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The 38th annual National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals conference recently took place in Cincinnati, Ohio. The event theme was “Stand in your Power.”  After going digital for 2020 because of the pandemic, it was both powerful and exciting to see colleagues and leaders in-person again.

NCBMP is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting African-American meeting professionals. I’ve been a proud member since 1985.

In many ways, the November conference served as a homecoming for attendees. It was the first in-person meeting for many since the beginning of the pandemic, which we have all navigated both personally and professionally. One of the main takeaways I noticed was how the conference gave people an opportunity to reconnect and discuss competitive and bold strategies to market destinations. 

During the event, I facilitated a discussion among my supplier peers about  current best practices and possibilities of moving forward with the new rules of engagement. The forum, titled “The Power of Understanding: Iron Sharpens Iron - Bridging the Supplier and Planner Gaps” re-enforced the competitive advantage NCBMP brings to members – attendees shared many insightful takeaways and useful suggestions.

Here are three insights from the conversation:

Be flexible with sales goals and market strategies

Some destination organizations are considering re-strategizing markets and altering sales goals to accommodate the new virtual/hybrid format. Keep in mind that these changes could possibly impact the number of attendees utilizing hotel rooms and experiencing the event in-person. This new space is causing leaders to evaluate the overall destination meeting experience, as well as how we pursue business and quantitative production measures. Overall, the economic impact will continue to be the measurement of success for all of our local and industry partners. 

What we know for sure: Relationships and partnerships are essential and are still very important to successful outcomes. Meetings and conventions – whether in-person, hybrid or virtual – are still integral to a community’s economy, and help raise the overall visibility of a destination.

Marketing goes vertical

Due to the changing landscape of meetings and conferences it seems vertical markets are becoming a popular strategy. With this pivot, sales teams can focus on one area of business to maximize room nights.  This allows the sales person to become specialized in this specific area instead of overseeing an entire market segment such as “association” or “corporate.” For example, the “medical” market would be considered vertical. With this structure, any business within the medical field is fair game to the sales manager pursuing. This shift will allow the manager to become an expert regarding the needs of the identified sector and plan sales and marketing efforts accordingly.  

Site visits are more personal

Most destinations understand the importance of an effective site visit. And the truth is, site visits can close your deal or destroy it. Creating the best experience a client could imagine in your city based upon the client’s needs will be king. Teams are working to ensure site visits meet planners’ needs and are enjoyable.

It seems competition is influencing more customized experiences with personal touches during destination site visits. While “dates, rates and space” will always be the bottom line in terms of accommodations, destinations are working to highlight other experiences and amenities that will make events memorable for attendees.

Our Richmond Region Tourism team takes pride in creating exciting and efficient experiences for planners. Our award-winning culinary community, incredible hotel partners and meeting spaces make Richmond a great place to live, work and meet. We love highlighting the unique attributes of our city. We would love to have you and your attendees here as our guest.  

I am thankful for the engaging conversations during the NCBMP conference this year. What trends are you seeing? Please email me at

Pamela Benson, CTA is national destination sales manager at Richmond Region Tourism.