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November 18, 2008



Even with associations cutting back on their meetings, Destination DC’s Nyree Neil says there’s no slow-down of association activity in the nation’s capital. But she says many associations are asking how they can save money. “We are the concierge to the city,” Nyree told us when we visited her Chinatown office. “We really try to sell our value as an extension of their meetings team.”


Like this 24-carat gold leafed panda by Joseph Youss Kadri from 2004’s PandaMania, Nyree shows visitors a lot of DC love. She connects visitors and planners to Destination DC’s members by providing free meeting planning and visitor assistance. She says a Destination DC rep will even fly out to man a booth the year ahead of an association meeting for groups that use at least 5,000 hotel rooms on their busiest night to help pre-promote. Nyree says people love to come to DC, and it’s a very accessible destination with 40% of the mid-Atlantic within driving or rail distance from the city. The Smithsonian museums are just part of the list of 100 free or almost free activities for visitors on Destination DC’s Web site


Nyree says except during a presidential inauguration, associations can save money by scheduling their meetings in off-peak months like January, February, July and August. They can also schedule close to holidays, like the days before Thanksgiving (but not Mother’s Day!). Since DC is a “transient city” during the week, she recommends a Thurs.-Tues. conference that peaks over the weekend, allowing planners to take advantage of better hotel rates when the lobbyists are out of town. Finally, in these tough economic times, she says to get those bodies out, planners need to showcase new technology, super speakers and fun off-site events.


The moment Nyree really knew she wanted to work in tourism was as a high school senior when she filled out a 500-question personality quiz, “which told me I would be naturally successful in the hospitality industry and it would never ‘feel’ like work.” After she won a scholarship to attend a meeting of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners in San Diego in 2001, there was no looking back. The Boston-native came down to DC to attend Howard University, and when she “jumped that hurdle” in ’03, she starting putting stuff on her desk at Destination DC.

Meeting Consultant

As the economic slowdown causes associations to cut their staff budgets, Meeting Priorities’ Lauren Kramer is hoping to get a lot more calls for her independent meeting planning service. With 20 years in the association business planning meetings for the American Association of Blood Banks, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Lauren broke out on her own two years ago to “consult in a non-threatening way.” When we caught up with her at the Grand Hyatt before PCMA Capital Chapter’s annual meeting, she told us, “There’s an incredible amount of outsourced work on the street, and a lot more that’s yet to come.”


Lauren says she’s noticing a lot more associations are using independent planners “as an extension of their teams.”  She says sometimes she and her colleagues will conduct an STP (strategic-tactical-practical) analysis creating everything from standard operating procedures and timelines to conducting a marketing analysis that reviews the marketing success of a meeting. She’s even started a Yahoo Group called the Independent Meeting Professionals Alliance (IMPA) with “friendly competitor” Karen Bradley-Burnett so independent planners can network. Lauren has also noticed some of Meeting Priorities clients combining two or three yearly meetings into one for cost savings.


When we caught up to Lauren, she was talking on her Platronics 510 headset, which she uses with her Blackberry. She says it is amazing because it cancels out background noise, like say, while driving with your sun roof open. Lauren also recently got her Master’s Degree in Tourism Administration online from GW.

If you have a cool office or funny sculptures and are tangentially related to the Association community, email Association Editor Abraham Mahshie at: Abraham@bisnow.com.

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