The Destination Management Company DifferenceAugust 1, 2014

Enlist Destination Pros to Help Design and Deliver Superior Programs By
August 1, 2014

The Destination Management Company Difference

Enlist Destination Pros to Help Design and Deliver Superior Programs
Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Phoenix received a new 20,000-sf park built during a five-hour CSR project by Drager attendees and their DMC partners at Access Destination Services. Credit: Access Destination Services

Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Phoenix received a new 20,000-sf park built during a five-hour CSR project by Drager attendees and their DMC partners at Access Destination Services. Credit: Access Destination Services

A Destination Management Company is like your favorite smartphone — a brilliant, trusty partner. DMC pros are a bunch of know-it-alls. And that’s a good thing if there ever was one for a meeting professional. Because working with a DMC, especially when one is not familiar with the locale, is akin to having an army of like-minded event professionals whose only reason for being is to make your program the best ever.

What’s more, without DMCs, planners who are already beset with doing more with less, would have to go it alone and handle every detail of large and complex meetings including searching for and vetting multiple venues and vendors for numerous activities, entertainment, tours and dinners.

The Juggling Game

Catherine Chaulet, president of Global DMC Partners, a worldwide network of independent DMCs, suggests that handling everything alone can be quite a load. “It could be too many elements to juggle at once,” she says. “Lots of planners manage multiple events at the same time and sometimes in multiple locations in the United States and internationally. Of course they can do it all by themselves, but if you have several programs to manage by yourself or you have a small team it’s difficult to be on top of everything at all times.”

That’s where worldwide DMC networks such as Global DMC Partners can help. The organization, which is headquartered in Washington, DC, operates a worldwide network of DMCs in more than 100 destinations located in North America, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern and Northern Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, and Southern and Western Europe.

Global DMC Partners, says Chaulet, are experts in easing the workload of planners. “The most important planner resource is time,” she says. “If you work with Global, you have an account manager that supports you and knows all about your program. We also transfer information about the meeting, the company and planners from one DMC to another if you change destinations every year. We do the work for planners in a multitude of markets. That’s a big time-saver for planners.”

“The most important planner resource is time. …We do the work for planners in a multitude of markets. That’s a big time-saver for planners.” — Catherine Chaulet

Most of all, Global DMC Partners guarantees quality. According to their website, the group shares “a unique global perspective, a passion for the industry, a deep commitment to your success, and an unparalleled level of creativity, knowledge and experience. Our promise is to always deliver one-of-a-kind programs and a singular standard of excellence wherever you choose to go in the world.”

Furthermore, the company says their salespeople are available for “strategic advice, creative brainstorming, local intelligence and practical assistance — all at no cost to the planner.

Overseas meetings are a specialty of DMC networks such as Global DMC Partners. “We work with international meetings for companies coming to the U.S. because they don’t have the knowledge of local destinations,” says Chaulet. “We also work with U.S. companies that go to international markets. In both cases, we help companies with all kinds of rules, regulations, laws and taxes that they don’t know about.”

Earlier this year, Global DMC Partners held its inaugural Connection Partners Meeting in Miami, which was orchestrated by its partner, Florida Meeting Services. Attendees included representatives of Global DMC Partners worldwide affiliates, meeting planners and others in the meeting industry. The program included workshops, seminars, teambuilding exercises and more.

DMCs Are Experts in CSR

Global DMC Partners is among the worldwide and domestic DMC organizations that are receiving a growing number of requests for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. In fact, about 81 percent of planners consider DMCs as a major source of CSR experiences, compared to 60 percent in 2011, according to the SITE International Foundation’s 2013 SITE Index study, “Focus on Destination Management Companies.”

Carrie Allemang, North America region project manager for Drager, a global medical and safety technology corporation based in Germany, earlier this year used Access Destination Services to arrange a CSR program for their three-day meeting in Phoenix. Allemang was impressed with Access’ approach as they demonstrated true interest in her objectives by asking questions instead of simply pitching their company. “With Access, it was never about them pitching to me but about them asking me questions,” she says. The questions included, “What do you want to see come out of your program?” “What will make you shine?” “What makes your group have the most fun?”

The successful CSR project was the highlight of the annual meeting for Drager’s 500 North America sales, service and marketing employees.

It was the second time the meeting included a CSR program after the favorable results of the initial program last year. “I located last year’s CSR myself and Access Destination Services assisted with the deliverables for it,” explains Allemang. “Based on the success of that event, we decided to continue with a CSR this year. Access came back to us with options that would have an impact on the community in Phoenix.”

Drager did a CSR with Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, a non-profit organization in Phoenix for children separated from their parents. During the five-hour CSR program, Drager employees transformed a dirt lot into a 20,000-sf park. Attendees installed 18,000 sf of grass; created a walking path topped with crushed gravel; built and painted park benches; and planted trees and bushes.

The CSR undertaking was a perfect fit for Drager. “The proposal came to us as something Sunshine Acres desired for many years and that struck a chord with us,” says Allemang. “It was also a perfect fit because it is family operated and so is Drager. We were celebrating our 125th anniversary, and Sunshine Acres was experiencing its 60th anniversary. That was a great tie-in.”

Such a large-scale CSR program requires detailed organization and that certainly was the case with the Sunshine Acres project. Prior to the CSR, Access did a site survey and sent Allemang renderings of how the finished project would look. She also received a list of attendees’ work assignments and work groups. “Access managed the details and got everything ready for us to walk on property from the bus and go right to work,” says Allemang. “They arranged for experts in various areas to instruct our groups on using equipment and doing things like rolling out sod and laying gravel.”

Allemang scheduled the CSR project for the morning after attendees arrived, and for good reason. “It’s very motivating that way,” she says. “You can do it on the second day, but it’s after sitting in meetings for a day and it breaks up your program’s flow. This way, people can talk about (the CSR) for days afterwards among themselves. We drew on it as part of our theme on the impact we can have when all of our departments work as a team.”

The park building exercise was very popular, according to Drager’s post-meeting survey. About 45 percent of attendees said it was their favorite part of the program. The spectacular feat also won the Shining Star Award at Pharma Forum 2014 for achievement in the life sciences meeting management industry, which includes CSR programs.

The Total Package

Some companies prefer to develop long-term relationships with DMCs to help with their meetings and events. For example, a division of a large corporation has used the Southern California offices of 360 Destination Group (360 DG) for about 100 meetings and incentives over the last 10 years. “They provide local expertise,” says the division’s executive director of corporate events. “They help with everything from ground transportation to activities, décor and staffing needs. They know which restaurants are best for board meetings, dine-arounds and dinners; which activities are popular; and which vendors are the best and most reputable. All of that is an added plus, especially when dealing with larger groups.”

Last year, 360 DG helped the division with a successful incentive for 400 employees in Palm Springs, California. The DMC provided a total package. “They did ground transportation, airport pickups and provided activity options,” says the executive director of corporate events. “Attendees enjoyed the aerial tramway, a canyon hiking tour, a tour of celebrity homes, a jeep tour, horseback riding and a desert tour. They provided onsite support for registration and assisted with décor needs for evening events.”

The highlight activity took place at the Empire Polo Club. “We hadn’t been doing events there, but 360 DG was using it as a venue before it became popular and recommended it,” says the spokesperson. “We did a large dinner and cocktail event under a tent with Cirque du Soleil-type performers. During a polo match, attendees got to walk on the field at halftime and stomp on the horse divots to flatten the field. They’ve helped us plan creative, fun things like that.”

Meeting in Unfamiliar Places

Assistance from DMCs is especially important when planning meetings and incentives in unfamiliar locales far from home. According to Jennifer Kleinfelter, CMP, event manager communications for Siemens Medical Solutions Group, which held a four-day incentive/educational meeting earlier this year at the Caribe Hilton San Juan for 80 product sales executives.

Kleinfelter arranged for a San Juan DMC to plan activities including a CSR scavenger hunt through Old San Juan. Participants searched for suitable items to fill school backpacks, which were donated to a Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in Puerto Rico. “The DMC also helped with an employee recognition dinner at the hotel,” says Kleinfelter. “They brought in an acoustic band and the décor. Everything was a lime green color — from the linen and lounge furniture to the lighting — based on the shade of a new product. They also did executive transfers to and from the airport for our speakers.”

Kleinfelter wants to work with a DMC that excels in three areas: CSR, teambuilding and recognition. “I look for DMCs that are good at recognition events for our senior managers who want to do something special for their group,” she says. “I also look for DMCs that have a strong teambuilding capability. That’s a huge request that we have internally. We also do tons of CSRs and look for expertise in that area. It’s hard to find because it involves presenting unique and not overly complicated ideas that can be completed in a relatively short time.”

Pointers From People in the Know

Considering hiring a DMC? Meeting planners and DMC professionals offer these suggestions.

  • Expertise and background. Look for a DMC that has a good track record and expertise in the desired program. That’s what Allemang did for her CSR program. “If I had tried to do it myself, I wouldn’t have the knowledge they have,” says Allemang. “They know the different scopes of those projects. They had a project lead who has worked specifically on this type of CSR. I wouldn’t know who to hire to show people what to do onsite.”
  • Size matters. Match the DMC to the size and type of meeting, “It’s not always determined by budget. I also determine it based on the size of my program,” says Allemang. “I do many small meetings and those generally don’t need a DMC because they aren’t complex. I do them myself in-house. Part of that is because there is a cost in working with a DMC and, with a small group, I generally have a smaller budget.”
  • Cost-cutting. Find a DMC that is a good negotiator. A DMCs that can arrange upgrades, services and add-ons with hotels, venues, caterers and transportation companies. “They use their resources to help me stretch my budget by not using a lot of internal resources to plan and execute a meeting,” says Allemang. “They help me get better rates by, say, finding one entertainment group to contract with instead of using separate sources. If I don’t use a DMC I might have to hire another employee temporarily.”
    The executive director of meetings for a division of a major corporation agrees. “You don’t have to bring in as many temporary staff if you hire a DMC,” he says. “I find them to be pretty much necessary for everything short of doing a 10-person event, which we do on our own. They have access to certain venues that you might not think of, and they have creative thinking. They might have done something with another client that may lend itself to your event.”
  • References. “You need to check their reputation, and there are two ways to do that,” says Chaulet. “Ask for client and vendor references. You want to make sure they work with people that like to work with them. If they have good relationships with their vendors, then you are likely to have good service. Also check their website to get a feel for the quality of service. Hopefully they will have customer testimonials online.”
    References are especially important with foreign DMCs. Ask for references from United States-based clients. “You want a company that is accessible and that understands your U.S. audience,” says Allemang. “I would suggest reaching out to colleagues to see who they have used. Get examples of successful events in the past. Also ask hotels who they recommend.”
  • Payment requirements. Inquire about all payment policies. How do you handle payments? Do you require full or partial pre-payment? Do you accept wire transfers or credit cards? Such questions are especially important with foreign DMCs.
  • Multiyear agreement. “If you find a DMC that works well with you, find out if they will give you a long-term contract so that you can get services locked in at a certain rate for several years,” advises Allemang.
  • Good value. “A good DMC will have strong buying power because they will be one of the strongest in the market and have certain relationships with vendors,” says Chaulet. “It’s the relationships they build that will allow them to provide more for the same money.”
    Kleinfelter, who uses DMCs in the U.S. and abroad, offers the following advice on obtaining value: “I compare one DMC against the other in costs and services,” she says. “I work with our financial team. When I create the budget, it includes costs and the results of negotiations for procurement. My stakeholders have to be convinced that in order to meet their goals for successful programs, a DMC partner is needed. It’s usually a pretty easy partnership on that.”
  • Speedy service. Look for DMCs that can turn their services around quickly because more meetings are now being planned in a shorter turnaround time. During the first quarter of 2014, more than 60 percent of DMCs said that the time between receiving an RFP and the date of the event is decreasing, according to a survey by the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI).

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

How do planners know when to partner with a DMC? Determining if the DMC is a member of ADMEI is a good place to start.

ADMEI — the global voice of the destination management industry — is a resource for education, standards and practices. In addition, ADMEI is the trusted partner in the certification of destination management professionals and the accreditation of destination management companies.

Chaulet says the complexity of the program definitely will impact whether you decide to use a DMC, such as a large meeting with lots of moving parts, or a VIP-focused small meeting. “Also, it can be an international meeting coming to the United States, or a U.S. company going abroad,” she adds.

Just as it is hard to imagine doing business nowadays without smartphones and the many incredible meeting apps, it also would be hard for planners to think of planning effective and valuable meetings, incentives and events without the expert help of an exceptional DMC. C&IT

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