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by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | December 01, 2010
Takeaways

Look for a DMC that is well-matched to your event's size and budget.

Make sure the DMC you select has a culture compatible with your organization's.

Search for DMCs online at Meeting Professionals International (mpiweb.org), Site (siteglobal.com), and the Association of Destination Management Executives (adme.org).

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Destination management companies are suppliers that offer a wealth of services and in-depth knowledge of a specific city or region. Following is a primer on what these companies offer, what to look for when hiring one and where to find them.

Services Rendered
While some DMCs have remained true to their roots -- arranging tours and providing ground transportation such as  pickups, drop-offs and transfers throughout the conference -- many today offer a broader portfolio of services and functionality that can be used to help run your entire event.

Among them:
• Navigating local laws. A good DMC knows the ins and outs of a specific region's protocol, including permits for parking and street closures.

• Tours and activities. DMCs traditionally coordinate side programs to complement the main event.

• Off-site venues and logistics. These firms can find restaurants and venues for your off-site dinners and events.

• Special events. DMCs can oversee all the details for venues, decór and entertainment.

• Vendor sourcing. Need a moderator, emcee, signage company or unique room gifts? A professional DMC should be able to recommend and vet these vendors for you.

• Specialty services. Other areas DMCs can source include simultaneous translation, public relations, social media and search engine optimization.

• Staffing support. Some DMCs will help you secure temps or volunteers for registration, logistics and more.

First Steps
The best way to find a DMC is through a colleague's referral. Many DMCs also belong to their local destination marketing organization (aka convention and visitors bureau), as well as industry associations, including Meeting Professionals International (mpiweb.org), Site (siteglobal.com) and the Association of Destination Management Executives (adme.org). ADME also offers professional certification for DMC professionals and accreditation for DMC firms.

Typically, planners send out requests for proposal before making their final selection. RFPs are distributed to DMCs in the same way you would send them to hotels and independent logistics firms. The only difference is that a DMC RFP should be even more detailed, ideally including separate subsets of goals and objectives for each service in question.

Be very specific about your expectations. It's a good idea to share examples of what you have done in the past, what worked and what didn't work. For example, if your group has complained about venues that are too obvious or conventional or formal, make sure you explain that your group likes edgy, irreverent and the unexpected.

Cost Considerations
Expect cost of services for a DMC to range from a percentage of overall meeting spend (typically 10 to 20 percent) to hourly rates. If you require a very specialized service, e.g., interpreters for a multinational group, you could pay more.

Some DMCs mark up a percentage of the subcontracted vendors they use. Be sure to clarify the payment model in your contract.