The following was adapted from a tutorial held at RCMA 2009. The tutorial was led by Lerry Fogle, conference executive director,Church of the Brethren, New Windsor, Md.; Mike Gunn, vice president of sales, Greater Birmingham CVB, Birmingham, Ala.; Ramona Moon, sales manager, Fort Smith CVB, Fort Smith, Ark.; and Jackie Walker, convention-meeting planner, Church of God Executive Office, Lawrenceville, Ga.

Linking with CVB partners is a valuable step in making decisions — for meetings of all sizes.

“CVBs are a sales engine. Partner with them early on,” says Jackie Walker, convention-meeting planner, Church of God Executive Office, Lawrenceville, Ga. “I am pretty brand-loyal for many of my meetings, but I always link up with the CVBs. Even for annual meetings, even when I'm using a hotel that I've used previously, I search out tips and suggestions from the CVB.”

Following is insight on the CVB-planner relationship, and how to make it successful.

Through the Eyes of Planners

The CVB will make you look good. They know everything that has ever worked for groups like ours, and we depend on them to be a partner, to be our bridge to a community. With selecting services and suppliers, we absolutely need their help.

  • We love the CVB folks. They're the up-front people for every city.

  • CVBs are getting more and more creative in finding ways to assist the planner. Sales efforts are more aggressive, and they're planning more fams and featuring the city as a destination, not just a hotel. Some CVBs are taking their cities “on the road” with media presentations. Those are fine, but nothing takes the place of experiencing the touch and feel of a destination.

    Be fair and honest when you submit a request for proposal. CVBs represent a large number of properties; CVBs can be of the most help if you provide an accurate, detailed RFP.

  • Be realistic with your attendance estimates. Don't say, “We had 40 last year, but we're expecting at least 90 this year!”

  • If you have a bad experience in a city, check back with the CVB in the future. New people or new practices might be in place.

  • Look for professional and competent staffing in CVBs. With sales, look for people who are knowledgeable about the religious market and responsive to its needs.

  • After we've booked a meeting, we turn to a CVB's event-management team. We ask them to identify up front all the things that the CVB can do for our organization.

  • For housing, generally we like to have a third-party software to make the process easier. Another option is to work with a CVB's housing bureau. If you are using the housing bureau, receive assurances that the bureau is capable of processing reservations promptly.

  • We look to the CVB for help with volunteers. Many cities have volunteers who are available to help throughout the event.

  • If a city is no longer being considered for your meeting, let that CVB know. It's very helpful to them.

  • We like every city that we visit, but we cannot choose every city for a meeting. If you do not select a city for a meeting, maintain rapport with them, because you are going to consider that city in the future.

Through the Eyes of CVB Personnel

Nobody knows the city better than the CVB. We try to determine the purpose of your meetings and your priorities. We can save you a lot of time, and best of all, all our services are free.

  • We are the face of our cities.

  • CVBs can do as much or as little as you want. For example, if you want welcome banners at the airport, we can do that. If you want letters of welcome from the governor and the mayor, we can do that, too.

  • Typically, the purpose of CVBs is to generate revenue for their cities. Our goal is to relieve your stress and make your meeting a great experience so that you will come back again.

  • We do bid proposals — we even can do presentations to your decision-makers.

  • We join your team when you come to our city, and you are the boss. We do what you tell us to do, or we find someone who can. We serve as your liaison.

  • If you need funding for a meeting, we can help you find sponsors.

  • We can put you in touch with local members of your organization.

  • We know the hotels and attractions, and we work well with them.

  • We will help you with whatever services you need, even if you come to us after you have committed to a hotel.

  • We want your conference to be well-attended. We provide attendance-building tools, and we have money for marketing.

  • We cannot recommend one hotel over another based on which one we like. But we can recommend one hotel over another based on your needs.

  • If you are new to meeting planning, we can look through your specs and find ways to save you money.

  • We give you a calendar of events so that you know what else is going on in the city. We inform you of groups that might be incompatible with yours.