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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Understanding Each Other's Needs John Sneed, vice president of sales and services for the Wilmington and Beaches CVB in North Carolina likens the role of CVB representative to that of matchmaker. Although he's been working with event planners for 20 years and has developed good relationships with many of them, he singled out Mandy Lowe, director of member engagement and projects at the Greensboro- based NC Realtors, as an example of a planner with whom he's developed a great working relationship. "Having a good feel for what an event planner needs and understanding how we can match up with that is critical to making sure we have the best events we can possibly have," said Sneed. "I communicate with Mandy mostly by phone – long conversations with lots of back and forth is the only way to get a really good feel for what the group needs. And describing our industry partners to her, or whomever, is the best way for them to get a feel for the situation and then kind of meeting in the middle." But Sneed also understands that event planners eventually need to see a destination and its event spaces, hotels and other venues for themselves and that all the relationship building during the phone conversations prepares both the DMO (Direct Marketing Organization) representative and event planner to have the most useful site visit possible. "I've had Mandy down here for several site visits," Sneed said. "That helps us get to know each other and helps me get a better feel for her group. When she comes to town, she spends the day with me but I take her around to different places and when she's at a particular property she, of course, deals with the people directly with very little input from me. But I'll add a comment here or there if needed because there may be things that I know are pertinent based on conversations I've had with her that might not come up when she's having a conversation with one of the industry partners." Sneed added that NC Realtors just booked its 2018 annual meeting in Wilmington and he is optimistic that it will return to the city every year. "It was a little larger than we could handle before but with the new hotels we have coming on line, we will be able for the first time in 2018 to handle the size of their group," said Sneed. Building Trust With Face-to-Face Meetings Kim Hufham, president and CEO of Wilmington and Beaches CVB and Sneed's colleague, also understands that while the telephone and internet provide convenient means of communication, nothing facilitates good relationships and builds trust like face-to-face encounters. "Part of our philosophy here at the bureau is that people want to do business with people they know and trust," said Hufham. "That's why we think it's so important that our sales staff build these relationships. Even in our high-paced, technology-driven world, it still goes back to the fact that people like that one-on-one contact and it goes back to that relationship-building and trust factor that we have. That's why it's important to us to be involved with organizations and professional events that give us the ability to get face to face with meeting planners." Serving As An Unbiased Resource For Local Knowledge Another key function of CVBs is to communicate to meeting and event planners the various – and most appropriate – options available in their areas, according to Jeff Hewitt, senior vice president at Visit Savannah. ► M A R C H 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 15 ANNUAL CVB ISSUE The Gulf Shores & Orange Beach CVB helps groups identify prime meeting sites, such as Caribe, the Resort, in Orange Beach, Ala.