Destination Management is an obscure industry. The entire meetings and events segment isn’t exactly high in the minds of the general public, though when you explain to people that there are firms that facilitate corporate meetings and other large group events, people tend to nod their heads in a “you learn something new every day” sort of way. I’ve come to believe, however, that this obscurity is actually a huge problem for DMCs.
We’ve explained VIPER’s market and business model to many venture capitalists, and we’ve generally asked them about their experience with meetings and events. So many times, they’ve recounted how the planning and execution of their yearly partners meeting has been a fiasco, and that it was generally a harried office manager that organized it all. I spoken to many other people in the business world (usually smaller businesses) who could have used the services of a DMC, but either didn’t know that such a thing existed, or just assumed that it would have been a costly extravagance that would have made their event unaffordable.
What really sent my thinking over the edge was the recent scandal here in the US wherein the General Services Administration (one of the largest bureaucracies in the world, and essentially the agency responsible for the mundane everyday business of keeping the US government running) squandered tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours “planning” a routine conference. I hadn’t really thought about the implications of the scandal until I read Padraic Gilligan’s excellent analysis, which focuses on how the backlash will damage the industry, and that the real scandal isn’t that bureaucrats are wasting taxpayer money having meetings, but that, if they had used the tools and service providers at their disposal, they would have been able to plan and hold the exact same meeting with less waste and no scandal.
As Padraic points out, if the planning and operation of the entire event had been outsourced to one or more appropriate professionals, it wouldn’t have been necessary for GSA staff to spend 115 man-days and $130,000 for travel and expenses over eight site inspections. As another DMC professional pointed out to me, if this event had been planned correctly and a competent DMC had been involved, it might have been only necessary to have one site inspection, and the tab for it would have been substantially picked up by the hotel.
Now maybe this wasn’t an example of the GSA being ignorant of what a DMC could have done for them. Perhaps they just saw the opportunity to jet back and forth to Vegas as a prime boondoggle opportunity, in which case this scandal is 100% warranted. But I have a feeling that there are many, many organizations out there, large and small, that fall into one of these categories:
- They don’t know that there are professionals out there that could be helping with their events at all.
- They don’t think that it would make sense to engage the services of these professionals, because it would be too much money, their event isn’t complex enough, etc.
- They have engaged professionals in the past, but they did in fact pay an inflated price because of are layers of low-value intermediaries that caused the price to be inflated (for example, someone helped them find a hotel, and the hotel paid a 10% commission, then recommended a DMC, but they’re paying a 12% commission to the hotel)
We’ve been spending the past months building eventRFP to try to make life easier for corporate and association meeting planners, but a secondary opportunity is that we have the opportunity to introduce our service providers to a whole segment of the population that can use and afford the services, but for whatever reason is still trying to go it alone.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to gather some of the horror stories that events industry people are familiar with, where, like the GSA story, organizations have wasted time and money trying to plan and execute events without professional help. Please feel free to share any stories you might have here in the comments.