Q&A with PHLCVB Vice President of Convention S

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The PHLCVB boasts an award-winning ConventionServices department to assist in meeting planning efforts from beginning to end. In this Q&A, Convention Services, Vice President Philomena Petro gives an inside look at working with Convention Services for a successful and profitable meeting.

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What is the role of Convention Services?
The role of Convention Services is to assist meeting planners once they have chosen Philadelphia by helping them find the resources they need in order to successful execute their meeting. Ultimately, we support the planning process in hopes that they have a good experience and return to Philadelphia.

How soon after a meeting has booked do you start working with the planner?
Conventions book several years in advance but we typically start working with clients 18 months ahead of the event. 

One of the first things we do is attend the client’s convention a year in advance to get a feel for the meeting and promote Philadelphia as the destination for their next convention.

What do you want planners to know about the Convention Services team?
We will go above and beyond expectations to assist them in their planning efforts. We are all native Philadelphians and have been at the Convention Bureau for many years and we are passionate about our city.

What’s one of the most interesting circumstances that you’ve had to assist a convention group with?
We had an event take place at the Art Museum on the steps a number of years ago; there was a hurricane and we had to bring in three thousand ponchos at the last minute. We also had an event at Independence Park in October of last year and the same thing happened, it rained, so we had to step up with umbrellas and things for them to ensure that the event went off as smoothly as possible.

What surprises planners most about Philadelphia?
I think that they are often surprised by the scope of the city; that it is a big city, but also very manageable. They are impressed with the energy and ambience of the city. There are people on the streets, people actually live in the city. They get very excited when they come here during the planning process and realize that they can walk from their hotels to the Convention Center and to all the great restaurants and attractions.

How do you help meeting planners drive attendance?
Given Philadelphia’s location on the densely populated northeast corridor, the PHLCVB is committed to assisting our clients in tapping into this market. We partner with our clients and a data mining service to comb the region within a 250 mile radius researching potential attendees or exhibitors specific to the client’s particular industry. We then reach out to this audience through a variety of messaging tools.

This is especially true in the life sciences market since Philadelphia is a mecca for the health care and life sciences industry and we have great regional resources from which to draw upon.

What is one tool you offer that you want meeting planners to be aware of?
We definitely want groups to be aware of the dedicated microsites we offer. These microsites are created specifically for each group to help the meeting planner promote the city to prospective attendees. They really provide a great snapshot of what there is to do and see in the city and can be tailored by the client to deliver specific messaging.

What is the number one piece of advice you’d give to a meeting planner planning a large event?
Number one, know your audience, know what is going to appeal to them. Whether they are a group that wants to get together and network, in which case you want to make sure it’s not about the entertainment it’s about the opportunity to network.  If it’s a group that would enjoy the entertainment, I would definitely look for something indigenous to that particular city.

I would choose a unique location in the city which may afford your attendees the opportunity to get outside of the Convention Center and have a city oriented experience. When selecting vendors, I would certainly look for one who has worked with meetings of the same size and scope and ask for references.

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