It's a simple concept -- Contact, Connect, and Collaborate. By asking your CVB representative a simple question ('what other organizations of similar focus and background are considering meeting in Sacramento over over a certain time frame?'), you open the door to some new math with your conference numbers, quality, and attendee value.
Recently, two contacts (I'll call them "John" and "Jim") were in town for a site inspection. They work for an association and were considering Sacramento for a convention during Fall 2011. Like many conference organizers, their primary goals were to look at hotels, see a few Sacramento meeting facilities, visit some off-site event venues, and get a general feel of the activities available. They also took time to meet with a couple of "experts" in the area who are familiar with their association and are nationally recognized for being leaders in their fields. These individuals and their agencies would be key in contributing programming expertise to the conference.
Knowing the Game Plan
John and Jim looked to the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau to help coordinate their meetings, collect hotel proposals, and identify various activity options...and, if that was all there was during the site visit, I wouldn't be blogging about it now because that's a common stopping point; it's where most people's expectations and hopes end when working with a CVB.
However, that ISN'T where the conversation and opportunities ended. A CVB is in a unique position to offer a perspective that can only come from being the "home team." We not only know the playing field, but we know all the players because we're constantly scouting...in essence, we know the game plan, we know which organizations are planning future meetings in Sacramento, their space and accommodations needs, and, most importantly, when they're coming (or even thinking of coming) to the capital city.
Making the Connection
Jim and John are considering Fall 2011 for their conference. My CVB counterpart, Susan, who works with meeting professionals on the east coast was speaking to an agency interested in bringing a conference to Sacramento around the same time. Immediately, Susan and I realized that these two organizations, which have collaborated on projects in the past, didn't know they were independently considering Sacramento for their respective conferences around the same time.
Only a CVB would know such details and make the connection...because we have the only playbook. Well, you probably guess what happened when we gave them the news.
Light bulbs went off over John's and Jim's head. Text messages to their agency colleagues started flying (what did we do before cell phones?!).
It's now quite likely the association and the agency will collaborate and co-host their meetings over the same dates, sharing convention and meeting services.
By combining their respective efforts and areas of expertise, they expect this collaboration will draw their own respective target audiences, but also allow for expanded programming and networking that will attract a wider audience. This will bring more value to their conference attendees and point this conference in a new and more exciting direction.
In several ways for this conference, its organizers and its participants, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts.