This Convention Education Program Aims to Engage Kids

Author: David McMillin       

It’s not uncommon for annual conventions and conferences to include recreational options for significant others and children in their attendee-marketing campaigns. The thinking is simple: You make it more enticing for them to register if you help show them how they can turn a three-day business trip into a family vacation. Destinations International Annual Convention organizers are taking this idea to the next level, however, by giving children and spouses an opportunity to do more than enjoy a summer break in Anaheim this July 10–13. The idea is to also create an interactive convention-education session for family members so they can get a sense what it takes to promote a destination — i.e., to better understand what their partners and parents do for a living.

“It won’t be an overly intense learning experience,” said Colleen Phalen, CMP, CEM, executive vice president, program development and meetings, Destinations International. “But we do want children to gain a better understanding of what their parents do as destination marketers. We’re still working out what the program will look like, but it will involve CVB professionals and potentially the children of CVB professionals who followed their parents into the industry.”

One CVB professional who will be involved in the program is the meeting’s host. In fact, the creative mind behind the family-focused initiative is Visit Anaheim President and CEO Jay Burress, whose family doesn’t quite grasp the responsibilities that come with his job. “The story of my life is attempting to explain what I actually do,” Burress told PCMA. “When I was president and CEO of Experience Arlington, my kids thought my job was going to Cowboys and Rangers games. My mother still thinks I work for a chamber of commerce.”

Burress isn’t alone, either. The role of a destination marketer isn’t as clearly defined as many other professions in the eyes of the public. “It’s a very misunderstood industry,” Burress said. “When we were looking at hosting the convention, I called Don [Welsh, Destinations International CEO] and told him I wanted to do more than invite families to come to Anaheim. I wanted to give them a chance to be part of the program, too.”

‘Making a Difference’

The experience will involve more than a convention-center meal and an education session. The children will also have the opportunity to participate in the convention’s community-service program. Destinations International is working with Bruno Serato, the owner and chef behind Anaheim’s White House Restaurant, to help feed children in need. The restaurant feeds more than 3,500 hungry children for free every night. Serato is currently rebuilding the actual restaurant  — a fire destroyed the building in early 2017 — but his mission to help children has continued while the building has been closed.

“Bruno does it out of love and the need to take care of people,” Burress said. “I hope kids take part in this giving-back initiative. It will mean a lot to them, and I also think they’ll recognize the role that conventions play in developing destinations, helping communities, and making a difference.”

Rounding Out the Program

CVB professional attendees’ children will not only experience what it’s like to attend a conference by going to sessions and rolling up their sleeves to give back to the community, they will also do what every grown-up does at conferences: enjoy the host destination. Evening programming will feature a movie night on the Grand Plaza at the Anaheim Convention Center, s’mores, popcorn, face painting, and what Phalen describes as a “fun, town-center kind of feel.” And like any other event, Phalen hopes that the program will help participants of all ages make lasting connections.

“We all know that when you go to conferences, you build these strong bonds with other attendees,” Phalen said. “It would be great to have your family be able to build those bonds, too.”

To learn about what else is on the agenda at the convention, click here to see the updated schedule.

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