This past year, I have transitioned my career to a new role with Choose Chicago, the sales & marketing arm for the city of Chicago for conventions, trade shows, meetings, and tourism. It has been a year of change as I left Texas and relocated back to Chicago, as well as moving forward from 6+ terrific years with Freeman. This opportunity, for me, represented a unique channel to unite my 26 years of hotel experience with 2 years at Freeman AV, and 4+ years with the Freeman team working holistically around av, general service contracting, and the creative strategy/branding/engagement services…all of which are essential parts at the types of events hosted in this great city.
It has been that opportunity and much more as I’ve learned the essential role that a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) serves in uniting the community to serve the needs of event professionals from all market segments. It also showed me the inconsistency that exists in the branding of the function…CVB, Bureau, DMO, Visit This or That…the funding of the function, the expectation of the function, and the depth of services provided in our industry.
1. DMO’s are known for the large events they help bring to a community. However, in Chicago, that is only 4% of the transactions we participate in for the community. The larger part, 96%, of what we do is assist smaller events down to 10 people with their equally important gatherings for the exchange of information, adult education, or social gathering.
2. It takes a village. Whether an event for 100,000 medical professionals, or a family reunion of 50 people, the engagement is not just about the venue or the official functions. The ability to assist and serve all levels of planners, attendees, exhibitors, and our partners to connect, engage, conduct business, and create great environments and engagements for all events of all sizes is rewarding and requires every member of the destination community: the airlines, airport, sense of place on arrival, ground transportation, hotel welcome, event venues, av companies, general service contractors, local government, restaurants, theaters, dmc’s, media, police and fire, etc. etc. to pull together with one common goal…The Success of the Event.
3. Unions and Labor are equal partners in the success of every community. Over the years, Chicago has done more to work in a collaborative effort with the highly knowledgeable and skilled unions and labor leaders in our communities than any other destination. They are partners in our success and work collaboratively with the DMO, local government, all partners in the destination, and most important…the customer…to design an experience and working relationship that makes for incredible environments, functional marketplaces, safe venues and work places, and outstanding productions. We are blessed to have such collaborators and our returning customers have been thrilled with the atmosphere of “Customer First” that exists.
4. We have a lot of information, and we all need more knowledge. In this tech heavy era, getting information is so much easier than before that often the problem is we have so much information that we are converting less to knowledge than necessary. Our customers are more sophisticated than ever before, and we as DMO’s are no longer in the brochure and let me tell you about my city business. Leads aren’t really the greatest function anymore either, as technology has found terrific ways to deliver customer logistical needs to destinations and venues than ever before to the point it is often overwhelming. However, that being said, we are not always connecting that information to really understand and develop knowledge about the customer’s other needs…the Whys and Hows being connected to the Whats and the Whens. It is imperative that we continue to value the role of the face to face discussions and our listening skills to fully understand why they have the needs they have, and how our destination can pull forward the resources they need…and as important, block out the ones they don’t.
It has been a terrific year and I thank DMAI, all of my many mentors, colleagues, customers, and friends for their support and guidance during this time. As the first year closes, I can share that my head is still spinning, but at least in the right direction! I’m excited, and if you want to know why, click here.