Citywide meetings may be a challenge to plan, but they also represent an opportunity for meeting planners to spread their wings and take advantage of all the great resources that a destination has to offer. We reached out to experienced citywide planners, tourism officials and planners from an array of cities for tips on how planners can make the most of their citywide meetings.
1. Invest time in building strong relationships with local partners. Do it Best, a co-op hardware company that has been holding its biannual trade show in Indianapolis for several decades, works closely with Visit Indy, the city’s CVB, as well as other partners.
“The importance of finding the right partners and developing those relationships can’t be stressed enough,” says Vince Slack, meeting and market planning manager for Do it Best Corp. “Whether it’s the AV or the in-house caterer, it’s about building those relationships and utilizing them to accomplish what we need to do.”
2. Create opportunities for communities to gather. The annual trade show of National Association of Music Merchants welcomes more than 100,000 attendees from around the world, but the planners use a variety of different spaces—including hotels and indoor and outdoor areas—to create opportunities for segments of attendees to cluster.
“Make the event as intimate as possible, and as user-friendly as possible for people to be able to connect with the people they want to connect with,” says Junior Tauvaa, senior vice president of sales and services for Visit Anaheim.
3. Tap the CVB for publicity. Local tourism officials can be helpful resources for helping drum up excitement about your event.
“We’re more than happy to come right into their office or board meeting to do a presentation and show them what Pittsburgh has going on,” says Karl Pietrzak, vice president of convention sales for Visit Pittsburgh. “We’ll also do an attendance-builder and send someone to the prior year’s meeting to talk about Pittsburgh, show a video and set up a booth with information where people can make hotel reservations.”
4. Think local. Remember that citywide gatherings are an opportunity to build meaningful connections with the local community. For example, consider organizing a charitable or community-focused activity, and purchase from local vendors whenever possible.
“Look at doing something that will uplift the community,” advises Rhanee Palma, vice president of sales and services for Visit Oakland. “Using the local people will really be helpful for your entire conference to be successful.”
Read Chuck Kapelke’s story, “The Art of Planning a Citywide: Hot Tips for Creating Big Impact” in the December 2018 issue of Smart Meetings.