The following is a guest blog entry from MPI Italia Chapter member Chantal Bally, CMP, a former association planner in Canada who co-founded Venice à la Carte, a destination management company based in Italy, in 2002.
I was recently in Venice for some appointments and suddenly realized I had forgotten my mobile phone at home. I was actually a few minutes late and, out of courtesy, wished to advise the person I was meeting. I turned around to see if I could ask someone to borrow a phone, but received a few “No, sorry, I can’t help you” responses and therefore gave up on the idea. No one was willing to “donate” a 15-cent phone call.
This episode made me think of all the time we donate to potential clients. As a DMC operating in Venice, we receive requests for proposals that require a response within 24 to 48 hours. In an intricate city such as Venice, in order to prepare a proposal, one must go through the entire event’s logistics as if it were already confirmed. We then prepare a visual presentation with descriptions and a very detailed budget. All of this requires several days’ work, depending on the type of project that is requested. And this is all done free of charge.
What value does one give to something that is free? If you buy a designer suit, you treat it with care. If you buy something less expensive, you automatically do not give it as much value. Unfortunately, this rule applies to our daily work.
Potential clients—be they direct corporate clients or agencies—do not value the projects they receive, because they are free of charge. But one of the underlying problems is that, in the rush to present a client with a project in order to obtain the business, agencies are not asking the important questions:
- What is the purpose of the event?
- What is the budget per person?
- What is the profile of participants? Who are they?
- What are their expectations?
- What kind of a destination are they looking for?
The end result is that these agencies then contact DMCs in various countries—let’s say at at least two per country. The final client himself has probably also contacted another two to three agencies. Therefore, the equation we get is the following:
Client = 3 agencies x 4 destinations each x 2 DMCs in each destination = 24 projects, all FREE-OF-CHARGE.
All of these projects will end up in a wastepaper basket, because they were drawn up without fundamental information from the final client. Twenty-four agencies will have worked for nothing and wasted precious time, and in most cases will not even receive a note saying, “Thank you for your time; unfortunately, your project was not chosen.” Remember, not only does the DMC fail to get the project, but in addition must donate even more time by writing to all suppliers to release the options.
Is this giving value to our profession? Would it not be more professional and more ethical to interview the final client, obtain answers to the above questions and then match the client’s needs with not more than two destinations?
I will even take this one step further: Would it not be better for DMCs and agencies alike to charge a nominal fee for a project, just to give it value? I bet that if a final client had to pay US$150 for each project, she would cut down on the number of agencies to contact for a proposal.
When you seek the services of a lawyer for an opinion or contact an architect to restore your home or a doctor for a medical problem, do these professionals donate their time to you? The answer is no. Why then are we, as meeting professionals, called upon to donate so much of our time? Let’s call upon the meeting industry to respond to this problem and strive to integrate more ethics into our profession. Because a profession it certainly is.