Listen to the full podcast episode HERE
What’s the most innovative thing you’ve seen done either at your event or at an event you’ve attended?
We continue to evolve, and we’re always looking at unique things that we can do differently than we’ve done in the past. I attended an event with the City of San Francisco, and they’re kind of a step ahead of us in terms of virtual reality, and they actually had folks come into their booth area and put on the Oculus and do a tour of the city. But then when they were done… They were really put in a dark room. You’re in that environment, you’re doing the tour, and then you come out and you have this great takeaway piece that ties into the tour that you saw. And then, of course, everybody had a chance to win Oculus
That ties into the future and the direction that we’re going in terms of selling our destination. We tend to try to tie technology into what we do, but we also try to get at the heart of the customer in terms of what’s the thing that’s going to really draw them in and make them want to stay longer? We’re now looking at virtual reality as a part of that in the future.
What’s the best use of technology you’ve either utilized at an event or seen at another event?
I would say that we’ve taken our booth, and we’ve created virtual tours of the city, if you will. If you could imagine coming into a booth in Washington, D.C. and they are big four screens, and that screen takes you to the things which we think are really unique about Washington that ties into things that people know, as well as things that people don’t know in the city, and we always look at our DC Cool concepts that I referenced earlier – nightlife, theater, sporting events, outdoor activity, etc.
In addition to that, at IPW in New Orleans last year, we had this great activation of this incredible, life-sized feel of being at the Lincoln Memorial. The backdrop is of Lincoln, and it was huge, with the actual chair where individuals can get up and sit in the chair and take pictures, and we had two Secret Service folks, and they worked for us. They wouldn’t do it at first, but then we couldn’t get them to stop doing it at the end, and we had photographers, and we had a long line. It was one of the biggest hits at that show that people still talk about. I saw the mayor recently, because she attended, and she pulled out her phone and started showing me her pictures in that booth, and at the end of the day, that’s what you want. You want people to really be excited about what you’re doing and to stand out from all of the other thousands of booths that exist in a show.
What do you see to be the biggest business advantage of doing or attending events?
Building relationships is the most important part of doing events and attending trade shows, just being able to have that presence on a regular basis. As you can imagine, In the leisure world, you’re not only focusing on competing with other cities and states, but you’re also competing against other countries, so that’s a whole different world, when you’re in an 8 by 10 booth next to the country of Norway with a 40 by 50 behemoth of a booth that was incredible. So you’re trying to find ways to build that momentum. Brand USA has been helping us out a lot as a country, but that’s the goal: How do you stand out as the small fish in a big pond? And the convention world is a little different, but it’s still equally as impactful. Usually you’re one of many U.S.-based destinations, but how are you building upon a relationship with customers that are usually in your own backyard, because we have so many associations and non-profits in Washington that have their own perceptions of Washington – though most of them work in the city and then leave and live outside of the city – and promote your destination differently from even those that physically live here? Which is a challenge.
GUEST: Elliott Ferguson
Elliott Ferguson serves as President and CEO of Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC.
A 26-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, Ferguson leads Destination DC’s efforts to generate economic opportunity for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization’s convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations.
Ferguson began his tenure with Destination DC in 2001 as Senior Vice President of Convention Sales and Services and has served as President and CEO of Destination DC since 2009. Prior to working at Destination DC, he served as Vice President of Sales at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has also served as Director of Sales for both the Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia Convention and Visitors Bureaus.
Ferguson received a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and Business Administration from Savannah State University. His many memberships in the industry include the American Society of Association Executives, Professional Conference Management Association, International Association of Exhibition Executives and Destination Marketing Association International.
Ferguson currently serves on the board of directors for the following organizations: U.S. Travel Association; Travel and Tourism Advisory Board; Advisory Board of the Smithsonian National Zoo; DC Jazz Festival; Capital Partners for Education; and the Ryan Kerrigan “Blitz for the Better” Foundation. Ferguson also serves on the Hospitality Alliance of Washington, D.C.
Ferguson is a longtime resident of Capitol Hill and is an active mentor with Capital Partners for Education.