assistance do they need? Do you offer help with RFPs, arranging site tours and transportation, registration, housing, finding staff and marketing support? Let them know. Do they need help finding cost-effective options or creative function ideas? What do they expect from you in return for guaranteeing you the business? Find out and see if it's something you can promise and deliver. Be sure you know any deadlines the planner may be on so you can get them all the information and assistance they need in a timely manner.
How flexible are they? If there is the chance the group can save money by altering the pattern or dates of the conference, let the planner know. If they are stuck on a certain idea or vendor that you think might not serve the meeting objectives as well as something else that's available in your destination, how open are they to considering something different? See how open they are to collaboration and new ideas, but put their group's needs and goals first.
Above all, be honest. Is your destination really a good fit for this group, or are you stretching to find reasons to stay in the game? You don't want to set up an expectation that you and your team can't fulfill. It's in your best interest to be candid about venues, properties and vendors that may not be able to give the planner the standard of quality their group demands and steer them towards more appropriate suppliers.

By treating each meeting professional as an individual and addressing what their group's needs are, you lay the foundation for a strong relationship. If planners feel taken care of, they will feel comfortable trusting you with their group. So invest a little time in listening to what they have to tell you and figuring out how you can help them achieve their meeting objectives. The rewards may be greater than you expect.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Have you ever wondered why Lexington, KY has been named the Horse Capital of the World? While Lexington has long claimed this title, other states, even countries might dispute this.

Kentucky as a whole has approximately 320,000 horses of various breeds. This figure puts us 5th in the nation for horse population. Texas is number one with 600,000 horses. According to the USDA the world equine population is close to 58 million animals with the United States having about 11 million. China led the world in horse population until 2004, when their count decreased to 7 million.

Kentucky is the leader in the United States in the dollar value of its horses. They have $1.75 billion worth of horses and other equines that are bought and sold each year. Thoroughbred horses generate the most sales figures. The horse industry in Kentucky has a $4 billion yearly economic impact and generates over $8 billion in tourism. There are around 100,000 jobs directly and indirectly generated by the horse industry in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Horse Park puts Lexington, KY on the world map because 34 national associations use the National Horse Center as their headquarters. Visitors from around the globe come to the Kentucky Horse Park and many international equine events are held there every year.

For these reasons, Lexington is the Horse Capital of the World

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Games update DVD

If anyone is interested in learning more about the games, Alltech has produce a wonderful DVD showcasing the 2009 European Chanpionship. This DVD really explains the various disciplins and to learn what to expect when coming the the games in September.

Please let me know if you are interested and I will send as many as you request.