COMPANY Harley-Davidson MEETING 1998 Harley Owners Group (HOG) Louisiana State Rally LOCATION Baton Rouge, La.

When Harley-Davidson's Mike Bates began planning this year's HOG rally, he had never worked with a CVB before. "For the last seven years, the event had been held at different state parks, and we didn't need a CVB's help," says Bates, coordinator for the Louisiana State Rally. "But this year we wanted to hold it in a city. The parks don't have hotels, restaurants, or any other forms of entertainment nearby, and don't have protection from the weather, either. More importantly, mechanics weren't easily accessible in rural areas."

Bates credits the decision to hold the March rally in Baton Rouge to Kris Kimball, convention sales manager for the Baton Rouge Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Each year, the seven state HOG chapters get together to vote on the rally's destination. "This year, Kris helped organize a knockout booklet for our Baton Rouge bid proposal," says Bates. "She even secured letters welcoming us to the city from the governor, the mayor, the chamber of commerce, the chief of police, and the sheriff, and included these in the booklet."

Once Baton Rouge was selected, the CVB stepped up its planning. In addition to organizing hotel accommodations with special security for the Harleys, Bates needed to secure a venue with arena seating that could accommodate motorcycle games. The CVB suggested Louisiana State University's Agricultural Center, usually used for horse shows. "The indoor dirt rodeo arena was perfect for bike games, and we didn't have to worry about the weather," says Bates. "We didn't know, however, how LSU was going to feel about 1,300 bikes--it's a little noisy. But Kris arranged meetings for us with LSU's chancellor and everything went off without a hitch."

It didn't stop there: Kimball also organized a motorcycle tour of plantation homes and one of the downtown area, and reserved campground space for those attendees trailing campers behind their bikes.

COMPANY The Baan Company MEETING Baan World '98 LOCATION Denver, Colo.

For its users conference and joint exposition in April, the Baan Company needed accommodations for 5,000 people for three nights--as well as a regulation-sized NBA basketball floor and two NBA nets. But that was only the beginning.

"It was less than a year out, and another company had already booked a large block of rooms during our front-end dates," says Lisa Zuker, account manager for Sarah Cooper Associates, organizers of the software company's conference. "Because of our meeting's size, I immediately turned to the CVB's housing bureau for help."

The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau secured the rooms, but then another complication arose. The keynote speaker for Baan World 98, Bill Gates, alerted the company just four months beforehand that he could only speak on Tuesday, April 21, although the conference was scheduled for April 22 to 24. "There was a lot of scrambling to find additional hotel rooms when we decided to start a day early," says Zuker. "The Denver CVB was very good at suggesting which hotels would give us bigger blocks, and which were the closest to the convention center."

The CVB's help did not stop with booking rooms. Vikki Kelly, director of convention services, secured McNichols Arena (home of the Denver Nuggets) for a Globetrotters game and then organized the construction of a full-sized NBA basketball court. "I'm not sure what magic she performed, but she made it happen," says Zuker.

Not only did Kelly obtain the NBA floor and nets, but she helped with bleacher coordination for attendee seating. And this special event was not all she organized. "We needed temporary help for registration, but the unemployment rate in Denver is two percent," explains Zuker. "Vikki searched all through Denver and through a couple of nearby cities, and found the help that we needed."

The CVB also suggested appropriate restaurants for group functions and aided in coordinating signage for the highly publicized event. "The Denver CVB is an excellent resource that really made my life easier," says Zuker. "I don't think that I could have done half of what I did without them."

COMPANY Microsoft MEETING Microsoft Exchange LOCATION Boston, Mass.

Not only did Barbara Keck need last-minute rooms in a city with one of the highest occupancies in the country, but she needed 3,500 of them for five nights. That's when Keck, of Maritz Travel in Mill Valley, Calif., and her client, Microsoft, called the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Usually, corporations come to me about two years out for such a large amount of rooms," says Stephanie Pappas, national sales manager at the bureau. "September is also a peak time in Boston and a tough month to book accommodations, especially on short notice."

When Keck contacted Pappas six months out for Microsoft's 5,000-person meeting on e-mail technology, she had already booked space at Boston's World Trade Center, but she didn't have a single sleeping room. "Normally, I would have used three huge hotels in Copley Plaza, but sleeping space was exhausted," she says. "Stephanie helped me ferret out a number of hotels that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. She was very receptive and helpful, and gave my name just to the people I was interested in, and not to every limo driver and restaurant."

Within two weeks Pappas met Keck' request and secured the necessary hotel space. "Stephanie sped up the process immeasurably," says Keck. "It really showed me what a CVB can do for you."

COMPANY Borden Foods Corporation MEETING World Wide Associates Meeting LOCATION Cincinnati, Ohio

If you thought a CVB only booked rooms for meetings, think again. When Borden Foods Corporation needed 12,000 crayons at the last minute for a creative session, it called the Cincinnati CVB for help.

The request came at 7 p.m. the evening before an early morning meeting, and the CVB personally distributed all of the crayons.

And this wasn't the only last minute item Borden asked for: In mid-July 1997 the company requested a proposal from Cincinnati to host its three-day, 4,000-person August 1997 meeting--the shortest time frame to organize an event of that size in the city's history.

The Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau met the challenge, working full-steam to secure 19 hotels and 300,000 square feet of convention center space within two days. "The CVB even helped us skip over a lot of the formalities in signing hotel contracts," says Judy Lawson, Borden's special events and conference services manager. "Because of the CVB's influence, the hotels allowed us to bypass a lot of red tape and paperwork. It was like they were putting their own stamp of approval on the contracts."

On the first day of the meeting, guests were arriving from as far away as South Africa and China, and many of them still did not know where they were staying. "Because the group was international, many of the guests didn't even speak English," says Lawson. "The CVB stationed greeters at the airport to get people on the buses and to their hotels."

"I was so incredibly impressed with the way the CVB kept coming back and solving our problems," Lawson comments. "We never would have been able to make this meeting happen without them."

COMPANY Fortune MEETING Fortune Global Forum LOCATION Barcelona, Spain

When Courtenay Daniels, conference manager, Fortune Conference Division, was deciding where to hold June 1996 meeting for CEOs and managers, the Barcelona Convention Bureau won her over. "I always contact CVBs in the different European countries where I am interested in having a meeting," says Daniels. "The Barcelona CVB was very well-organized from the start and this organization influenced our decision."

Then Mercedes Garcia, manager, Barcelona Convention Bureau, sealed the deal. "It was a big holiday weekend in Barcelona, and Mercedes changed her vacation plans to meet with my boss and me at the last minute," says Daniels. "Not only that, but she managed to get doors of closed museums and other venues open for us. It was like the CVB was a part of our team."

During the planning stages, Garcia helped organize hotel accommodations for 275 guests, and suggested simultaneous translators for the international meeting. She also helped choose venues for special events. "Mercedes took me to places that I wouldn't have thought of using," says Daniels. "I knew of the Museum of National Art of Catalonia, for example, but I didn't know it could be used for group events." Garcia also arranged to have students from Barcelona's business college work as temporary employees during the meeting.

Most helpful of all, Garcia orchestrated a cultural spouse program. "Mercedes got in contact with the mayor's wife, who ended up meeting the spouses at city hall and giving them a private tour," she says. "The spouses are all pretty high-powered women themselves. The mayor's wife explained the government to them during the tour, and it was a fabulous thing for the program. It is very special to be able to get into city hall, and I was only able to arrange such an incredible experience through Mercedes."

The Global Forum went over so well that the company is holding another meeting, the Fortune European Internet Strategy Conference, in Barcelona this summer. Says Daniels: "Ever since 1996, we've been looking for an excuse to go back!"

The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau helped Computer Associates International, Inc. secure housing on four cruise ships for 6,500 sales and marketing personnel who attended the company's annual sales kick-off meeting in April--a time when hotel space in the city was already exhausted.

The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau secured convention space for 1,500, found 250 hotel rooms, and helped get parking permits for the annual meeting of GlobalNet, an independent company designed as a support system for Amway distributors.

The Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureausupplied 6,000 brochure shells for Snapper, Inc., a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment--which the company used to create invitations for its entire national sales force to attend the August1998 national sales meeting in Orlando. The CVB also set up site inspections at five properties that met the company's need for 50,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau located and booked space for 2,300 attendees at Sara Lee Corporation's annual stockholders meeting in October.

The Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau provided 300 visitor guides and 250 T-shirts for Southeast Toyota's regional office managers meeting held in March.

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureauhelped book convention and hotel space for 3,000 at Mary Kay Inc.'s Career Conference in March. Mary Kay has been using the CVB to secure conference space for 13 years.

The San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau found a hotel that met Akzo Nobel Coating's need for 300 sleeping rooms and 16 breakout rooms for its meeting held last August. The CVB also supplied brochures, buttons, welcome kits, and maps.

The Albuquerque Convention and Visitors set up a site inspection for Bureau Pritchard, Hubble & Herr, an investment management firm based in St. Petersburg, Fla., that will hold its annual client seminar in Albuquerque for the first time this September. In addition, the CVB arranged hotel space for the firm's 350 attendees and provided a contact for gift baskets.

The Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau found appropriate space for Hewlett-Packard's 1997 training meeting--even though it took place during the holiday season when it is extremely difficult to book rooms.

The Wonderful Copenhagen Convention and Visitors Bureau showed off the city to the information services company EDventure Holding Inc., who then decided to hold their 150-person annual business executive meeting there in October 1998. Subsequently, the bureau also helped the company book hotel space.

The New York Convention and Visitors Bureau found 500 rooms in peak season for Accommodations Express, a hotel reservations company that had tried--and failed--to book rooms without assistance.

The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau found off-site meeting venues and put together a package of 16 hotels and 5,300 sleeping rooms for the 6,000 business partners and senior-level executives who attended IBM's international Business Partner Executive Conference in February. In December,another meeting of 180 people was added to the event and the CVB found hotel space and meeting venues for this smaller meeting as well.

The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureaubooked meeting space, secured hotel rooms, and recommended restaurants that could accommodate 150 attendees for the HON Company's June 1997 national sales meeting in Davenport, Iowa. During the meeting, when a special outdoor function on riverboats was canceled at the last minute due to flooding, the CVB immediately arranged an alternative venue.