by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Industry Relations, MCI and Vice President, Ovation Global DMC
I start getting into the mood for Las Vegas when I see archive footage on BBC4 of The Steve Gibbons Band performing their one-hit-wonder “Tulane”. Neither the band nor the title of the song has any connection with Las Vegas so it’s a purely random association but the pile-driving rhythm and blues evokes something of the bristling excitement and highly charged energy of this unique town. Thanks to the unifying vision of Ray Bloom, Vegas has rapidly become the meetings industry’s Mecca and IMEX America its annual haj. While the show runs Tuesday to Thursday folks start to arrive and meetings start to convene from the previous weekend and run right over the weekend after. If you’re part of the global meetings and events industry then you’re probably here.
The Global DMC Elevator Speech
Ovation’s US partner The DMC Network holds its annual sales meeting on the Monday prior to IMEX America. Moderated by the excellent Deborah Gardner of DG International LLC, this is a highly interactive day of great discussion and debate around core topics of interest to the DMC sales community including: how to qualify sales leads, how to meaningfully discuss budget with evasive clients and, perhaps most importantly, how to present the DMC global value proposition in a pithy elevator speech. Sarah from Briggs can convincingly describe how they help clients run events in New York City, Rudolf from Ovation Spain can do the same for Barcelona, Madrid and the Costa del Sol but what’s our collective value proposition? What does Ovation and The DMC Network offer clients that makes us unique, different, the global DMC consortium of choice?
Global One Stop Shop
Our global footprint – dedicated and branded DMC services at over 100 locations worldwide – is the first and, perhaps, most compelling element in our elevator speech. Ovation and DMC Network destinations operate under two strong brand propositions both with deep legacy as specialists and experts in destination support for corporations, associations and intermediaries. With ADME accreditation, global standard operations procedures and a collective financial punch of well over quarter of a billion dollars we believe our alliance provides the optimum “one-stop-shop” for clients who operate in a global marketplace and require on-brand, on-time and on-budget delivery for their meetings and events.
Technology for DMCs: how Ovation found VIPER
DMC activity involves multi-tasking more than any other aspect of the events business. Most of us bid for future business while simultaneously delivering live events. We have one eye on the future, another on the present and frequently need to gaze into the past too as we reconcile and close previous events. Since the internet revolution many of us have been dreaming of an IT solution that might pull all these disparate elements together. This is the story of how Ovation found a solution.
It was early AM in Fort Worth. Very early AM. However, jetlag ensured that I was well and truly awake. I’d be out walking already and had been first in line at the in-house Starbucks when it opened at 6am. I almost didn’t answer the guest room telephone when it rang. Who could possibly be calling me at this hour? The cheerful, avuncular voice was not American. We chatted amiably and easily. During the call I was asked whether I’d be interested in buying a destination management company in a US mountain resort. In the end I didn’t buy the DMC but I did end up buying a DMC software platform. That early AM call was my first contact with VIPER and, from the get-go, I was well and truly bitten.
Our Director of Operations Karine Buggy had been reviewing DMC software for about 6 months previously. All of the products that she looked at had strong merit but none quite nailed our needs. After she spoke with VIPER Karine called me and said “I think this is it”. Part of her enthusiasm stemmed from the obvious positive features of the software, part from the connection with Fiona Volmrich, the creator of VIPER. “It was developed by DMC people, not software engineers” was Karine’s take-away from her initial research and this fact remains the pivotal advantage of VIPER over any other product.
Three years later VIPER is deployed at over 15 Ovation sites around the world all under the watchful eye of Renato Grieco, our Director of Internal Services. Renato works closely with the VIPER team on a day-by-day basis to ensure that the product is working across all modules – CRM, RFP, Ops – as efficiently and effectively as possible. He is a super-user and knows his way around the system as well as he knows his native Biella. It has been revolutionary for Ovation both for its astonishing time-savings attributes (once you’ve invested the time to set it up properly) and its global dashboard reporting features. A fully costed and content rich RFP with all visual bells and audio whistles can be produced in less than 60 minutes and uploaded to the Cloud for review by the client. The VIPER team is at IMEXAmerica – if you’re a DMC, make sure you talk to them.
Smart Monday at IMEX and Site Nite
Introduced in the inaugural edition of IMEX America, SmartMonday (power by MPI) again offers an amazing smorgasbord of educational opportunities targeting both personal and professional development. My attendance on the Show Floor (standing building with Aoife) and at the DMC Network Sales event (described above) precludes my participation at this excellent initiative. I hear great things, however, from the very savvy Erin Tierney about the Strategic Meetings Management session facilitated by Peggy Hemphill with panel contributions from Kari Wendel (Carlson Wagonlit) and Lisa English (Strategic Meet).
I do, however, attend Site Nite at the Hard Rock Hotel. Organised as a fund raiser for the Site Foundation this event has grown from strength to strength and has become the place to be at both IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America. Site Foundation president and Director of global sales at IHG, Steve Powell stands like St Peter at the Gates of Heaven welcoming all attendees to a party themed nostalgically around the glamour of travel when upgrades to first class were as common as shrimp on a buffet. However, the only person at the event who truly remembers those days is Chris Perks. For the rest of us it’s a pleasant flirtation with Mad Men-esque style and a chance to get our picture taken with a Pam-am flight attendant from the 60s or with present and future presidents of Site. I remain firmly in the 60s all the way back to the Venetian courtesy of that man-about-town, the inimitable Alan Waxler, who treats Patti Sabo, Freddy Muller and me to the ride of our lives in his highly pimped mid 60s Cutlass.