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Guest Room: Sylvia Rottman

ADME vice president Sylvia Rottman looks toward the future.

As owner and president of 17-year-old Denver-based DMC Great Events and its parent company, TEAMS (Total Event and Management Services), Sylvia Rottman has seen many event trends come and go. As executive vice president of the 200-member Association of Destination Management Executives for the past six years, Rottman has seen DMCs establish themselves as a professional force that's here to stay. In this month's column, Rottman talks about the state of the meetings industry in a time of economic uncertainty, and tells us why DMCs have to “get beyond ‘Survivor’” in order to survive.

Special Events Magazine: What kinds of clients are hiring Great Events/TEAMS these days?

Sylvia Rottman: I work with all kinds of clients, but I would say that I get contacted by associations a great deal because of my years of working with associations prior to buying Great Events. Corporate is coming through a great deal now as well, particularly the tech companies.

Q: That's interesting, considering current concerns about the economy, especially the struggles of technology firms.

A: The companies we have begun to work with seem to be going strong, but then they were pretty strong to begin with. They all had a brick-and-mortar base. And it's been interesting to us because they operate on their meeting side about the same way they operate in their business. Because they are so technology-oriented, they feel that everything should be able to be accomplished at the speed of thought, and that's not necessarily the way it happens. But they're very willing to listen and say, “Oh, I don't know about this … why don't you handle that for us.”

Q: How is the economic downturn affecting DMCs?

A: During the oil crisis in the ‘80s, many oil companies let go of many people, including people in their meetings departments. The oil companies then turned around and realized they still needed people to do these things for them. Many of the professionals who had been let go went out and formed DMCs, and then were hired back on as an outsource to handle these things. That trend has continued since the ‘80s. Any time we've had those kinds of economic ups and downs, companies will tighten their belts, but then they will continue to outsource because they know they still need to get certain things done.

Q: How has destination management changed since you got started?

A: It is a much more open and sharing industry. Before ADME got started in 1995, what I was told was that you would never get two competing DMCs in a room to sit down and talk to each other. When ADME was formed, you could see that it was actually going to be all right to get in this room and talk about our industry as a whole, and look for strategies to meet some of the challenges we faced.

Q: What do DMCs have to do to thrive in the future?

A: We have to do the same things they do in other industries. One must seek out new market segments and be able to move with the times. If you specialize in special events, you have to stay up with the trends — or be ahead of the trends.

Q: How does one do that?

A: For one thing, by reading the newspaper. You'll see that a new event center may have opened, or something like that. Belonging to the local convention and visitors bureau also helps you keep up with a lot of these things. The other way is: Watch a little television. The big thing now is “Survivor,” so everyone thinks they have to put a “Survivor” activity into their program — and yes, they do. But one also must keep in mind that the point of “Survivor” is to have one winner, right? That's sort of an anti-team-building aspect. So you have to keep it in perspective.

I think we also have to do more partnering and alliances with other organizations. And we need to get certification in place to be seen as the professionals we are. That is important to the association and to its members, because it will be an outward sign that there are DMCs who have taken the time and effort to study and perform at an expected level. We hope that our certification program is going to be in effect by January.

Sylvia Rottman can be reached at ADME, 303/394-3905, or at Great Events/TEAMS, 303/394-2022.

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