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Planners & Venue Managers: the Canadian Meetings Industry NEEDS YOU!

Meeting planners and Canadian event venue managers are asked to show their support for the meetings industry by participating in the third edition of the Canadian Economic Impact Study of the meetings and events industry (CEIS 3.0).

The online questionnaire is now OPEN and may be accessed here.  We are seeking event professionals' help by answering the survey and spreading the word to colleagues.

Supported by the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Foundation, the MPI Foundation Canada and its partners, this survey will quantify the number and economic impact of business events that took place in Canada in 2012.  

Anyone who organized a business event anywhere in Canada in 2012, regardless of their home country is invited to participate. Respondents need not be a member of MPI, nor are they required to be "professional" meeting planners.  

Similarly, all Canadian venue managers -- from hotels, resorts, convention facilities, conference centres, universities and even special event venues like museums and theatres -- who hosted business events, are encouraged to participate.

It is recommended that respondents have their organization's 2012 year-end results on hand for easy reference. To view a PDF of the planner questionnaire, click here.  Venue managers may download a copy of their survey here.

The MPI Foundation awarded this landmark research project earlier this year to the consortium headed by Maritz Canada, along with The Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council and Greenfield Services Inc.

This is an important endeavour that will enable the Canadian meetings industry to articulate its value to governments, investors and other stakeholders, and help advocate for a favourable business environment.

If you are active in the Canadian meetings and events industry, we hope you will respond to the study and help us spread the word to colleagues.

Social media efforts to publicize the project are underway.  Watch for periodic updates in the various LinkedIn Meeting & Event Groups, and tweets with #MPICEIS.

Should you have any questions regarding this study, please contact Doreen Ashton Wagner of Greenfield Services Inc. by email or by calling 1-866-488-4474, ext. 4512.

Is Your Content Marketing Worthy of a Royal Baby?

For the record this is NOT Queen Elizabeth II's
great grandchild.  To read more official royal news see
Content that is valued by your target market is an essential component of a sound inbound marketing strategy. A useful tactic for creating meaningful content is newsjacking, the process which David Merman Scott defines as "inject[ing] your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business."

This is what I have done with this post, making an allusion to the birth of the son of Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. What does this have to do with your hotel, DMO or meetings industry business?  You should be using newsjacking to create content and attract attention of meeting and event planners to generate leads!  
Here's how:
  • Use a newsworthy event to create a special package, service or theme at your hotel.  Hotel marketers sometimes will do this for leisure packages, so why not for meetings? I searched for a royalty-themed meeting package for this post and found none (now here's an opportunity!), though recently there were great examples around The Great Gatsby movie premiere (see 5 Swanky "Great Gatsby" Hotel Packages).
  • If you're not ready to venture into current affairs, create your content by leveraging an industry event. Talk about the "top trends" your catering manager observed when he/she attended the ISES Conference  or what your takeaways were from the latest meetings industry event your sales team attended.  Our own Meagan Rockett does this regularly, reporting "takeaways" from the CSAE events she attends.
  • To really gain the attention and respect of meeting and event planners, give them newsworthy material they can relate to in their work Use an event in your city that has some sort of fame or notoriety, and interview the people who make it happen.  If I were at Tourism Toronto, for example, I would want a meeting planner story about the logistics behind the Toronto International Film Festival.  It's like having a celebrity spokesperson for a weight loss program; everyone is interested because there is a famous person (in this case an event) behind it!

Creating content fit to attract the attention normally reserved for royalty might be a tall order, but a little creativity will go a long way to elevating your marketing to a greater level of differentiation from your competitors. 

Big Data and How Meetings Industry Suppliers Are Falling Behind

A few weeks ago I received an email from my frequent flyer program, Aeroplan. It wasn't the usual points statements, or even one of their many partner offers.

This email was a summary of my entire relationship with Aeroplan since I first became a member. Have a look 

I was very much impressed with the extent of the information they had, and also the way this was positioned to me as a client. Somehow I felt it said to me, "we may have many customers but we value our relationship with you."

Around the same time my husband also received his statement in the same format, but obviously with different numbers.

Why should we care where this is going? Airlines and loyalty management programs have figured out how to use data, big data, and are looking to enhance their relationships with customers. This is something that sadly most hotel companies, CVBs and other meetings industry suppliers are grossly lacking when it comes to their relationships with meeting and event planners.

One audiovisual company recently admitted to me that most of their regional offices operate in silos. The Toronto office, the Ottawa office, and the rest of the country are not even connected! If they want to see who their biggest clients are, offices have to submit their figures to head office, and they will figure out who their "key clients" are. How antiquated!

Similarly hotel companies are handicapped by their clunky property management systems that don't feed adequate information back to their brands.  It's often further complicated by the fact not all properties have the same system because they are owned by different real estate companies!

The disparity in software systems and the dependency on old "legacy" systems (vs. faster, cloud-based software), prevent many meetings industry suppliers from properly managing relationships with meeting and event planners. With "big data" becoming easier and cheaper, unfortunately this means many meetings industry suppliers will find themselves falling further behind.

Meetings Industry Sales: Are You a Worker Bee or a Queen Bee? by @CFrancisVoice

This post is by Sales Expert Colleen Francis, Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions, who has been coaching the Greenfield sales team to be a better resource to its meetings industry and association clients.


Being disciplined and having focus is a requirement for sales success. Most people assume that having focus means that you sit down and "do" or complete a number of tasks. That is only partly true. Having focus also means spending some time thinking about those tasks and applying your own intellect to the job at hand. Often, thinking BEFORE doing yields a more profitable result.

Those who think excel. Those who only do, will always be the worker bees of the hive. Wouldn't you rather be the Queen bee? (Sorry there is no King Bee)

I was reading my friend Kevin Dee's blog and found that he had some interesting thoughts on the subject of thinking. Specifically, how to be a better thinker. Kevin suggests:
  1. Don't EVER just do what you are told without truly understanding why you are doing what you are doing.
  2. Avoid the state of mind where you are on "automatic pilot"! ALWAYS be engaged!
  3. Ask questions!
  4. If you have ideas or suggestions speak up ... a good manager {or client} will recognize that you are trying to bring value.
  5. The more you understand the "big picture" the more value you will be able to bring to a given situation.
  6. You will better understand the big picture by talking to management, asking questions and truly wanting to "learn".
  7. The "doer" is an important part of any company ... if you have ambitions to be a leader {or to build profitable customer relationships} you need to add "brainpower" to the equation and become a "thinker"!
In sales, our customers expect us to be thinkers. They come to us because we can add value more than a being just a doer. In sales, doers are simple order takers - at risk of being replaced by the web, a kiosk or a call centre. Clients continue to seek out relationships with thinkers who can help them grow their business. They are looking for solutions to their problems. The most profitable relationships are when you and your customer think together; and, solve problems together. Your clients look to you for creativity. If you look act and sound like every other sales rep what will differentiate you? Thinking can differentiate you instantly by showing the customer that you care enough about their issues to spend time creating real solutions for them. Kevin goes on in his blog posting to help us become better thinkers:

What are you? Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Do I come to management with solutions or with problems?
  2. Do I try to understand the big picture?
  3. Do I really try to think about the implications of my actions ... or do I just do what I am told?
  4. Is my goal to grow and learn ... or just get through the day?
Do your clients consider you a valuable consultant to your clients or just a vendor? Don't risk losing your job to a website, kiosk or call centre. Take some time out to start thinking - and profiting - now.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

Start improving your results today with Engage's online Newsletter The Sales Leader and a FREE 7-day intensive sales video eCourse:

Client Engagement Lessons from Paul McCartney

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Out There concert by Paul McCartney at Canadian Tire Centre (formerly Scotiabank Place) in Ottawa.

For a 71-year-old man, Sir Paul certainly can still rock it!  He came on stage at 9 p.m. and sang 38 songs by the time he finished his last encore shortly after midnight. No warm-up band, no intermission, all Paul for over three hours!

He played many old favourites from his days with The Beatles, from Eight Days a Week and All My Loving to Let it Be. There were more than a few songs from his days with Wings, like Live and Let Die and Band on the Run.

A bit bleary-eyed on this Monday morning, I’ve been contemplating how someone who has more than the right to retire can teach us some great client engagement lessons for the hospitality and meetings industry:

LOVE your clients:  McCartney clearly knows and enjoys his fans.  That’s why he brought on stage the 81-year old grandmother after he read the request on a sign, “Paul please give my 81-year old Nana a hug.” 

The Lesson:  As a sales representative for your hotel or meetings industry organization, do you love your clients? Yes, we all have pain-in-the-posterior clients, and sometimes they’re hard to like.  But in general, do you love your clients enough to always want to help them?  Or are you just selling to them?

Get personal:  McCartney delighted the crowd not only with his impressive musical talent, but also with his storytelling.  He told us about being flattered when guitar legend Jimi Hendrix played one of The Beatles’ songs in London, and then needing help getting his guitar tuned.  He recalled the night he jammed with George Harrison, playing the ukulele.  The audience lapped it up because it was genuine, unscripted and it came from the heart. 

The Lesson:  When you interact with clients and prospects, do you tell them real-life stories?  Meaningful, personal tidbits about your hotel or your destination, not just the “official” line?  This isn’t about sharing details of your personal life; this is about relating a problem you were able to solve for another client, or your personal experience with your employer, that distinguishes you from the other suppliers out there.

Give them a treat:  Because he loves his fans and wants to have a personal relationship with them, McCartney had prepared a very special surprise for his Ottawa fans.  He knows how patriotic we are, so for his first encore he came out waving a big Canadian flag, while the rest of the band followed with the Union Jack.  Then during his last encore (he had three!), he brought out the Ottawa Police Services Pipe Band, paid homage to “Annie Murray” and performed Mull of Kintyre.  There were tears of joy and frissons of pleasure all around…

The Lesson: OK, so maybe we aren’t all able to bring out the bagpipes, but we can surprise our clients with genuine appreciation.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot either: a thank you card, a referral for a piece of business, a thoughtful (not canned!) endorsement on LinkedIn.

Increasing client engagement is the antidote to the commoditization that's plaguing hotels and most destinations in the meetings industry (see How Hotels Can Avoid Commoditization, Lead Spam & the Increasing Commoditization of the Meetings Industry)

Do you have any client engagement lessons?  Please share them here!

MPI Foundation Canadian Economic Impact Study Ready to Deploy

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I had "fallen off the saddle" and missed several weeks' worth of posts to this blog.  One of the reasons mentioned is how Greenfield is about to undertake the single biggest project of our 15-year history: the data gathering component of the MPI Foundation Canadian Economic Impact Study (CEIS) of the Meetings Industry!

Ever since we announced the project had been awarded to the research consortium headed by Maritz Canada, along with the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Human Resources Tourism Council and Greenfield, we've been working behind the scenes to help with the research project design, including the formulation of survey questions for meeting planners, meeting venues (hotels, resorts, convention centres, conference centres, etc.).

We have been in touch with the project sponsors, along with other meetings industry organizations under the Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada.

Social media efforts to publicize the project have begun.  Watch for periodic updates in the various LinkedIn Meeting & Event Groups, and tweets with #MPICEIS.

And we are this close to deploying the survey to some 30,000 meeting planners (based here in Canada and abroad), and almost 2,000 meeting and event venues!

As the data collection partner, the Greenfield Services Team is really excited because this landmark research will articulate the meetings industry's value to governments, investors and other stakeholders, and help advocate for a favourable business environment.

With a significant number of respondents, the study also will enable the assessment of the relative market share of key markets versus the overall number of meetings in Canada -- for instance what percentage of meetings that took place in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary or Ottawa.

Eventually it is our hope that this research will power an online tool that will allow planners, tourism bureaus and venues to evaluate the economic impact of a particular meeting in their destination.

If you are a Canadian meeting and event professional, or an international planner who brought a meeting or business event to Canada in 2012, we hope you will respond to the study and help us spread the word to colleagues!