Last month, our Sales Manager, Tyler Runyon, spent the day in Leesburg, Virginia at Smart Meetings Mid-Atlantic Regional 1-Day Experience where he excitedly met one-on-one with planners who were engaged and enthusiastic. Tyler discussed his experience and what he took away from the show.
Q: How did you feel being at this in-person show? What was the energy like? How did the safety protocols shape your experience as an attendee?
The energy was high! The program opened with a reception, live music, good food, and a bar, of course. I felt really good and everyone that was there seemed engaged and craving to just get back to normal; lots of fun conversations. Masks were required when not eating or drinking, and the covid requirements were posted and emphasized throughout the program. Also, the reception was outdoors which was a really nice touch to help make everyone feel comfortable and safe.
Q: You met with planners during the one-day show, what were the takeaways you got from meeting planners on getting back to in-person meetings and how was it meeting with them in-person yourself?
There was still an overall consensus of meetings beginning to ramp back up, but ‘fall’ being the real threshold that kept being mentioned. I met with a couple of planners that were reestablishing themselves or reinventing the type of groups they will be working with moving forward. Everyone came off very optimistic and encouraged by the current state of things and the vaccine rollout. It was great meeting one-v-one. The planners were very engaged, and with there being a focus on accessibility, I think the ATL Airport District CVB being located within an amazing airport district helped us shine at this meeting. Talking in person with a mask, and at a distance was very tough on my voice! Everyone was so engaging and talkative – which was great! I didn’t mind when I woke up the next day without my voice :-).
Q: What are planners looking for when booking destinations for upcoming meetings for their groups?
I noticed that there was a focus on resort-like destinations that were away from or outside of big cities, and/or an interest in accessible locations that are easy to get in and out of with less contact points. This served well in showcasing/introducing our area and beautiful hotels.
Q: What did we learn from this show that we can bring back to our clients for upcoming meetings and tradeshows in the District?
There is still a need and want for safety and cleaning protocols that are clear and easily understood, but people are also just ready to meet. The opportunity to add new and fresh experiences to a group’s hotel stay is going to be vital in winning some new business. There were many groups that have been doing the same thing for years, and now with covid, and as we move away from it, they are looking to change it up with new locations based on unique or fun experiences for their attendees. This was a common theme.
The last thing I will reiterate about covid was that people felt like there was confusion on covid protocols across the board. For the short-term, planners just want to know what those protocols are for the area and hotels that they are looking at and know that those will reflect throughout the property. Lastly, people are just ready to meet, and many planners are slowly getting that green light to move forward and/or are just waiting for the go-ahead. Rethinking what all we have to offer and showcasing that in the best ways possible will bring new groups and types of groups to the area – I believe that.