Though not as prevalent as they once were, familiarization trips (or FAMs) still have a role to play in the competitive meetings and convention industry. In fact, according to Alysone Will, President of Absolute Conferences and Events, they are absolutely necessary. And with 30+ years in the industry, this Master Planner knows what she is talking about.
Alysone discussed her views on FAM trips with Nicholas Whalen as part of our video series “Meet Me Here.”
Dramatic Changes in the Industry
Alysone has seen dramatic changes since she first entered the industry, with one of the most glaring being the reduction in event budgets. At one point, she had a $1 million+ budget to organize an international conference for 2,000 people. That would rarely if ever, happen now.
“These days everyone is extremely budget conscious,” said Alysone. “Those reduced budgets married with increased food and beverage costs as well as meeting space and bedroom rates certainly provide a challenge for meeting planners when it comes to finding the right destination.”
A working, on-site opportunity to learn about the destination
Alysone promotes FAM trips as an effective way to get a feel for a destination. They allow professional meeting planners to familiarize themselves with a destination and determine if it is a good fit for a future meeting or event.
While she acknowledges that some meeting planners will take unfair advantage of FAM trips, she maintains they are necessary if they are used for the right reasons. She also stresses the importance of professional etiquette on these trips, citing a fine line that participants must not cross. After all, a FAM trip is not a vacation – it is a working, on-site opportunity to learn about the destination and determine if it is a good fit for a future meeting or event.
Alysone has stayed very relevant in the industry for more than 30 years. One of her keys to success is to be flexible.
“You have to be prepared to take just about anything and learn how to do it,” she said. “I remember saying ‘yes, I can do that,’ and then leaving the meeting asking myself ‘how am I going to do that?’”
For more advice on longevity in the meetings and conventions arena, tune into Alysone’s appearance on Meet Me Here.