FCCA Travel and Cruise Magazine – 2nd Quarter 2022

Tips for in-person conferences and meetings

Trade shows and conferences are coming back in full force and the Aquila team has seen over the last forty years what has worked and what hasn’t. This month at the FCCA Cruise Summit in Puerto Rico, Aquila gave a training to local participants from Puerto Rico on how to have the best meetings with role playing and exercises to practice their skills. Here you will find some of the best practices we shared with them.

When doing one-on-ones with cruise executives, destinations and operators often only have 10-15 minutes and we need to be efficient with our time. To get back to successful meetings at these in-person events, here are our Top 3 Tips:

1. Preparation and Research

Do the work that needs to be done ahead for successful and productive meetings. This information is all available on the cruise lines’ websites and shore excursion offerings.

Know the client and the cruise line they represent. Find answers to the following:

  • Are they Mass Market or Niche and Expedition Market?
  • What Products do they Offer and are there gaps you can fill?
  • How many Calls to your Port? How many Ships do they bring?
  • What is the size of ship? And remember some lines have large and small ships that could offer totally different products.
  • How many Hours in Port? This will affect what you can offer
  • What products do they offer elsewhere- this is all available online by checking their itineraries and shore excursion offerings?
  • Are there gaps you or your destination can fill – differentiating yourself is important
  • What benefits can you offer – how can your service or product help them?

2. Asking questions and listening

Use the opportunity to learn, to get to know people, to understand their challenges, and to look for opportunities to help. 

  • Look up your contact: find a picture, connect on LinkedIn, see if you can connect on the show floor or during a reception and ask someone to introduce you
  • Ask first what they are looking for in your destination or what their biggest challenges might be
  • Do NOT ask what you can find on their website – how long in business, how often they come, what they offer etc
  • Instead ASK open ended questions, for example… Are there experiences you wish were offered here? Do you see interest from your guests in (Name your destination and what you offer) or is there something missing in your offers?  
  • REALLY LISTEN to their answer
  • Don’t spend a long time on your presentation until you gauge the interest – let them engage and tell you what could work
  • Practice and be ready to describe your destination or your experiences in one or two sentences. Less than 30 seconds! Hit the highlights and describe briefly, but in a compelling way.
  • Use pictures in a presentation and make it short and powerful
  • Practice dealing with a “NO” – what objections or questions do you expect and be ready. Understand the concern and have solutions.
  • Make sure to attend the networking events and meet people. Those are great opportunities as this is a relationship business and this is where you can connect

3. Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up

This is where most people lose the sale or the opportunity. Your clients are not just buying a product from you, they are buying your service, which includes how you communicate with them, how you’re going to do what you say you will do in a timely manner. 

  • Define Next Steps during the meeting with them – and then do what you said you would do when you said you would
  • Send a thank you note right away – this means that day or the next day – and tell them you will get the information, tell them when and make sure to send it.
  • See if you can make a connection with them on LinkedIn and stay in touch. When you actively continue the conversation, you can answer any questions that have cropped up since the last time you spoke.

In closing, be ready to answer “what’s new” – in your destination, in your tours, with your guest experiences. If you don’t know, maybe it’s time for some product development and reimagining guest experiences! You will get out of meetings and events what you put into it – attend the networking events and show that you have done your homework. We are cheering you on!

Beth Kelly Hatt is the President of Aquila’s Center for Cruise Excellence, the FCCA’s official training partner. Aquila’s approach to training is one of assessing the needs of a destination or operator and developing a strategic training plan that helps raise the level of excellence throughout the destination. Contact Beth for more information at Beth@CruiseExcellence.com

In 2022, Aquila is celebrating 40 Years as a tour operator in Port Saint John, Canada and 15 years as a trainer and coach for the cruise industry.