Why Chile Pepper Burns

Bob James and Mary Boone co-authored the following post. Bob is President & Chief Storyteller, Bob & David James. Mary is CEO, Boone Associates, and an acknowledged expert in experiential and event design..


For as long as I've been involved in event promotion—too long, by some lights—I've been stymied by the ubiquitous chili pepper brochure.

From time immemorial, every event planner who's ever held an event of any size anywhere in the American Southwest, it seems, has illustrated the cover of her promotional brochure with a chili pepper.

I understand why a B2C event planner might use the tactic.

But why—when attendees are time-starved, budget-conscious and results-driven—do B2B event planners persist in the belief that destination matters? That destination influences prospective attendees' decision to attend a B2B event, or prefer one event over another?

The answer: DMOs.

Destination Marketing Organizations (in quainter times called "Convention and Visitors Bureaus") have brainwashed two generations of B2B event producers.

And not for the better.

In the drive to "put heads in beds," DMOs have propagated the myth that B2B events are just a form of tourism.

Their sway over B2B event planners has cost the planners dearly—in attendance, income and career.

That's why I insist chili pepper burns.


I don’t think the answer to this situation is to dismantle DMOs. I think the answer is to raise awareness and educate.

Imagine this. An event planner is putting together an event. She is trying to figure out, among a million other details, where to hold it.

What if she knows the “Flo” (think Progressive insurance) of DMO professionals? She calls Flo. “Flo, I need to hold this event somewhere and I’m not sure where.”

Flo: “Tell me more about the objectives of the event. What’s your organization trying to achieve? What type of environment is going to support those objectives? Tell me more about the culture of your organization…”

Then, after a great conversation, Flo says, “You know, I’d love to be able to say that Chili Pepper, Texas, has the perfect venue for you, but this one time I have to admit that Vancouver, B.C., might be better.”

Shock and awe. So this time Flo doesn’t get the business, but guess who our planner is going to call every time she needs help?

If DMOs are educated to be consultative, client-centric, and business-focused in their interactions with planners, they can be deeply essential to the process of strategically selecting a location that matches the needs of both the event and the business.

What's your opinion? Do you think chile pepper burns?

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