Need permission from the local government for an event?

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) prides itself on going the extra mile to get special permits from the local government. For the September conference of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, the bureau organized a beach bash for attendees on Hollywood Beach. The night included turtle walks at a sea turtle sanctuary, volleyball on the beach, nonstop food and drinks, interactive entertainment, fireworks, a DJ, even Seminole Indian and Polynesian dance reviews. To get approval and obtain permits, the GFLCVB staff contacted and attended meetings on behalf of the association with the city of Hollywood, Broward County Parks & Recreation, and the Coast Guard.

Need to cut through legislative red tape? That's the job of Keith Pittman, vice president of governmental affairs at the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. Keith's primary responsibility is to monitor legislation on state and local levels as it relates to the convention and hospitality industries. He was especially instrumental during a recent convention at which gaming machine manufacturers wanted to display their products (which is illegal in New Orleans). With Keith's help, the law was amended and the group, as well as any future groups, could operate these games.

Need special assistance? More than three miles of skywalks connect hotels, restaurants, shops, and parking garages above downtown Des Moines, Iowa. When the walking distance between venues and the incline in some skywalks challenged visitors with special needs, the Greater Des Moines CVB supplied electric golf carts, operated by licensed drivers, throughout the skywalk system. They first had to get permission from the Des Moines Traffic and Transportation Department and then final authorization from the Skywalk Commission. For a recent meeting group, the CVB had the carts delivered to the Polk County Convention Complex (The Plex). The Plex's loading dock turned out to be a perfect place to park, store, and recharge the carts each evening.

Need to see the sites? A site inspection is one of the most important services the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitor Bureau has to offer, says Corinne Donahue Wallner, group sales manager for the bureau. She recently conducted a site inspection that involved seven hotels in the Annapolis area for a meeting group--in just under five hours.

"Escorting the group that day was priceless," she says. "It gave me the opportunity to get to know my client and the opportunity for my client to meet the people who will be involved in planning their conference."

Need to arrange for a special welcome from the mayor? Mayor Willie Brown was on hand to welcome members of the meeting industry group, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), at San Francisco's Moscone Center. But when he can't be there in person, the CVB will equip airport shuttle buses with a video in which the mayor personally welcomes a group on its way from the airport to hotels.

"The mayor is our best salesperson," says Doug Neilson, vice president of the convention division of the San Francisco CVB. "He sells San Francisco and all it has to offer."

Need to cut through union red tape? The Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, as well as the Atlantic City Convention Center, spend a great deal of time educating show managers and exhibitors about the labor process and union work rules. For a recent regional show in Atlantic City at which a modular home was being constructed, the ACCC organized a meeting among the show manager, the exhibitor who was building the home, and union leaders to discuss what labor was needed. Agreement requirements were met in advance, and the home was built without a hitch.

"We help with union jurisdiction and union work rules and how they will apply to a particular event," says Bob McClintock, general manager of the Atlantic City Convention Center/SMG.

Need help with security? For meetings and shows that require high security, Karen Tullgren, director of convention services for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, works with producers, the police, and the sheriff's departments to hire off-duty officers. She also is connected with private security companies and at times has worked with SWAT teams and the FBI. Tullgren updates and provides show owners with an emergency contact list that includes contacts at the city manager's office, the city department of transportation, the economic development office, the fire and police departments (including criminal activities, community relations, special duty coordinator), the Pima County sheriff, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the governor's office, and area hospitals.

Need supplier contacts? Cheryl Campbell, CMP, a Denver, Co.-based senior manager of marketing for the accounting and professional services firm KPMG, had been planning meetings for 12 years but had never used the services of a CVB. When planning a Baltimore reception that will be held this November in conjunction with a large industrywide conference, she couldn't find a destination management company to help. So she called the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.

She gave the CVA her basic requirements: the type of audience, the size, and the type of event. The CVA did all the research and came back with a list of sites that would work for her group. The CVA then made appointments for her to see the sites and accompanied her on the day of the site inspections.

"Until now, I had never worked with a CVB or a CVA," Campbell says. "Now I will."

Need to promote the destination of your next meeting? To get potential meeting attendees excited about Dallas, the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau will go to any length. It's not unusual for the CVB to have an exhibit booth at a previous year's show, fully staffed with CVB personnel to answer any questions. It also has become increasingly popular to promote Dallas by hyperlinking the company to the Dallas CVB Web site.

"Promoting your next meeting by displaying promotional material at the prior meeting becomes a win-win situation when we can help any company boost their attendance," says Dick Martinez, senior vice president, convention division.

Need printed promotional material? Slides, photographs, videotapes, brochures, and magazines depicting the beauty of Newport, R.I., not only help to motivate potential attendees but also result in many arriving a few days early or staying a few days late to enjoy all this destination has to offer.

For a recent meeting, the Newport County CVB made three different presentations to potential attendees. Wrote the planner to CVB convention sales manager Grady A.Yarrow before the meeting, "Each time, the response was tremendous. Everyone is extremely enthusiastic about coming to Newport, and the majority of the group will be first-time visitors."

Need welcome signage for attendees at the airport? Do It Best Corp., in Fort Wayne, Ind., formerly known as Hardware Wholesalers, has met in Indiana twice a year for 25 consecutive years and is a big proponent of the city's welcome program. Not only does the Indianapolis CVA arrange for a personalized billboard between the airport and the downtown area, it also supplies welcome signage at the airport; a welcome banner outside the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome; personalized buttons for hotel and restaurant employees; and posters welcoming the group that can be hung at hotels, restaurants, and stores. Table tents that can be displayed throughout the airport say "Indy Welcomes ...," followed by the name of the group.

Need limo pickups for VIPs? When three Harley-Davidson meeting planners arrived at the New Orleans International Airport for a site inspection, waiting for them were a limousine and two police officers on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The officers escorted the limousine to the hotel as the planners enjoyed champagne and canapes.

"The planners were thrilled to death," says Jeff Anding, senior convention sales manager for the New Orleans CVB. They were also impressed by the city as a whole and chose it as the site for their 2000 national dealers meeting. Held in January, the meeting was such a success that 1,800 attended instead of the 1,000 originally expected.

Need help with spouse and children's programs? The Seattle-King County CVB, in conjunction with DMC Seattle VIP Services, created 12 tours for guests to choose from for a meeting last May. During one of the tours, "Chef for a Day," the group took over Axis Restaurant, a popular eatery, and guests watched Chef Alvin prepare the meal. When two of the diners wanted to see where the fresh produce and seafood were purchased and pick up a few gifts to bring home, one of the tour guides took them on a private tour of the Farmer's Market and Pioneer Square. Now that's service!