More Thoughts About Fams
In our August issue, the CMP Series article — “Where Do You Draw the Line?”
— addressed the topic of establishing ethical guidelines in the meetings industry
around practices including familiarization tours ( fams). PCMA’s Catalyst community has also been talking about fam
trips, and the question of how to improve
them — from the perspectives of both
planners and suppliers.
I am a big fan of fams and have learned
a lot on them. When I do a site visit
on my own to a city or cities, I get the
basics, but I rarely get to see a city from
the perspective that my attendee does
... a chance to see what a city has to offer,
what [they] can do in [their] leisure
time, what attractions can be promoted
to increase attendance, and actually see
if this is a city that fits the experiences
my attendees look for in a destination.
I can easily tell by visiting a city if my
meeting will fit in a hotel or facility, but
until I get to know what a city has to
offer, I can’t get as much of a grasp on
[questions including] how easy a city is
to maneuver in, whether my attendees
will need transportation to get to places
of interest, whether is it a walkable city,
if I feel safe on my own, and, basically, if
this is a city my group will enjoy.
Fams are hectic, but that also says a
lot: There is much to see and do. I want to
experience all that a city has to offer, and
then I can make a much better determi-nation if it is a destination that will be a
great meeting place for my association
attendees. I hope cities will not stop
offering these opportunities as it is the
best way I know to really sell a city.
Kathy Smith, CMP, Director of Meetings,
American Association of Neuromuscular &
I figured as a CVB person that I would
jump in. First off, I hate the term “fam,”
but I use it because it seems embedded
in our industry vernacular. I like to think
of them as destination experiences.
Considering how hectic everyone’s
schedule is and the greater desire for
work/life balance, I think short and
sweet trips are the best. I’m lucky that
my destination is only an hour-and-
20-minute flight from my client base.
Since my focus is primarily on citywides,
I want you to see the convention center
and a few of our major convention hotels.
Most importantly, I want you to walk the
city, [to get] the best feel for it. I’m not a
sales rep who will build in a lot of addi-
tional activities unless we feel that they
are unique to our city.
I am also fortunate that my bosses
don’t hesitate to bring planners into the
city. We build a few formal fams around
NASCAR races, which is uniquely
Charlotte, a golf tournament, or a major
concert. It is still very difficult to find
planners willing and able to participate. I
can even create more customization for
individual clients, but I find that plan-
ners can’t find the time in their schedule.
I agree that a lot of information can
be found online, but I would argue that
a first-hand experience is always better.
You will see and touch the facilities you
could be using — as well as meet the
teams that will help you execute your
meetings, conventions, or events. Our
industry is built on relationships, so I
would hate to see this valuable tool (even
if I don’t like the term) lost.
Will Trokey, CMP, National Sales Manager,
Personally, I haven’t been on many fams
due to a variety of different things.
Time away from the office being the
single biggest reason, which I’m sure
many planners experience as well.
I’m a new professional (less than five
years in the industry), so I don’t have the
experiences of visiting a lot of cities like
I’m sure more experienced planners do,
which is why I think fams are extremely
important. I would love to take a few days
and experience all that a city has to offer
our members, along with the convention
center and hotel packages available.
I completely agree that my time
would be better spent touring the facili-
ties and city than going on a two-hour
boat ride or seeing a show. I would
much rather speak one-on-one, or even
in a group setting, to CVB and hotel rep-
resentatives. This will allow me to learn
as much as I can, and would assure my
employer that I’m getting the most out
of the visit. I also love the idea of having
some sort of education involved!
Personally, I’m more likely to attend a
fam that is over a weekend, or only takes
me out of the office for one day, rather
than a two-to-three-day visit during the
week. It’s an easier sell to my employer
if they know it’s not taking up an enor-
mous amount of time out of the office.
Again, I agree they are extremely
beneficial and valuable to planners, I
just think the schedule and timing need
to be right for both parties to get the
most out of it.
Jen Vaseleck, Meeting Planner, NASPA —
Student Affairs Administration in Higher
‘While we would all love to have your spouse,
child, or BFF attend, some fam events have
expensive or limited-availability tickets.
Suppliers are people pleasers, and it places
us in an awkward situation to have to say “no”
to your request.’