How CVBs Build Community

The idea that event planners are not only experience-makers but also community designers is the cornerstone of Beyond The Room – The Four Phases of Community.


Photo Credit: VISIT Milwaukee

By Mel Bearns

The Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (CVB) was formed in 1967 as a joint proposal between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Milwaukee Hotel-Motel Association, and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. VISIT Milwaukee partners with hundreds of area businesses to market the Greater Milwaukee area as a top choice for business, convention, and leisure travel to national and international visitors.

Explore how VISIT Milwaukee masters the art of community engagement as we delve into their collaborative strategies with event planners to create uniquely local, memorable experiences.

How does the concept of community building factor into your role as a local marketing partner supporting event organizers?

Bringing people together is at the very heart of what we do as a convention and visitors bureau, and community building is essential to that mission. We have more than 950 committed local partner businesses throughout the area, offering everything from accommodations to food and beverage and iconic attractions to services. Our team makes a point to personally visit these partners to learn about their business and the services they can provide. This allows us to connect event planners to the perfect partner for their needs. We also work diligently to ensure we share the economic impact of visitation as evenly as possible with the many small businesses throughout our destination.

Could you provide some examples of how you’ve collaborated with event organizers to foster a sense of local community or belonging for event attendees?

With each event that chooses our destination, our team aims to show off Milwaukee and wow attendees with unique experiences. We act as the bridge between these groups and the community, connecting them with our partner businesses, local charities, service organizations and everything that could possibly make them feel invested in the Milwaukee community. Some of the team-building opportunities and service projects we’ve been proud to facilitate include having local animal shelter adoption booths on tradeshow floors, volunteering at a food bank and identifying local talent to perform as a part of the event. Activities like these work to foster a sense of community among attendees while leaving a positive impact on the destination.

Last spring, we launched the Cream City Convention Pass, offered at no cost to event planners. This pass offers attendees discounts and deals at businesses within a 1.5-mile radius of Baird Center and is designed to welcome attendees and encourage them to explore our city.

What are two or three strategies event organizers can implement to optimize their partnership with a CVB?

The most impactful tack that event organizers can take to maximize their partnership is to meet with their event services manager about the complimentary services their team can offer. These range from airport signage to volunteer welcomes and many more.

Another important strategy is to maintain a dialogue with the CVB team, keeping them updated on attendance and needs so that they can best welcome and host your attendees. Your event manager can also leverage local tools and involve marketing and communications teams to build excitement about upcoming events via press releases and social media posts. Similarly, it is highly recommended to share your insights from previous events you’ve hosted to help the CVB team bring your vision to life. Information such as what was most impactful for your attendees’ experience at the destination goes a long way to ensuring your event is one they won’t soon forget.

In what ways has the role of CVBs evolved in response to the digital age and the changing landscape of event marketing?

The internet and social media have expanded the potential to reach planners and attendees, showcase our region in real time and connect with visitors on a more personal level. In order to place authentic experiences in our destination at attendees’ fingertips, we’ve successfully embraced social media, and short-form video content in particular. We hear from visitors and attendees all the time that they were drawn to Milwaukee after seeing a social post, sparking the urge to check the city out for themselves.

We also use technology to improve communication and personalization. In the lead-up to any event, we send alerts to our partners to help them prepare for an increase in visitors. Onsite, visitors can interact with our digital signage, using touchscreen devices to plan their stay their way with the option to email their itineraries directly to themselves after customizing their visit.

How does your CVB measure success? What key metrics or indicators do you use?

As a CVB and DMO, we have a complex array of KPIs and success metrics, departmentally and as a whole. One of the primary top-level figures we look at to gauge our progress is room nights booked annually. We also look at new convention groups choosing Milwaukee for their annual conferences. Most importantly, we review post-event surveys offering feedback on both attendee and event planner experiences. These surveys include everything from CVB services to hotel and convention center comfortability, how likely they would be to recommend Milwaukee to other planners/attendees and whether they would consider returning to our destination for future conventions.

VISIT Milwaukee is a sponsor of the Fuse Intensive on September 18 at the National Union Building in Washington, D.C., our one-day, interactive conference for infusing community into your events.