Time For A Better Conference

Back from another astounding DMAI Annual Convention. The session with Claire Hughes Johnson of Google, the PDM sessions, the “cheap therapy” as you network and realize you’re not the only one dealing with those issues… And the expo is a perfect opportunity for small bureaus to window shop and compare valuable tools that will help their Bureau! If you believe the Convention is only for the major markets, you’re mistaken! Dan Fenton offered a money back guarantee. Perhaps Stephen Perry will offer the same next July.

But, I don’t believe it was perfect. Jeff Hurt has offered his thoughts on improving conferences. Here’s a few other random thoughts as to how to improve the conferences we attend every year – August’s Five @ 5:

1. True Descriptions of Session Contents – I swear some of the same people that write the over-exaggerations we tend to put in our visitor guides write the session summaries. If it’s going to be an infomercial, tell me please. If you sell it as a session on marketing to 35-45 year old high school drop out martians, make sure the speaker stays on topic and doesn’t change his mind after a conversation with a friend as he walked into the breakout room.

2. A Frank Dialogue with Hoteliers – we always grumble about the hoteliers. We wish we could get them to understand us or just hear us. Have we ever invited them to a round-table dialogue? Get the HLA leadership(s) to attend a session, listen and encourage them to take the message back to their membership. (Better yet, hold the HLA and DMO conferences concurrently and have joint sessions!)

3. No Motivational Speakers or Celebrities – Save the money. The celebrity will just say something stupid and show he/she doesn’t have a clue about the group they’re addressing. And I’m motivated enough being out of the office. No rock climber or fighter pilot or former athlete will help me with my job. Save the hour and give me more time to network.

4. More Time to Network – Ten minutes between sessions is not enough time to start a serious dialogue. (Perhaps I’m stupid in that I go to sessions.) But the time to chat with the colleagues about their ‘best practices’ or mistakes they’ve made that will help me is invaluable! Give me more time!

(Oh, and when a niche specific round table session is held, don’t spend half the time writing down 20 topics leaving us with enough time to only touch on 3. Especially if you polled the group in advance and already have a list!)

5. Hold the Conference in a Small Market – “small market” is a relative term. If it’s a state conference, hold it in really small community. One that will really value the attendance. I know there’s logistic issues but figure it every fourth year or so. Nationally, go to a Des Moines, or Lincoln, or Topeka, er, I’m sorry, Google, Kansas. Do we always have to go to the same major markets? Besides, it will be a lot easier for smaller bureaus to sell it to their boards if you’re headed to Fargo (with all due respect Fargo!)

This is certainly not a knock on Michael Gehrisch and the staff at DMAI. The convention is outstanding and DMAI is moving in some great directions! Stay tuned for some incredible offerings in the form of a tool kit from the Advocacy Committee! And this certainly wasn’t directed just at DMAI. My state’s conference could use a refreshing I’m sure. I’m not going to suggest #5 to them this year though ’cause it’s scheduled to be in my city!

(Originally posted August 2010)

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