It was arrival day for PCMA’s Convening Leaders Annual Conference.
Most of the hotel and CVB sales folks were entertaining clients and watching the NFL playoffs.
Meanwhile, their Convention Services Managers (CSM) were working hard to discover new ways to deliver value to customers. Some things never change!
The event? Association for Convention Operations Management‘s (ACOM) closing general session.
I moderated a panel that included:
- Grace Jan, VP, Meetings, Management Solutions Plus
- Teri Jarvie, VP, Member Programs, Association Forum of Chicagoland
- Jim Goodman, Managing VP, Conference & Meeting Services, American Dental Association
In pre-event calls, we challenged each other to go beyond logistics and provide wisdom that would help CSM’s make their customers shine. We focused our discussions on two things:
- Revenue and
- Conference experience.
If one of these is lacking, it hurt’s everyone’s pocket book.
Four CSM Strategies That Affect A Meeting’s Outcome
We discussed four strategies that can make or break the meeting’s outcome.
1. First Impressions Matter
Account turnover (i.e. moving the account from Sales Director to CSM) can create negative first impressions.
Many hotels and CVB’s view account turnover as a process or form that is completed.
Turnover is neither of those.
It’s the client perception that matters. Turnover isn’t complete until the client accepts and trusts the services person.
Often, hotels and CVB’s put the client’s trust at risk. They have their CSM’s communicate all the rules of what a client cannot do. CSM’s should focus on what the client can do. That simple flip in perspective can make a major difference.
2. Last Impressions Last
After a successful conference, hotels and CVB’s are anxious to focus on their next group.
Not so fast! If they want a good reference, or maybe even a repeat booking, CSM’s and staff need to finish strong.
Two areas of concern:
- Crappy final billing
- Lack of post-conference data and recommendations.
When it comes to bill justification, associations have a coding challenge. A poorly organized or untimely bill can turn that great meeting experience into a nightmare to close out.
3. Help Grow Top-Line Revenue
What’s the fastest way to improve a meeting sponsor’s bottom-line? Boost their top-line.
Instead of venues charging burdensome fees for hanging sponsor banners or room drops, they should focus on two things:
- Covering their expenses
- Recommending unique opportunities that other groups have done
Genuine recommendations that help meet the client’s objectives carry more weight. For example, wouldn’t it be great if more CVB’s and hotels could help planners identify local speakers that can add value to the program? Many speakers reduce their fees for local opportunities.
4. Enable Informal Learning and Extreme Networking
At today’s conferences much of the learning happens in the hallways.
- Is your facility making alterations to allow more meet-ups to occur?
- Do you provide a seating area for your conference groups in pre-convene or public areas?
- Is free wifi available in public spaces?
- Why can’t convention centers offer cocktail or more exclusive services, like the Bistro Café?
During show hours, it’s time for hotels and convention centers to take a bit more risk and help planners keep the attendees in areas where they will conduct more business and collaborate. If an outside company can pull off the Bistro Café concept, why can’t large catering providers?
What else could a CSM do to help meeting professionals meet their toughest objectives? What are hotels, CVBs or suppliers, doing to provide more value?