ConventionSouth

JUN 2018

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 8 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 19 GOVERNMENT & EDUCATIONAL MEETINGS Repeat facilities and relationships are key to planning educational and government events, ac- cording to Jane Bachick of H2O Partners, Inc. Prior to each year's hurricane season, Bachick provides free, mandatory training to insurance adjusters and agents who sell flood policies. Because government contracts often differ greatly from industry standards, it's important for planners to find facilities that are willing to work within given constraints. Here are some sugges- tions offered by industry professionals. 1. Planners seeking government rates should operate in the short term when possible, according to Elaine Hall, senior sales manager for the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Cedar Creek, Texas. Although it's risky to do, it allows hotels to fill existing holes so that the event is a win for both sides. Flexibility with dates helps, too. "If you're able to book short- term when you find a hole, you're going to get a heck of a deal," Hall said. 2. Consider arrival days when planning your event. "Sunday arrivals are best, allowing us to meet on Monday and leave Tuesday," according to Gail Bell, conference coordinator for the Texas Center for the Judiciary in Austin. "For a lot of judges, though, Monday is their busy day because it's the day for trials to begin and a day to catch up on the weekend's cases. Try to mix and match your start days as you can." 3. Consider location and ease of travel when planning, said Elizabeth Hovell of the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. "Being in the Southeastern U.S. is ideal because it's so easy for people to get here from so many of the surrounding states," she said. 4. "Budget, budget, budget," Bell said. "We're stewards of other people's money so we have to use it wisely. Find the things that are important to you and be willing to compromise on others." 5. Seek partners who understand your needs. "We are the government," Hovell said. "We speak your language." n Planning an Educational or Government Event very industry faces budgetary restrictions of some sort but for planners of government and edu- cation events, budget is often the major consideration, not only because of limited funds but also because of strict rules regulating expenses. Gail Bell, the conference coordinator for the Texas Center for the Judiciary (TCJ) in Austin, is tasked with providing legal updates to district, county, court-at-law and appellate judges throughout the state. Her organization notifies judges about changes to the law since the last legislative session and provides opportunities for judges to meet face-to-face. "Because of rules about privilege in our legal system, some judges – especially those in isolated areas – don't have other people to talk to about cases," Bell said. "Our meetings provide an opportunity for them to get different perspectives without worrying about impropriety." She pointed out that TCJ operates in a hybrid situation because the organization receives grants from the government but it isn't a government organization. "Because we're affiliated with the govern- ment, we just don't have crazy budgets," she said. "We cannot absorb surprise expenses very well, so we really like properties that understand that. They know going in that this is our budget and we aren't going to be able to increase it." Government per-diem rules restrict what TCJ can spend on food, so she looks for partner properties that will help her work within that constraint. "The properties I work with know that my food budget is limited so they don't try to sell me on higher things," Bell said. "They understand that they won't be able to nickel and dime us." Elaine Hall, senior sales manager for the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Cedar Creek, Texas, has worked with Bell for a number of years to host the judiciary events. "It's easy for us to book these events because Gail understands that in order to get the government rate, she needs to main- tain flexibility," Hall said. "If a group has flexibility with dates and pattern, it really helps properties determine whether they can offer the needed rate and enables the hotel to offer a variety of options." Hall said that one of the other things that Bell does is include custom menus in the event contract since her organization has a ceiling on the amount it can spend for food. "Many groups settle for 10 percent off of menu pricing but Gail has to dig deeper than that because of her budget limita- tions," Hall said. "Our chef creates menus that fit into her budget and we include that in the contract." Flexibility Is Essential Jane Bachick of H2O Partners, Inc., arranges meetings for the National Flood Insurance Program with adjusters and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Her organization contracts with FEMA to provide national flood insurance training to insurance adjusters who are required to attend class once a year. Because all training must be completed prior to the June 1 start of hurricane season, Bachick's challenges are a little different. "Our biggest challenge is false numbers," she said. "Adjusters are required to attend our courses but sometimes they get de- ployed and they can't attend the meeting they originally registered for. We have to manage registration well enough that everyone who needs a seat can get one." The FEMA contract dictates that one of these events be held in each FEMA region, with a total of 30 offerings. A larger pro- portion of the classes are held in Regions 4 and 6, which encompass Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Florida and Georgia, because those areas are more heavily affected by hurricanes and flooding than other parts of the United States. "I try to find locations that are easily accessible by airport and by highway but I try to avoid downtown locations because of traffic and congestion," Bachick said. She uses a combination of hotels and convention centers for her meetings and ► E

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