How to Avoid 11 Common Planner Pitfalls
You turn to a destination management company for fresh ideas and inside local knowledge. The right DMC also makes sure you look like a hero amid the toughest situations. Here, we present 11 common challenges that corporate planners face, and the “why” and “how” to avoid them.
1. The Pitfall: Evaluating potential DMCs loosely on “price and creativity” – and overlooking “operational strength”
How to Avoid: We work with some companies who have us submit a formal questionnaire evaluation with our proposal to assess all DMC bids and services. Thinking through what you and your team truly value in a destination management company before you start receiving proposals will make sure you can cut through the gray to select the DMC that’s best for you. It’s also a great tool to make sure you’re evaluating DMCs based on operational strength – something we see many companies, even Fortune 500s, overlook. Here are some sample questions that vet DMCs’ operational strengths:
- “Will the operations manager have more than one program to manage during my program?”
- “Will the operations manager have other programs in the one to two weeks leading up to my program?” (A key question if you’re hosting a large, multiday program.)
- “Have you handled programs for our company before – in other divisions, regions?”
- “How will the program be managed? One main operations manager with others managing segments?”
- “Do you have a local physical office?” (See below.)
2. The Pitfall: Working with a DMC who doesn’t have a physical office or dedicated staff in a destination
Why to Avoid: This is a sticking point for us here at 360DG, because we know how important this can be. Let’s say that we do not have an office in Amelia Island, Florida (we do). We can tell a client, “Sure, we can operate your program in Amelia Island from our Orlando office three hours away.” But what about knowing that the restaurant we are proposing just switched owners and is not as good with service? Or if we don’t operate in that location frequently or with no staff dedicated to programs in that destination, then we may not know the vendors, the hotels, and their respective staffs as well. Part of the reason you hire a DMC is that intimate, local knowledge – make sure they’ve got it.
3. The Pitfall: Booking a venue independently, then bringing in a DMC to handle transportation and decor
How and Why to Avoid While trying to save money, this approach can often cost more. Plus, not knowing the ins and outs of a venue can be frustrating and stressful. A DMC not only knows a venue; they also know the staff and everything about the venue. For example, we’ll look at things like whether or not the space will require a generator or security supervision or a permit and incorporate these elements into the original estimate.
4. The Pitfall: Confusion at the airport with transfers
How to Avoid: This is a pretty simple and small tip that 360DG likes to employ: We use the program’s exact signage and branding at the airport that attendees have seen in emails, program itineraries, and other materials in the weeks and months leading up to it. It’s a “familiar face” who makes sure everyone quickly and conveniently gets to the hotel.
5. The Pitfall: Fitting a group of more than 1,000 in a venue that should be broken up and doesn’t feel cohesive
How to Avoid: Get creative and use the different spaces to your advantage with different activations and interactive elements under a unified theme. For example, an Alice in Wonderland theme, where each area represents a different part of the story with the main event set up like the Red Queen’s court. A corporate event theme more rooted to the region could simply be highlighting the different artisan food products (ex: microbrewers, salt makers, etcetera) found within different areas of the destination to give the attendees an intimate and interactive glimpse into the destination.
6. The Pitfall: Unforeseen Crises – big and small
How to Avoid: Always host an emergency planning meeting with hotel department heads and other key contacts, such as your DMC ahead of time to discuss possible emergency situations and how you will collectively handle them. This could be for singular issues like if someone is having heart problems during a team-building activity or much bigger situations such as a 911-type incident. No one wants to think or talk about these things – and they hopefully will never come up – but having a plan in place ensures it can be handled smoothly and professionally.
7. The Pitfall: Not checking on cultural nuances of attendees in the planning phase
How to Avoid: We’ve heard – and experienced – some of the fire drills that can happen when attendees from a variety of cultures, religions, and nationalities are not considered at the outset. Food and diet are always the big ones, but it relates to entertainment too (would anything be too risqué for your attendees?), as well as culture-specific considerations. For example, white symbolizes death, mourning, and bad luck and is traditionally worn at funerals in some Asian cultures. You certainly wouldn’t want white linens and draping filling your signature corporate event in that case!
8. The Pitfall: Having to use the same on-site space for a general session and evening event a few hours later
How to Avoid: Draping can make a world of difference – decorate ahead of time, use draping to hide the evening’s design, then remove the draping for a big reveal for the evening event. Another simple idea is using lighting or 3-D mapping elements. Lastly, a good stage treatment can transform the stage that guests have been staring at for days.
9. The Pitfall: Keeping attendees’ attention during an evening or long general session
How to Avoid: That glazed-eye look helps no one. No surprise, the solution is keeping it interactive, but there’s a variety of creative ways to do so. For example, a circular stage in the middle of the room or walkways leading off the stage would allow presenters to focus on key groups within the audience at different points. A series of satellite stages can force guests to readjust and refocus their attention. We also are big fans of some apps that offer live polling, allowing attendees to give their input and presenting results in real-time on a screen for all to see.
10. The Pitfall: Not revealing your budget in the RFP process
Why to Avoid: When in a bidding situation among DMCs, you want to be able to compare apples to apples. You also want destination management companies to show off their creativity and problem-solving abilities within the constraints that every budget creates. Being transparent about your budget upfront guarantees you can make the quickest, best decision that’s right for your program.
11. The Pitfall: Asking for a rush proposal or program
Why to Avoid: Sometimes the rush is unavoidable, and we get that. But when creating a proposal, that extra week or two goes to coming up with a fresh concept and sourcing more economical vendors – which saves money and headaches in the long run. More time translates to reduced costs when implementing a program, as well. It takes more people to put an event together in a month than it would take to do it in two months. In the end that extra manpower adds up.