NEW OPPORTUNITIES, new pressures — DMCs are in the same state of flux as all segments of the special event industry. Offering his global perspective is Matthew Sheppard, chief operating officer of Alexandria, Va.-based Destinator by PGI, with offices in 28 cities in North America and Europe.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: We have heard event planners say that XYZ Co. is not an event company but “just a DMC.” How would you describe the capabilities of a good DMC today?
MATTHEW SHEPPARD: I can see why there might be confusion. The ability to discern between DMCs, event companies, production companies and communications companies, etc., is getting more difficult each and every day. Companies are growing and diversifying their offerings to satisfy both the needs of their clients and the needs of their own constituents. In addition, global organizations that had one primary area of expertise have acquired a full portfolio of products and services, which now makes it difficult to see who they are.
One way to define between the two you mention is that an event company traditionally provides a broad portfolio of services within the live arena. A DMC typically focuses on a slimmer portfolio of offerings in a given location, yet provides extended value through its knowledge and ability to get things done in its destination.
Q: Have these capabilities changed in the last five years? Why?
A: It's not just about the experience anymore. We need to understand “why?” and then develop services that provide a satisfactory conclusion. At PGI, we now offer more proprietary digitally based solutions today than ever before. Our clients need more complex and efficient registration and online services with real-time analytical capabilities. We now provide sponsorship services. Our clients look to limit their risk and extend the value offered to their clients. We now provide free tools to meeting planners to assist them in meeting their own objectives. We have acquired a vast amount of valuable local knowledge over the past 10 years, and with it we can reduce the overall burden currently carried by the meeting planning community created by outsourcing, downsizing and budget constraints.
Q: Do you see a brightening picture in the travel market yet, or is the industry still having to slug it out?
A: If one is to believe the trades over the past few weeks, the industry is experiencing a fundamental shift on the hotel side to a “seller's market,” while the airlines continue to struggle with profitability of any kind. Match that with the ebb and flow of shops that had one or two good clients … then lost one … and then had to shut down … and you've got a very treacherous, very dynamic marketplace. I believe there's no substitute for experience and “heft” in this market. Should the recent elections bode well for corporate and association programs and events, there will be enough business to support the industry. Knowing that suppliers and strategic partners will be able to sustain themselves to deliver the kinds of programs that will be coming online is the real issue. “Slug it out?” I think there's less of that and more of a reliance on strength and endurance.
Q: What are the pressures facing DMCs today?
A: We face the same pressures many of our clients face, that's why we can understand and provide solutions accordingly. We constantly look for ways to increase the return we provide to our clients. On face value the competition's menu may appear to be cheaper, but if the motivational weekend fails to motivate because the alternative to duck à la orange was chicken salad, then the entire budget will go to waste and the weekend will be unsuccessful.
Q: You have a background in theater — what a great way to train for event production!
A: It's wonderful having a theater background. You learn that in the entertainment world, the little things make a hit show, the details really do count, and when the curtain needs to go up at 7:30 for the evening performance, come hell or high water, the curtain will go up at 7:30!
Matthew Sheppard can be reached at 703/528-8484; his e-mail address is [email protected].