Live Event Review: How to Get More Convention Business

We had an amazing turnout with nearly 100 attendees for our first of four panels with our partner, Convene. We’re so grateful for everyone who joined us on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 for the panel!

Thank you to our Venue Host, Convene and to our Brand Sponsor ShedWool!

Live Event Photos by Merlo Media

First, Networking!

We enjoyed some great industry networking prior to the panel.


Robert Haas, Chief Administrative Officer for PCMA

Barb Harris, Vice Present Event Services for CTC Destination Management

Julie Mullins, Vice President Convention Sales for Choose Chicago

Benjamin Smock, Founder and President for Chicago Concierge and Toque + Bottle Advisory


Jessica Dalka, Owner of Chicago Planner Magazine

Take Aways

Our panelists provided a great variety in perspective of what they are looking for when working with potential clients and partners in the world of Chicago Conventions. Here are a few points our panelists made:

Benjamin Smock: Make sure your proposals include photos and provide a feeling of experience that can be shared with our clients. Many of our clients won’t have a chance to view your space or see any of the places or vendors they are working with until they show up to the city a day or so before their event or convention starts. We can only wow them with what you provide us.

Barb Harris: If we come for a site tour, be ready. Meet me and the client at the door, look professional and be prepared. Read about the company. By this point we should have had a few discussions about the group, so don’t say ‘So tell me about your group’. Let me lead, but be prepared to jump in, offer ideas or better explain something. Make the client feel like they are the highest priority so that they know that we can’t wait to work together.

Julie Mullins: It’s important to understand that when it comes to booking conventions, [Choose Chicago] can be dealing five to seven years in advance for the bigger conferences, and we focus on impact to the city as a whole. A year or two is a very short time for us. If you are a vendor who wants to work with us, it’s important that you understand this is a relationship, that we are looking at the long haul. We have to have partners who are reliable and understand the way we work.

Robert Haas: It’s important not to overextend promises, or what you can deliver on. It’s much worse to get the client, but not be able to execute what the client is expecting. Clients and guests don’t always understand who is doing what – only when something goes wrong. It’s important to provide value and make sure that everyone is represented well.

Most attendees wanted to know the best way to connect with or get business from DMCs and Convention Planners.

Barb Harris: Stay in front of us – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Having something new going on like an experience or you just redid your space? Send a one sheeter with plenty of photos to us. Invite us in or make an appointment to come by our office – if we’re busy, ask us again, and again, and again. We are always doing a lot, but we want to hear from you!

Panelists also encouraged those interested in getting more convention business to look at the following year’s conventions and reach out and say “Do you have a [videographer, caterer, etc.]?” They also encouraged asking all of the important questions so all of the details are accurately covered in a proposal. Ben Smock emphasized the importance of quickly sending a proposal.

All of the panelists agreed that as third parties to conventions and their planners, they’re not the final decision makers – it’s up to the client to ultimately decide who will be used for each event. But being quick and thorough with proposals, tours and information needed is always essential to winning the bid.

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