ConventionSouth

JUN 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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J U N E 2 0 1 7 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 13 What types of changes have you seen in this industry during your years as a planner and how have they affected you? In 1972, our phone system at the hotel was a toggle switch system, the front desk used buckets with folios on paper for each room, color coded boards with each rate coded in a different color, and keys for rooms. Sales con- sisted of cold-calling anyone and everyone; building relationships was crucial to one's success. There were no computers; there were hardly any electric typewriters. We didn't have fax machines, we had phones and calling out-of-town clients was a major expense for the sales team and the hotels. Proposals had to be typed out, put in an envelope and mailed to the client. What now takes seconds took weeks. There were no national sales teams helping the process, no Cvent systems. Even since I became a planner in 1986 much has changed. Computers were just being devel- oped then and mostly used as a word process- ing tool. Fax machines were primitive. In fact, my first set of BEOs (banquet event orders) was sent by fax on the roll paper. It was 84 pages and it was a mess. What parts of planning events do you most enjoy? After 42 years, the best thing about my job is giving back to the industry. Cer- tainly, most things that have come up in my business life have been stored in my head and that experience saves my clients time, effort, aggravation and best of all money. From an industry standpoint, I have been asked to be on the Customer Advisory Boards of some great cities throughout the U.S., and for some great organizations, including Teneo Hospi- tality Group and the Society of Government Meeting Planners. I have also been able to teach at the Stephen F. Austin Hospitality School. I have learned that no two meetings are the same and no two clients are the same. The key is to understand your customer and their needs for the meeting and plan accordingly. Change will happen and a good planner doesn't overreact but takes these changes in stride and makes things happen. The client doesn't need to see you sweat, but they need to see that you have things in control and can solve the issue quickly and efficiently. Many times, I have had a client come to us at the end of an event and remark that it was the smoothest meeting they have ever had, while I was thinking that the meeting could have been a complete disaster. What are the biggest day-to-day challenges you face? One of our greatest irritants is also one of our greatest successes. Change. We have had to change the way we conduct busi- ness with both clients and hoteliers. As mid- dlemen, we have to understand how the client wants to buy, along with understanding how the hotel community wants to sell, and some- times these two factors are greatly different. We have to sell to the hotelier the quality of the client along with selling to the client the quality and value of the location. What are some of the most inter- esting (good or bad) experiences you have had as a planner? Both of the most interesting experiences I have had deal with high ranking officials. In February 1999, we were conducting a high-level USPS meeting in Tucson Arizona and then-Postmaster General Henderson knew that I had grown up in Tucson. He asked me where he could take President Clinton to lunch because the president was speaking in Phoenix and was going to come down to meet with the Postmaster. I recommended Mi Nidito in South Tucson. Needless to say, it was a great hit and there are still pictures on the wall at the restaurant of that visit. The second experience involved Vice Pres- ident Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden coming to the Student Veterans of America event at the Marriott San Antonio Hill Country. We were informed on Monday that the vice president was going to speak to our group on Friday. Over the next four days we had to move the general session to another ballroom (for 1,000 people), work directly with the Secret Service, White House staff, press team and the hotel. With the help of Bob Schuster, director of conferences for CMP, this event came off without a problem. It was a proud moment for the veterans to have such an important figure at their event and certainly for me and my team it was a great event to say we were a part of. What advice would you offer to other planners? Learn from everyone, whether in a college setting or from experience. Understand that everyone can teach you something. I rec- ommend coming through the hotel world first to learn what hotels are looking for when they see a prospective client's RFP. See how you can tailor your RFP to hit on items that make the hotels notice you. Then work your way over to the planner side with this information in hand and understand how to make your RFP's a win-win for all concerned. Build a team around you that understands your needs as a planner, the needs of the organization, and knows how to implement those needs efficiently and eco- nomically. Don't be afraid to delegate respon- sibilities to those on your staff or those with a meeting management company. n Q: Q: Q: Q: '' "There were no computers; there were hardly any elec- tric typewriters. We didn't have fax machines, we had phones and calling out-of- town clients was a major expense for the sales team and the hotels. Proposals had to be typed out, put in an envelope and mailed to the client. What now takes seconds took weeks." Q:

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