The following guest column is the latest in a series by the founder of Talking Travel.
Even travel sellers who feel at ease when talking to clients one-to-one can tense up when their agency needs to address a group of clients or prepare presentations on destinations, tours, cruises or other products.
Here are 12 quick tips for organizing group presentations for current and future clients.
1. Have a purpose or goal and stick to it. For every presentation you do, you should have a specific defined purpose and then a singular focus on achieving this goal. If we use the example of a presentation on a trip to Japan, everything you do, from the second the client arrives to the next day’s follow-up, has to relate to booking travel to Japan.
2. Research the audience. You want to have the right people at the presentation, so you must be crystal clear about the agenda. You also must search your database to identify clients who have expressed an interest in the featured destination, traveled to similar destinations or expressed interest in a new and exciting alternative.
(This is where niche market notations in the client file pays dividends. Someone interested in culinary travel may be interested in a shopping-and-cooking experience, or learning about a tea ceremony or having a behind-the-scenes visit to a famous restaurant.)
3. Entice them to attend. The invitation to attend should impart a feeling of exclusivity and specialness that makes the client feel important. This strategy also tends to lower no-show and regrets rate.
4. Create the ambience. Agencies that emote travel by crafting an atmosphere of far-away places, excitement, exploration, relaxation, getting away from it all and more tend to be most successful. They do this with displays of posters, statues, masks, costumes and other decorations. This helps to create a three-way relationship between the client, the destination and the agency.
5. Get attendees involved and invested. Audience interaction will make a presentation more meaningful. The challenge is to encourage participation without alienating the introverts in the room. To get them involved and invested, consider a simple get-to-know-you questionnaire or ask people to list all the countries they’ve visited. Hand out a blank map at the beginning of the presentation and ask each person to add in certain locations. Or ask simple questions, such as: name three foods you would eat in Japan. At the end of the presentation, you can have a drawing for a prize.
6. Watch your watch. Choose a time that is comfortable for your clients to attend, whether this is in the afternoon or evening. Strictly adhere to a set time to start and end the presentation. Time parameters help you to plan, while at the same time, showing the audience that you respect their time.
7. Remove any barriers to attendance. Address issues of accessibility so that clients of all physical abilities are able to attend. Likewise, arrange for easy parking – free if possible – to create a more welcoming atmosphere.
8. Involve all the senses. Just think how you react when you walk by a bakery and are tempted by the smell of fresh cookies and cakes! This is the same atmosphere that successful presentations achieve.
In travel you can play to all the senses by:
• serving refreshments and snacks when the clients arrive
• providing a taste of the destination during or after the presentation (indigenous food and drink)
• playing music from the destination
• allowing the audience to touch and smell the destination by passing around souvenirs or artifacts, perhaps even sand or exotic fruit.
• featuring quality in-focus maps, photos and videos.
9. Ensure the speaker conveys positivity and energy. Nothing kills a presentation like a poorly prepared speaker. Longevity or position in a company is no guarantee that the speaker will excite the audience through positive intonation and body language. Interview the speaker beforehand. Ensure that s/he knows the audience and knows the information. Avoid speakers who only know a packaged presentation and refuse to divert from it — or those who tend to deliver a commercial ad for their product without addressing the topic of the presentation.
10. Create excitement. Contests, giveaways, discounts, early booking incentives, etc., add excitement to a presentation. It may be a bottle of champagne in the client’s suite or it may be something more immediate, such as a gift card. This is where you involve partners such as a tour wholesaler, bookstore, luggage shop, ethnic restaurant etc. It’s one of those cross-marketing win-win-win opportunities.
11. Take the next step. Too many presentations end with the host bidding the clients a safe drive home, rather than creating next steps in the sales/booking procedure. You can keep the momentum going in a number of ways. Hand out personalized booking forms for a credit card deposit. Distribute a list of niche market activities or tour options. Indicate that you will personally call attendees in the next day or so to chat about their upcoming trip. Provide brochures to remind clients about the advantages, features and benefits of destination. And remember to provide your own contact information and a reminder about the experience and expertise you bring to the travel satisfaction equation.
12. Make follow-up a priority. Just as you said you would, contact all attendees (or the group leader) to gauge their feelings and ensure that all their questions and concerns are addressed as well as to provide guidance on how to proceed with the booking.
Of course, this is not the end of relationship-building with the client. Even if they don’t travel to a featured destination, the skill with which the presentation was conducted will impress on the client the need (yes –the need!) to keep the name of your agency front and center. The presentation investment you make will come back to reward you.
Travel educator Steve Gillick delivers sales, marketing and destination training to travel professionals via his consultancy Talking Travel. He served as president and COO of the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors from 2001 to 2012. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.