Once of the elements of meetings and conventions that captures the imagination of attendees is the notion of "swag" - free stuff, often useful and sometimes expensive, given out as gifts or promotions. Hardened industry veterans of a thousand press conferences will drop their air of experience and claw through a crowd for a free tote bag; there's just something appealing about free stuff.
Because of both the complex regulations and because so much media attention has been focused in the past year on government meeting spending, managing a government meeting has become challenging.
Sarah Vining, marketing manager at The National Conference Center (NCC), compiled a list of five easy tips for planners to simplify and streamline the many complex rules and regulations involved in the planning of government meetings.
1. Complete Meeting Packages – Use facilities that offer all inclusive pricing packages. Typically, most properties with complete meeting packages (CMP) are conference centers recognized by the International Association of Conference Centers. This allows the planner to focus on content for the meeting rather than micromanage the logistics. CMPs give planners flexibility with space needs like breakout space and meeting rooms without room rental fees
2. GSA Schedule – “Choose a venue on the GSA schedule,” advises Margo Palmer, one of NCC’s senior government sales managers. “You’ll eliminate a lot of time, extensive processes and market research by choosing a venue already on GSA.” The venues listed on the GSA schedule put forth all the groundwork to qualify and be listed on the schedule, which also simplifies the process for planners. The new category for easy meeting shopping is listed under the SIN number, 599-6.
3. Government pricing - Venues that offer government pricing all year long with no black-out dates indicate they’re committed to your best interests as a group and to having you as a long-term customer.
4. Metro-Accessible Location – Location allows government planners to control the procurement process and overcome certain obstacles. Venues that have ample parking and are easily accessible to an airport, especially an international airport, make the planning process easier.
5. Seasoned sales managers –Working with a venue staffed with seasoned government sales managers makes all the difference in the planning process. A seasoned government sales manager knows the federal rules and regulations and can coach you through the process.
These tips allow government meeting planners the ability to concentrate their energies on designing meetings that focus on bringing everyone together and delivering successful results.
Trade shows are rife with opportunities for gathering competitive intelligence. To gather the most CI, adopt a military mindset.
• Eavesdrop at the breakfast buffet; nurse a cup of coffee and listen!
• Pay attention on the elevator: you just might overhear sensitive discussions that begin on the show's floor and continue into the elevator. (Or the lobby or restroom, for that matter.)
• Listen closely in the bar: an educated eavesdropper can pick up useful tidbits when conventioneers let loose at the bar during the evening. Hone your people skills and initiate conversations while you sip on a single beverage.
• Volunteer to join the conference organizing committee: your volunteer work will not only bolster your own reputation in the industry but will give you access to all sorts of information.
• Work the break area: although professional on the show floor, exhibitor personnel love to vent while on break. Many shows have an exhibitors’ lounge where you’ll find competitors’ staff looking for someone to commiserate with them.
Protect your command center: guard your own intelligence. Caution your booth staff about mobile phone conversations, so easily overheard, as well as talking about the company in all the places listed above. Splurge on a suite or other private meeting place so that you can meet with clients and colleagues in a location that's off limit to competitors. Have your debrief sessions there, too, and shred the trash on your way out.