Episode 128

The New Meetings MarketAndy McNeill

About Our Guest

Andy McNeill

This week on the Destination Marketing Podcast, we are joined by Andy McNeill, founder and CEO of American Meetings Inc. & Co-Host of the Destination Everywhere podcast. Listen to learn about how his company has transitioned to online meetings over the past year and how they plan to incorporate this new method in their business model in years to come.

"Be open to unique and different ways to run and manage meetings. The hybrid and virtual meeting is here to stay and we need to be able to envelop it into the live meeting situation as best we can." -Andy McNeill

Episode Highlights

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic Agency
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Andy McNeill
  • Position: Founder/CEO, AMI & Co Host of The Destination Everywhere Podcast
  • Favorite Destination: Ireland
  • Dream Destination: Iceland

“The New Meetings Market” – Show Notes and Highlights

Show Highlights:

  • American Meetings focuses on large corporate events for Fortune 500 organizations. 
  • American Meetings went from about 80% live to 100% virtual during the pandemic.
  • Andy shares that live meetings are coming back. Virtual meetings will always be around and have seen that growth and cultural shift. 
  • Smaller regional business destinations are poised best to be able to receive hybrid meetings.
  • Meetings are innovating with creative meeting structures such as beaming in speakers holographically.
  • Smaller regional businesses who don’t have major meeting facilities should partner with larger CVB partners to promote themselves and provide one on one connection. 
  • Even in messaging, there is flexibility or willingness to accommodate change as a result of COVID in the RFP response.
  • Effective communication and consistency of message are the factors that go into having a safe event. 
  • Destinations should improve their meeting products by being open to change, being flexible and having the right professionals in place.

 

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:

Episode Transcript

Transcript:

 

Andy McNeill: [00:00:00] Be open to change. Be flexible. Just like in 2008, we all have to be really, really flexible. I think we’re going to be even more so this time. And be open to unique and different ways to run and manage meetings. The hybrid meeting and the virtual meeting, I think, it’s here to stay, and we just need to be able to envelop it into the live meeting situation as best we can. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:00:20] Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Adam Stoker. We’ve got a great show for you today. My guest today is Andy McNeill. He is the CEO of American Meetings, Inc. Andy, welcome to the show.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:00:35] Thank you, Adam. Great to be here. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:00:37] Yeah, we’re excited to have you. I was so glad that you reached out because I know you guys have a show and we want to talk a little bit about your show today as well. But we’re all working with destinations and helping them through the challenges that we dealt with in 2020. I think you’ve got some great ideas for 2021. That’ll be really good for us to talk about today. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:00:58] Yeah, absolutely a lot going on in our industry for sure. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:01:02] So, Andy, before we get too far into this, though, we’ve got a couple of icebreaker questions we want to ask you. First of all, what is your dream destination? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:01:14] Oh, my gosh. You can’t make me choose just one, right?

 

Adam Stoker: [00:01:19] We’re going to do it. We’re going to force your hand. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:01:21] Oh, man. There are so many great places. I’m really blessed to be in the meetings and events industry for over 30 years. So, I’ve been lucky enough to see the world. And I’ve gone back to some of my favorite places. I would have to say Ireland for a number of reasons. I think, first of all, my last name is McNeil, so, you got that. But I’ve been there probably 11 or 12 times because it is such a beautiful, beautiful place and the people make it so very special. And you can do everything from just amazing golf to visiting castles. We just had such a great experience taking groups over there over the years. I’d have to say [Inaudible 00:02:04]

 

Adam Stoker: [00:02:05] Yeah. I’m seeing an interesting trend lately, Andy, and that’s that more and more people are answering that question based on some sort of genealogical reason. I feel like that’s more of a recent trend, right? People are trying to find their way back to their roots or understand better where they came from. And travel is a great vehicle to do that. It’s also a great excuse to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It just sounds interesting to me. What led you to kind of want to go back to your roots? What’s causing that genealogical reasoning behind your trip? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:02:45] Yeah. So, McNeill and McCall, that’s my father’s name and my mother’s maiden name. So, both families are from Ireland. And my grandparents are immigrants from Ireland. So, that connection is really, really powerful. I’ve got lots of cousins over there. When I got off the plane their first time in 1990, I just felt like it was home. It just felt right. It’s such a beautiful place. And again, the people, so many times I’ve been in situations in our business where we are having to deal with difficult situations, every time that’s ever happened in Ireland, we’ve been able to deal with it with just amazing ease and grace because of the people of Ireland. So, from a business perspective, it’s been good. From a personal perspective that’s been fantastic and life-changing. I just can’t say enough about it. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:39] Very cool, very cool. Okay. I think we may have gone a little bit in a backward order here because you’ve been to Ireland, right? You’ve taken that trip, you’ve had that experience. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:03:47] I have. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:48] So, let’s hear one that you haven’t had that still on your bucket? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:03:52] Got you. Let’s see. Bucket list. Okay. I’m going to have to say Iceland. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:59] So, all you want to do is change a letter from Ireland to Iceland. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:04:02] Oh, yes. Okay, got you. So, before COVID, they were seeing such a huge growth in tourism because it’s such a beautiful place and, again, that people are so nice. I like places that are kind of out of the way and a little different. And the natural beauty of Iceland is incredible. So, I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve always wanted to go to one of those places where you can actually stay inside one of those see-through igloos and see the northern lights. Wouldn’t that be incredible? I mean, that’s kind of bucket list stuff, right? So that’s on my list. I’ve always wanted to go. I will certainly get there sometime soon. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:04:42] Okay. Yeah. My question is, is that a one-year bucket list? Five year? Or 10year? When do you think you’re going to make your way out there? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:04:49] Yeah, I’d like to do the next five years with my kids before I get too old, absolutely. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:04:52] Oh, great. Yes. That’s the other trend that I’m hearing so much is it’s almost like parents have a kids’ bucket list, things they want to check off of activities they want to do with their kids. It’s fun to see those trips. I’ve got four kids of my own, and there are some trips with my kids that are just wonderful. And then there are some that are a little bit more challenging, right? It’s a sacrifice but it sounds like an amazing place to take your kids minus the flight. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:05:21] Well, sometimes they say, you don’t go on vacation with your family. You go somewhere with your family, right? Sometimes it’s not a vacation, but at the end of the day, that’s what memories are made of and what we all remember the most. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:05:35] Great. Well, Andy, thanks for letting us get to know you a little bit with that. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into tourism.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:05:43] Yeah, absolutely. So, I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years. I started out in the event marketing space on the sports side. I’m at Florida State University way back when. And that kind of led me into a world of traveling with my first job, which really took me all over the world. I was really lucky to open up different divisions of the company in almost every part of the world. I traveled to over 70 countries doing that over a very short amount of time over six years. And it was just so much fun and so incredible, and really opened my eyes to the world. And when I came back, I decided that I wanted to stay in the event space so I opened up AMI, American Meetings. We focus on large corporate events for Fortune 500 organizations. We currently do that in about 60 countries around the world. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:06:34] Wow, that’s a pretty clear path. A lot of people have a really zigzag path, but it almost seems like you knew where you were headed the whole time.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:06:42] Yeah. I had a great mentor early on, and that really helped crystallize things. She taught me what real customer service was all about. And once that’s in your blood and you understand it, I mean, I think people really are someone who can be in the service industry or can’t be. I think it’s a pretty strict line because you have to be wanting to help people. And she really taught me that it’s about the customer, it’s about the customer’s experience. So, once I learned from the best, I opened up AMI and it’s been 19 years and counting. We’ll be celebrating our 20th year next January. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:07:21] Congratulations. That’s amazing. This is an example of the conversation, maybe taking a turn from where I thought it was going to go because I want to dive into this concept of your mentor that you had. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:07:33] Yeah, absolutely.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:07:34]: I feel like there are a lot of mentors out there in your career, and everybody has or hopefully has a mentor. And if you don’t, find one. But a lot of people don’t appreciate or recognize the importance of that mentor until they’ve moved on and actually had to take the position of that mentor or do some of the roles that that mentor had. Were you able to recognize that person’s impact early on? Or is it something you appreciated more and more after you didn’t work with that person anymore? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:08:04] Yeah. I think maybe the first time I almost couldn’t make payroll. I really understood it. And then, I was with her during the 9-11 attacks, and then I have had to go through the downturn of 2008, and then also COVID. So, we’ve definitely had similar situations that we’ve had to deal with. And I do recognize that the pressure that an entrepreneur and an owner feel on a day-to-day basis is something that really can’t be conveyed until you live it, until you’re the one that’s sitting in that seat. So, I’m grateful for the poise and professionalism she taught me, and for never letting what’s happening internally in your company affect the experience for your customers.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:08:52] Yeah. I had a similar experience, except that I think I may have been so boneheaded early on in my career that I just didn’t recognize the value that a few of my mentors provided for me along the way. I had one that really kind of he was hard on me right out of school and really pushed me. And I think at that time I thought he was a jerk. And then all of a sudden, when I moved into my next role, I said, holy cow, I think he gave me five years of experience in a year and a half and I couldn’t be where I am today without it. And I think that’s happened to me several times where I may have recognized the value. But the value increased exponentially after I moved on from that mentor.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:09:37] It’s a great point. I think there’s also sometimes that you don’t realize someone was a mentor until after you’ve left their sphere of influence, and you turn back and you look at them and you go, wow, that person taught me a lot about this or that. That doesn’t have to be someone older than you. It can be a co-worker or colleague who’s just a few years over yours and your reporting instructor that gave you great guidance and was a little older than their years. I’ve definitely had that experience as well.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:10:05] Absolutely. Well, okay, thanks for that little journey outside of the direction we plan on this conversation. Yeah, it’s when you recognize a mentor, the importance of that mentor to your career, it’s pretty incredible. But I want to go back to the meetings industry. You’ve obviously been in the industry for a long time. You’re seeing major changes in the industry as a result of 2020. Give me the 30,000 ft. view state of the industry right now for the meetings market?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:10:35] We’re at an inflection point in our industry. I don’t need to tell your listeners that. We’re all going through it together. There’s really a confluence happening between virtual meetings, live meetings, and now hybrid meetings. The confluence is that I think every organization is rethinking what a meeting strategy is and for our valued partners. And actually, the reason we created the Destination Everywhere Podcast last year was to stay in touch with our incredible partners in the hotel, in the CVB industry because they are our lifeblood on the live meeting side. And we were trying to figure out ways to promote them and be ready for when live meetings came back, which is starting to come back, which is fantastic. 

 

But the Fortune 500 companies have spent a year and a half not traveling their organizations and seeing improvements in profit because you’re not spending as much money on travel. They are now saying, well, there’s going to be a mix. And then, meeting champions, meeting owners are saying, “Boy, I can still get my job done and maybe not have to do all those overnight trips.” So, what’s really important, I think, for all of us in the industry to realize is that change is coming and it’s how we focus on that change and be positive about it and figure out ways to mesh together with that new confluence of those three different types of meetings because it’s here to stay, I believe. 

 

I think it’s actually going to grow our industry because there’s nothing like a meeting to connect with someone, and you can do that now virtually. Sometimes you’ll do it in a situation where some people are at a destination and others are online. But there’s always going to be live meetings. There’s nothing better than a face-to-face connection and being able to go to a fantastic destination and have a great experience. We’re just going to have this added benefit of being able to actually expand the tent with virtual attendees coming into those as well. So, that’s where I see it going. We’re seeing that already. We’re having those conversations with our clients. We’re planning for the future. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:12:36] Great. Yeah, I want to come back to your show and talk about your show in a few minutes. But before we do, you mentioned something really interesting. And that’s that these Fortune 500 corporations right now are looking at their budget and saying, holy cow, what great savings that we’ve experienced by not spending money on this travel and everything. While I think that as they look at 2020 in a vacuum, I think that’s true, right? But if you look at the return on investment from a lot of these meetings over the years, they could be missing the opportunity cost of, okay, but if they went to the show, how much revenue would they have booked, or whatever? So, the reason I bring that up is if I’m a destination, I need to be working with the event organizers and creating an event that provides enough value to where these corporations are not going to look at this as an expense but it actually results in an investment or some sort of a return on investment. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:13:37] Yeah, absolutely. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:13:38] And meetings almost became a hey, we do this because we’ve always done it. It didn’t get down to the, “Why are we here?” 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:13:44] Exactly.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:13:45] I’d love to see more of that. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:13:48] Yeah. I think the big opportunity is, again, to expand. So, yes, you’re going to have that live meeting again. But maybe instead of just 60 people experiencing Nashville, for example, fantastic city, now there’s 300 of the same organization experiencing Nashville. It’s 60 or 100 of them on-site, but there are 200 of them that are doing it virtually. And they can see videos. And you can have interactive activities, and team buildings, and all these things that we’re doing right now in the virtual world to expand it so they still get the Nashville experience. It’s just a different Nashville experience. 

 

I think if the CVBs and our partners at the hotels are thinking along those lines, and many of them are already, that’s where they are truly going to be successful because that individual that may be on that business meeting virtually for Nashville, hey, maybe he wants to take his wife in a month for their anniversary, and guess where he’s going to take her? Nashville. So, I think there are great opportunities ahead from a marketing perspective, and also expanding the number of people that get to experience the destination. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:14:2] Yeah, makes sense for sure. Okay. So, with American Meetings, you guys are managing these different — you’ve got your in-person, you’ve got your hybrid, and then you’ve got your virtual meetings. What changes have you guys had to make in your processes to accommodate this new ecosystem that we’re in? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:15:09] Yes. So, we went from about 80% live to 100% virtual. So, we were doing about 20% virtual. Some of those were hybrid prior to this. We were primarily a live meetings company but we had all the capabilities to do virtual. And it is why we’re still in business today because last year was really, really tough for companies like ours, organizations like ours but my incredibly talented staff, who worked day and night over the course of the last 365 days to make sure that our clients were taken care of and from learning new virtual platforms to, this is the most important thing educating the clients on what a virtual meeting was, the different types of the different ways you can do it, different things you can integrate, all that training that had to go on in a very, very short amount of time. It was difficult but it made us a better and stronger company, and we’re coming out of it bigger and better than we ever have. So, we’re extremely blessed and lucky to be where we’re sitting today. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:16:06] Great. And that pivot. Pivot is the keyword of 2020, right?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:16:11] It is.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:16:12] But the change that you made in 2020 to be able to accommodate so much more of that virtual option probably made a huge difference in your ability to be a part of the recovery as well. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:16:23] Yeah, absolutely. We were lucky to actually expand our employee base and contractor base during the downturn. That was because we needed people all over the world to be able to put on these meetings, bringing speakers in from different countries and having production groups in different cities to shoot those speakers so they could be part of the virtual meeting in the US or in the UK. So, it definitely was a global effort. And because of that, we were able to expand and give an opportunity to some people that have lost their live meeting jobs, which we are all excited about. And we are seeing live meetings come back. So, virtual meetings will always be around. And we’ve seen that growth. I think it’s a cultural shift, but live meetings are certainly going to make a comeback. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:0:17:05] Got it. Okay. Well, we’re going to dive a little bit more into the meetings market along with not only what destinations now are attractive, but how can you make your destination more attractive to some of these first meetings that are coming back? So, we’ll do that in just a moment after we take a quick break. I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently from destinations around the world of “Adam, why does my destination need a podcast? You talk about it on your show, but why?” So, what a podcast does is allows that content consumption to move from an active format to a passive format. 

 

So, one of the main reasons that I recommend destinations need a podcast is to provide content that can be consumed passively and allows these newer audiences with different content consumption habits to be able to consume your content in the way they prefer to consume it. So, if any of you have considered doing a podcast, I would really look into it. It’s the long game. I would look at what it takes to start one. We obviously have a product at Relic. Every destination needs to start today and do a podcast. You will reap the benefits over the next several years and years and years. 

 

[00:0:18:31] So, we’re talking to Andy McNeill about the meetings industry and about his company, American Meetings, and what they’ve done to really adapt to this new market. As we talk about it, one of the things that we want to look at is what destinations are most attractive to these early meetings that are starting to come back. Andy, I’d love to get your opinion on what kind of destinations are poised best to be able to receive these meetings. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:18:58] Well, I think the ones that focus on a kind of a hybrid situation for the attendees are going to create a lot of interest because it’s not just about the businesses, it’s also about the attendees. We just went through a global pandemic. Some people are just not going to get on an airplane. They’re just not going to do it for a while. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a great event, but they might want to attend it virtually. So, I always have a plan around and work with your meeting organizers about how to expand that tent and grow it by doing that. But I think the smaller regional businesses have a real opportunity. First of all, they’re not as crowded, so people are more comfortable for the situations. They’re definitely price competitive, right? And probably even more so right now. And they’re the ones that are a lot of times the most creative in coming up with ideas on how to do it. We happen to do our first hybrid event last September, believe it or not, for someone that was having a national sales meeting, and he really, really wanted to bring his organization together. We have a great case study on this, by the way. He wanted to have a live event but he understood that some of his sales force was not going to be comfortable flying in. So, what we did is we had six regional locations where people could drive into and with all the COVID safety measures in place at the hotels and have the meetings, and we piped the leadership into those regional markets. And then the senior leadership got on planes and went out to those regional markets after the kick-off day and then held the meetings in the regional site. So, there’s a very creative way to expand that out. I think it was brilliant. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:20:35] That’s really interesting to me, Andy. Is that something that maybe destinations should be looking at is how to put on a multi-destination event and how to work with other destinations that are conducive to that type of an event, like, if you’ve got a national organization and you want to come up with six destinations across the country that are within a driving range or whatever from where these employees are located, is that the first step in these meetings coming back is that type of a structure?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:21:05] It’s one of the structures that could be very, very popular, especially for anyone that has a national sales force or a distributor group, anything that goes from the entire country, because at the end of the day, some people aren’t going to travel. I think there’s going to be lots of creative ways, and we’re seeing that. I mean, the events industry is incredibly creative. We’ve seen everything from what we just talked about to new technologies to allow for more interaction in basic Zoom all the way to more collaborative software. And it’s just happening every day. I mean beaming in speakers holographically now. And there are all these different things that are coming up and then because there’s so much —

 

Adam Stoker: [00:21:42] And you guys have facilitated that people to beam in a hologram of — 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:21:48] Yeah, absolutely. How cool is that, right? And what’s happening is because the market is in such a flux right now, and technology is you’re seeing all these new systems and solutions come online and they’re actually affordable because they are new products. So, lots of opportunities out there to really make a difference. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:22:04] So, you guys have really had to innovate with some of these creative meeting structures that are coming out.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:0:22:10] And we are always innovative because we’re all in the general sessions of live meetings. We were always doing lots of AV and tech. But in the virtual meeting space, a virtual meeting is much harder to produce than a live meeting because you have to integrate all the speakers. You have to train everyone from the attendees, to the speakers, to the clients on how to use the technology. There’s a lot more planning. There are a lot more graphics and interfaces. So, what was normally a very simple meeting can become very complex very quickly. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:22:40] So, you’re six destination meeting structure that you talked about a few minutes ago, as I think about that, I’ve got to imagine that there are destinations who have never considered themselves part of the meetings ecosystem, but suddenly now they can play. Now they’re in play. So, what should these destinations that have never really considered themselves part maybe because they don’t have a major meetings facility or they don’t have the space? How do they get into the game? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:23:08] Well, I think you promote yourself around regional meetings. Regional in our industry usually means a short flight or drive-in and really focus on that core group and then talk to the larger CVB partners that you have. That might be in a situation where they have a large group, but they need to have a regional breakout like we talked about earlier. So, I think, being open to those partnerships and looking for those partnerships, and promoting yourself as someone that can provide that close one on one connection in a secure place, in a safe place, and the smaller place is not a bad strategy at all, especially for the next 2 or 3 years. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:23:45] So, I would say that’s a really interesting thing for some of the destinations that are listening, especially a rural destination or a destination without meeting space. Consider looking at yourself as a new possible meeting destination and maybe test the waters on responding to some of these meetings RFPs that are out because you may be more qualified than you think after hearing some of the things that Andy has communicated here today.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:24:12] Yeah. Grab some partnerships around the country and promote them together. And maybe you get lucky and one or all of you be able to get some of the smaller business, which a slice of a big contract can be a big piece. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:24:25] Well, let’s talk about that. I mean, what is winning these meetings’ RFPs right now for destinations? What’s setting them apart and causing them to win some of these contracts? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:0:24:34] Well, I think most if not all destinations are doing this now. But really, you really need to check the box on safety and compliance around how you’re cleaning and how you’re keeping the attendees safe above all, right? There’s a liability there. We want to make sure that everyone is always safe and then making it easy for the event organizer or the meeting champion to be able to communicate that habit in a slide deck, have a short video on what you’re doing, work with the partner hotels in what they’re doing. Most of the hotel chains a lot of the independence already have full programs in place on the property. So, you have that information at the ready so when someone’s asking for because they will ask for it, you’re not going to be discounted because you haven’t checked that box. 

 

Number two is, especially the hotels is to be really, really flexible on cancellation and rescheduling clauses. That’s really important to our clients because there’s such an unknown now. It’s really important that they have the flexibility to change or move. And I will say, on the destinations and the hotels we’ve worked with, everyone’s been incredibly easy to work with on that. Everybody recognizes this is a once in a millennia situation and that we’re hopefully going to be coming out of it relatively soon. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:25:47] So, even in your messaging then, you would be talking about your flexibility or willingness to accommodate change as a result of COVID as part of even your RFP response.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:25:58] Absolutely. I think you’re actually going to see they ask from where the RFP is coming from as well, that’s going to be really, really important. They have to be able to check that box and know that they’re not risking dollars because there’s another outbreak or God forbid there’s another pandemic. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:26:17] Well, there’s a lot of different factors that go into having a safe event right now. Everybody’s going to do the sanitizing stations and require masks in a lot of these gatherings, what else goes into putting on a safe event? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:26:31] Communication. Making sure everyone is on the same page is the single most important. Every time you think you’ve overdone with it, in our opinion, you haven’t done enough just communicating over and over. A normal individual doesn’t look at a direct mail piece until the sixth time they get it. So, I just think that on average, the number of emails that we all just completely deluged with. So, I think your messaging needs to be spot on and make people during the registration process. We do this now, they check a box that they read and understand what the policies are so everyone is on the same page. If you do that, you’re going to be in a really good spot. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:27:07] So, communication and consistency of message. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:27:09] Absolutely.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:27:11] Great. Okay. So, Andy, we’ve talked about a lot today.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:27:16] We did.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:27:16] But all over the board. I’d love to know, as destinations are listening and they’re looking for ways to improve their meeting’s product, what’s the most important piece of advice you could give destinations right now?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:27:30] Be open to change. Be flexible, just like in 2008. We all have to be really, really flexible on both sides of the business. I think we’re going to be even more so this time. And be open to unique in different ways to run and manage meetings. I will say that technology and having access and having the right broadband and all those important things about to bring in those hybrid virtual components to live meetings is going to be even more important than ever. So, to make sure that your venues are set to do that and you have the right professionals in place to make that happen because the hybrid meeting and the virtual meeting, I think, is here to stay and we just need to be able to envelop it into the live meeting situation as best we can and again expand that tent-like we talked about so even more people can experience the destination. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:28:15] Yeah, I think that’s really good advice because if you think about some of these destinations that haven’t thrown their hat in the ring for meetings in the past, something as simple as inadequate broadband could cause you to really have a bad experience for the meeting that gives you a shot for the first time. So, yeah, that infrastructure, having that prepared, I think that’s a critical piece of advice. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:28:37] It’s absolutely a key in today’s world. So, if you don’t have good broadband, get it because the meetings are going to be coming and they’re going to be asking for it for sure. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:28:44] Great. Well, Andy, is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think would benefit our audience? 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:28:49] We just love our CVB and hotel partners. They have been so good to us over the years. I want to know that the meetings industry is with you and we understand your pain right now. We’re excited. Like I said, the reason we create the Destination Everywhere Podcast was to showcase these amazing cities and regions and countries that have so much to offer. And we’re growing that podcast so we can have the content ready for all of our clients. So, when they want to go to New Orleans, or to Seattle, or to LA, or to Park City, or to wherever they want to go, we have the content ready for them to listen to. So, if you’re interested in being on the podcast, please let us know we’d love to hear from you. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:29:29] We didn’t get back to your show, so I want to touch on that really quick. So, your show is structured really to showcase amazing meeting destinations and give them kind of exposure to the meetings market?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:29:41] Absolutely. So these are all destinations that we have taken clients to in the past and are pretty popular. We just finished our 30th episode. We’re doing one a week, and it’s been just incredibly fun. We tie in a hotel of choice to showcase how a group can come there. Then we also talked about all the great activities in the city, and the culture, and the vibe. And then we have a special local guest, local celebrity, a chef to really give the flavor of the city or the region of the country. So, it’s been a lot of fun. And the response has been incredible from our clients and from our guests, and we’re really excited to do it. It’s a great way for us to help cross-promote with the CVBs and the hotels. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:23] Great. What day of the week does that show drop?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:30:26] It drops every Monday. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:27} Perfect. And if somebody wants to find the show or become a guest on the show, what’s the best way to do that?

 

Andy McNeill: [00:30:34] They can go to americanmeetings.com/podcast and all the information is right there. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:38] Perfect. Well, Andy, hey, thanks for coming on and sharing your experience with us. We haven’t done a lot of shows about meetings. And I think the content today was super insightful for our audience. I really appreciate it.

 

Andy McNeill: [00:30:50] Well, Adam, thanks so much for the invitation. We’d love to have you on Destination Everywhere. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:53] Let’s do it. 

 

Andy McNeill: [00:30:55] All right, let’s do it. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:56] All right. Well, thanks again. And thanks everybody for listening. If you enjoyed today’s show, please make sure to leave us a rating or a review. And other than that, we’ll see you next week. 

 

Will Seccombe: [00:31:13] Hello. I’m Will Seccombe with Connect Travel. We’re excited to be partnering with the Destination Marketing Podcast to promote the eTourism Summit, which is coming in September 20th through the 22nd in Las Vegas. We’re thrilled to be celebrating our 22nd year of the tourism summit, which is really historically been the go-to event for digitally savvy tourism marketers. And this year we’re really excited because we’re going to be collocating with the US Travel Association and IPW, which is to bring a whole dimension of the tourism industry together in one place at one time as we work to recover from what has been a devastating year for the travel industry. 

 

This year were celebrating the fourth Annual eTSY Awards, celebrating excellence in digital tourism marketing. And we’re also launching a new program, Emerging Tourism Stars, which is really to highlight some of the amazing talent that has come up through the course of this last couple of years and these Emerging Tourism Stars and partnering with MMGY Global on that exciting campaign. So, check us out at etourismsummit.com. It’s going to be an amazing event, and we certainly hope that all the destination markers that can make an effort to be in Las Vegas in September as we really work to see tomorrow and move our industry forward in an amazingly challenging time.