After giving us an overview of the role of a Convention Bureau, listing challenges and opportunities for #eventprofs, Livio was joined by Melissa Critchley, Events Manager for White & Case in EMEA, a leading global law firm with lawyers in 39 offices across 26 countries and Dale Parmenter, Founder and Group CEO at drp, one of the leading presentation and communication companies in the UK. The drp team comprises of over 180 specialists across three locations in Worcestershire, Leeds and London. The discussion was moderated by Richard Waddington, Chair of Event Marketing Association, exclusive for in-house event planners. Richard is former Founder and CEO of International Event Marketing Agency First Protocol and now Chair and investor in MICEBOOK.com, visiting fellow for Event Marketing at Sheffield Hallam University and sits on the Board of the Meeting Industry Charity MIMN (meetings industry meeting needs).
The discussion kicked off with the question what is the role of a Convention Bureau (CVB) in the buyer and supplier relationship. The panellists agreed that they see CVBs as the local people on the ground and they look for open, honest and transparent relationship. Planners expect to know what’s the next big thing, where’s the best restaurant and what’s the most unusual they have to offer to clients.
Dale said that client requests can be very broad, e.g. – an event for 300 – 400 people with a simple brief “we just want to be different from what we did last year”. Therefore, agencies need to have a good relationship with the CVB so they can provide this information as quickly as possible as well as the resources to pitch this destination. The better resources the better the results will be. If the country doesn’t have a CVB agencies will then rely on the DMC.
For Melissa, they don’t go to destinations where they don’t have local knowledge about. As a corporate legal group they want bespoke experiences so they need suppliers to understand them, their needs, their business and ask the right questions, and based on that create a bespoke package with a surprise element for delegates when they are at the destination.
Planners experience challenge working with CVBs when there is a pressure to deliver for clients with high expectations. When client brief is not detailed enough the agency will be shortlisting destinations and if shortlisted destination don’t get back within agreed upon timeframe they will be out of the game. It is expected from a CVB to give all the necessary information, understand the brief, the delegates and offer a WOW element. Another frustration is when venues don’t provide appropriate images. Planners want to see venue layouts, set-ups, examples and case studies of past events and not glasses and canapés.
Creativity is another challenge. Corporate planners who don’t work with Request for Proposal (RFP) can pick up the phone and have a conversation with CVBs. Sometimes information provided is very basic, which is great for general knowledge of the region, but they would be more interested to know about the newest restaurant opening or what other clients did at the destination with concrete examples and case studies of past events. From a CVB point of view, they also need as much information as possible because they have multiple requests coming in, sometimes very similar.
Agencies, from a creative and production point of view are also looking at aspects client might not be looking at, “the back end”. What’s the access like, the layout, setting, the build etc. Agencies are very often competing against each other and looking at the same destination, therefore in order to make the proposal stand out they need that one thing to make the WOW factor. In some cases agencies also see opportunities which are unnoticed by the client, an empty beach or a castle (that is possible upon site-visits). In contrary, corporate event planners don’t want to be the first to try new things.
What are the key drivers in choosing a CVB or destination to work with? For corporate planners these are guidelines over where to hold off site meetings. For 2 – 3 day events, for examples, they’ll tend towards cities where they have offices or local support on the ground. It’s also preferable that these will be close to an airport so delegates are not too long away from the office. The budget is allocated per person and should include food, beverage and transportation. Lastly, corporates will look at uniqueness to the destination, reputation and reliability.
Knowing clients objectives will also influence the decision making process. When there is a message clients can send from start to finish then planners can work closely with the CVB or DMC to help develop this message. The sooner the agency can be involved with the client and particularly the stakeholder they will ask three questions – What do you want people to feel? What do you want them to do and how to do it? What are we putting together – in terms of the message, the venue, the location, the travelling etc. The sooner the agency is involved the better they can help the client to facilitate that.
The raising concern over security issues is also an area agencies and corporates will look into before can even offer the destination. It was suggested that destinations should include security measures, risk management and mitigation in the proposal, e.g. – offer putting in touch with head of secret service or Chief of Police and list nearby hospitals. Planners also want to know about getting the delegates out of the country in case of an emergency situation.
Another area of importance is sustainability and is important when choosing destinations, venues and suppliers. Usually venues will be checked for sustainability practices and planners might not put a venue forward if it doesn’t comply with certain standards. For some clients it’s part of the RFP and agency will have to do a report on destination’s commitment to environmental issues, sustainability and whether they can run CSR programmes.
And what about language and culture when planning an event oversees? Event planners rely on CVB and DMCs for local knowledge and expect to be briefed when hosting an event in the public domain – what’s practical, what’s acceptable and what isn’t? This information can be then shared with the delegates. Planners see foreign culture as an opportunity rather than a challenge, delegates want to be part of and experience the culture and it can become part of the programme.
To conclude, each shared best practice in buyer and supplier relationship and what they are looking for.
Firstly, honesty is important, be it regarding budgets or not being able to do something as agreed upon, always be honest. Secondly, it’s very helpful when suppliers have local and remote offices. That can assist to better communicate expectations without being “lost in translation”. Thirdly, set responsibilities clear – what’s the role of an agency, in-house planners, DMC, CVB or supplier in the event planning process? Lastly, planners want to work with one person from the beginning or know who’s the person on-site who will assist with the event. They don’t want to be handed over in the middle of the process to a someone new and explain everything again.
Big thank you to Switzerland Convention and Incentive Bureau for sponsoring and supporting this event and our fantastic speakers for sharing their expertise!
You can read about the first part of the event here, for tips on working with CVBs, challenges and opportunities for #eventprofs.