One of the most daring and complex high-wire acts is organizing a citywide event. Spanning multiple hotels, thousands of rooms and millions of square feet of event space, a citywide requires a planner to manage a long list of responsibilities to make it successful. According to recent Smart Meetings webinar hosts Elaine Williams and Sallee Pavlovich, however, the answers are right at planners’ fingertips.
Williams is director of sales at New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, while Pavlovich is director of corporate and trade show sales at New Orleans & Company; together, they have more than 60 years of industry experience. In their webinar, “Secrets to Planning a Foolproof Citywide,” they detailed the simple—yet often overlooked—advantages of working with your destination’s convention and visitors bureau, and the importance of planning ahead.
It’s particularly important to use local CVB and convention center personnel as advocates, Williams says. “Whoever has the best information, make sure that you involve them as much as possible,” she says. “Make sure you are communicating.”
Many of the biggest problems, from conflicting events to shuttle shortages, can all be worked out by involving the local CVB in each step of the process. Open and honest communication sets up reasonable expectations. A detailed history of an event’s annual performance gives planners a major asset to share with a city while preparing. Be clear about an event’s requirements and limitations, to access the appropriate resources.
In addition to avoiding problems, CVBs and local teams can create new opportunities. “People are not looking to go to a meeting anymore,” Williams says. “They are looking for an experience.”
By reaching out to people who know the destination and the activities around the city, planners can use other events, such as festivals and parades, to build a stand-out, local experience for their attendees. Planners can also pull the destination into their own events by featuring cooking classes with local cuisine, team-building voluntourism, performances from local artists and more.
“People aren’t looking just to come here, learn something and leave,” Williams says. “The destination is now part of why people choose to come to a meeting.”
Above all, Williams and Pavlovich recommend planning as early as possible. “The most important thing that a customer can do is book as early as they can right now,” Pavlovich says. “There have been years where it’s not that critical, but in this state [Louisiana], time and place, booking ahead is to your benefit.”
Due to the cycle of the market, business conditions for hotels are currently favorable, leading to tougher negotiations and competition for planners in the next few years. As a result, booking rooms, as well as establishing inspection days, as early as possible will be a major help to everyone involved.
For the rest of Williams and Pavlovich’s tips, including help with contracts, marketing and food management, check out their full webinar here.