ICYMI: Digital Edge Presents Confessions of a Meeting Planner Session at #ESTO22

A revealing panel discussion around what meeting planners actually think about destination marketing & how destinations can market to them more effectively

Digital Edge was asked to lead the first ever meetings marketing session at #ESTO22 in Grand Rapids and we worked to make sure this was a session that was totally different from other meeting planner panels held before. 

Our goal was to get candid feedback from meeting planners on destination advertising and how to create meeting marketing campaigns that really matter. 

headshot of erin abel and headshot of jodie cady

Our panelists were Erin Abel, CMP, Owner & Chief Experience Officer at Third Coast Events and Jodie Cady, CMP Fellow, CTA, CMM, a freelance meeting professional.  Both panelists had several years of association planning experience working with large state associations and in-house corporate event planning experience prior to starting their own planning businesses based in Grand Rapids, MI.

Both panelists shared that the focus of their research for destination selection is digital and they rarely utilize the trade magazines.  When they do read them, it is for educational purposes and mostly around conferences.

The planners shared that they are really looking for than the typical meet here or offer based advertising.  The development of intellectual capital and information around key subjects like sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusivity and new product in the destination is key.

“Digital marketing is the leader in marketing and advertising, but don’t show the same ad over and over again.  Create a unique approach with message, personalization and imagery/video,” said Jodie.  “Don’t lead with the sales team members and don’t use stock imagery, while landscapes are nice show me more depth. Don’t use the ladies at the bar drinking a cosmo, it’s staged and can be done anywhere.  Maybe show the bartender making a unique drink using local products?”

Don’t lead with the sales team members and don’t use stock imagery, while landscapes are nice show me more depth...

The planners shared that they need details on the destinations sustainability initiatives and include statistics on the outcomes, how well the programs are performing and how they are helping the destination and the community.  When it comes to corporate social responsibility programs, they need more than a list of things to do.  They want to see how the programs are impacting the community and how the CSR initiatives can help alleviate big socio-economic issues within the community.

As a note, the Destinations International Sales Committee is developing a toolkit for destinations around how to create intellectual capital for meetings and conventions with tips and case studies.

Jodie shared a list of topics she would like to see more of on destinations meetings website.   

  • Safety and walkability
  • Flights and new flights
  • Hotel options
  • New product
  • Sustainability
  • Safety Information
    • What to do if there is an active shooter
    • What happens in case of emergency
    • What are the contingency plans & emergency exits


The planners shared their biggest pet peeves with destination marketing to planners.  

  • Seeing the same ad over and over 
  • Lack of creativity in the marketing 
  • Missing a why for the target market – too generic
  • A print or email ad that shows a picture and “come visit us” as call to action
  • Need to include something actually different about your destination.
  • Sizzle videos 


The panel discussed the visuals and imagery in meetings marketing and had some great insights into what they would like to see more of from destinations. 

The visuals need to be different but also shouldn’t be boring empty meeting rooms.  Visuals that are not obviously staged. It’s key to highlight something unique or historical to the destination with ways to incorporate it into events.  Photos of the city center and other fun activities for meeting attendees to do.  

Visuals DMOs Should Include:

  • Room set ups/configurations
  • Pictures of actual events
  • Staged photos do not resonate
  • Events actually happening
  • Real life imagery 


All in all…

the session was incredibly informative and got a lot of us thinking about how we can be more impactful and innovative in our meetings marketing.  If you are looking for an agency that really gets it when it comes to meetings marking and bridging the gap between sales and marketing, we are here to help take your destination to the next level. Reach out to us – it’s why we’re here.

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