To prepare for their upcoming digital meeting and to better serve their clients in the future, the leadership at Meet Minneapolis decided to equip the team with the Digital Event Strategist certification provided by PCMA. We recently spoke with the three newly-minted Digital Event Strategists at Meet Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Convention Center — Erica Bergum, Destination Service and Events Manager at Meet Minneapolis, Megan Wahman, the Marketing Manager at Meet Minneapolis and Colin Brereton, Senior Supervisor in Technology and Exhibitor Service at Minneapolis Convention Center — to learn more about their decision to reskill and upskill with the DES program, the upcoming digital event they’re planning and their thoughts on Destination Marketing Organizations’ evolved role in the hybrid future.
Read the full transcript below.
Tell us a little bit about what you do.
Erica: I am the destination services and event manager at Meet Minneapolis, and I have the pleasure of serving as the main contact for our event planners that are coming to Minneapolis. We serve as the liaison between the client, the convention center, any hotels that they’re using and our partners. We best fit them with what they need whether it’s transportation, floral, registration help, etc.
I also assist with planning our internal events such as our annual meeting, our Minnesota Sports Awards, and any fam trips that we assist with for sales. It’s a ton of fun and I love calling Minneapolis home.
Megan: I’m the marketing manager with Meet Minneapolis that supports the Sales, Sports, and Services team. My day-to-day life is helping assist putting together bids or proposals and with live events.
Colin: I’m the senior supervisor here at the Minneapolis Convention Center. We say that we’re not just a convention center, we are a relationship builder, and I think that’s what I do. I build relationships every day with current and potential clients by providing technology information, capabilities and guidance to our upcoming exhibitors in order to make sure that they have a great experience here at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Now that I have the DES certification in my arsenal, it has given me that tool to better help serve our clients at upcoming events.
Why did Meet Minneapolis decide to equip the team with DES certification?
Erica: Digital events are not going away. They’re not new either. We thought it was really, really important to stay on trend and get our teams certified with the DES certification as we had heard from our clients and other industry partners that the course was highly recommended. Our leadership wanted both people at the CVB and at the Convention Center to have this certification and picked us out across departments. We just want to be that credible resource for the planners that we deal with every single day.
Megan: How I see myself using the certification is assisting our internal teams with questions that they might have of how they can help support the clients and make sure our sales team has the tools that they need.
How did Meet Minneapolis choose who on the team to go through the DES program?
Erica: Our leadership wanted anyone that would be working on our upcoming internal event to be certified, and that’s Megan and myself. Colin was selected because he’s our tech guru at the Convention Center, and it just felt like a natural fit for him to have every certification under his belt.
The Meet Minneapolis team is working on a digital event that’ll take place in February 2021. Tell us a little bit about the event.
Megan: This is the Meet Minneapolis annual meeting. The audience that comes to this are our partners as well as everybody ranging from hotels to florists and people that partner with us throughout the year. It’s really our state of the state meeting — or the state the city meeting, if you will. Normally, it’s in-person at the Convention Center. This year obviously, we’ll be taking it virtual for the first time.
Are you nervous about taking it virtual?
Megan: I personally am not just because we are a partnership organization. We have a lot of great partners — including the Convention Center — as well as a lot of other A/V companies who will really be able to hold our hands throughout the whole process. Then, having just come through the DES course, it’s nice where we can take some of the things that we’ve learned and be a bridge between our leadership and our speakers who maybe aren’t quite as familiar with hybrid or digital meetings and help ask the right questions and apply some of the learnings that we have learned through this course that way.
Erica: I totally agree with you, Megan. The DES course has equipped us with the right questions to ask when we’re going to our A/V partners. Nitty-gritty things taught in the DES course — like making sure the livestream platform has an API connection with the registration platform — make us educated especially when we try to source the right partner for our event. It’s been really helpful.
You’ve already touched upon this. What are some key learnings from the DES course that you’re applying to planning this event?
Megan: One thing that stuck out to me was what kind of information to include on the PowerPoint Slides to keep it crisp, clean and visually attractive. Another thing I learned was how to figure out the dollar amount to charge for our content. It was tricky to navigate the first time out. On the one hand we wanted to be sensitive to our partners and what they were going through; on the other we also wanted to make sure we’re getting return on the valuable content that we’re providing.
How did you choose to approach the DES course content? Any study tips for a friend who is beginning their DES journey?
Colin: I would say watch the training videos two to three times. Make sure you join the expert hours. They include so much valuable information that’s sometimes not covered during the training. I would also suggest that you network with your peers in the same cohort. I was able to connect with a few people in the industry.
Erica: Prioritizing those expert hours every week is worth every bit of the course. They are so helpful to hear directly from the Subject Matter Experts, and they really expand on the content more than what you hear in the videos.
Also really use that workbook that PCMA created. It’s super helpful when you get ready to take your exam to look back at your notes. Filling in the questions on the workbook really did help me pass my exam. Don’t get nervous, just really prioritize and block your time and you’ll be well on your way to success.
Megan: I can’t remember who the speakers was, but they prepped us for taking the test by suggesting we go back and watch some of the videos that we had issues with when we were taking those post-module quizzes. I found that super helpful.
Overall, I thought the process was great. I really enjoyed getting the new content on Monday and diving into it. I liked how digestible the videos were and how quick the experts were in providing that content in easy, digestible ways.
Vaccines are coming, and one day, in-person events will come back. From a destination’s perspective, how will events evolve in a post-COVID world, and how can destinations actively be part of that future?
Erica: It’s hard to speculate on a question exactly like that, but I think you’re right. Someday in-person events will come back, and we are so excited for that because there are just portions of virtual events that can’t have the networking aspect of being in person.
But I also think it’s great for a destination like us to lean into the hybrid world. Hybrid is not going to go away. It’s going to be a great resource for planners to have for those attendees that can’t necessarily travel even when we have vaccines, due to budget constraints or whatever it may be. You’re really expanding your audience with hybrid events. The focus right now is hybrid and learning how we can do that really, really well, especially with the things we’ve learned from the DES course and be eagerly awaiting in-person events when they do come back.
If a friend or a colleague is on the fence about taking the DES course, what would you say to convince them?
Colin: I would say the DES course offers much more information and knowledge. Coming into it, you would think you’re just going to learn about digital and virtual events, but it’s much, much more than that. Some of my key takeaways include strategic content and selecting the right platform. There was so much information and I’m going to take this information and apply it to the technical knowledge I have and I know it’s going to better serve upcoming clients.
Erica: I would tell them to just register. Invest in yourself, invest in the future of hybrid. Sign up for the course and do it. There are some real tangible takeaways that you’re able to apply right away.
We were able to, as we were taking the course, apply it for our general managers and director of sales meeting that we held both in-person and online, and it was really Megan, Colin, and I (who put the event together). Megan and I ran the program and Colin made sure that the attendees in the room saw what the virtual attendees were seeing. He was up behind the camera as the tech guru. It was really a success to be able to show that we can do hybrid events by applying our learnings from the course. We were in the middle of taking our exam when that event happened. So, I would tell them do it. It’s worth every penny.
Megan: We’re all really lucky that Meet Minneapolis and the Convention Center continues to be interested in investing in our continued education and making sure that we have these opportunities. I would say if anyone else has an opportunity to take this course, do it. It’s always good to add other tools and learnings to your arsenal, and it will only benefit you as you continue with your career.
The Digital Event Strategist Spotlight series features Digital Event Strategists and how they are making impact in their work through digital and hybrid events.
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