DMCs: Then and Now: On the record with Patti Roscoe of PRA Destination Management

May 01, 2006 - Successful Meetings

Successful Meetings: This year marks the 25th anniversary of your destination management company (DMC). Over that time, what has changed in how DMCs work with meeting planners, and the services they provide?

Patti Roscoe: We used to just fulfill meeting planners' requests. Now planners understand that much of what we do involves advising them on how a program would work best in our destination, and then actually creating the experience. We also deal with attorneys, procurement, and human resources personnel much more than in the past. And when you're trying to give people an experience that'll make them want to come back to the meeting next year or work harder to win the next incentive trip, those folks don't understand the psychology of what we're doing—they're just looking at the bottom line.

SM: What do you advise planners to tell their procurement personnel and others now involved in the planning process, to make them understand the importance of meetings and events?

Roscoe: Planners need to educate those folks on what the planner, and the company, is specifically trying to achieve through the meeting. The procurement department should be involved in making the event successful and not just be an ancillary department looking at the cost aspect. Planners should involve anyone who questions costs—let them watch the planning process so that they have an appreciation for it.

So meeting planners need to understand their events' ROI, and their personal ROI, and go to their bosses for 20 minutes to explain what they do, why it's important to the firm's success, and why there's real ROI for what that manager is spending, so that planners are looked upon as business advisors. And if cuts are being made such that the event must be compromised—like if procurement doesn't see the need for a whole audiovisual package for the keynote speaker—that should be pointed out.

SM: What information is most important for planners to give their DMCs?

Roscoe: Tell us what you're trying to achieve, not just who's coming and when. Give us as much information about your attendees' demographics as you can; if you don't know, ask them questions. The program will be very different depending where attendees come from, their age range, etc. Also, have an idea of your budget range. That's always a tiptoe kind of conversation, but if they give us a range, a good DMC should come back with lots of options. Or, if the budget is unrealistic, we'd let them know that we can still come up with ideas for their program, but not like what they wanted.

SM: What must the DMC business do to thrive in the future?

Roscoe: We have to embrace technology even more. We have to ask ourselves what will keep young people—future attendees—interested, which means we must pay attention to what's happening with technology and what groups are responding to. People are still going to want to go to destinations, play golf, and the like, but we have to figure out how we put today's technology into those activities. Seeing a museum is wonderful but seeing one with holographic glasses that makes exhibits come to life, for example, would be even more interesting, and we want to be on the cutting edge. Finally, we have to keep track of what's going on in different cultures, as people now come from so many places.