Monday, November 28, 2016

LGBTMPA Interviews Matt Skallerud of Pink Banana Media

LGBTMPA takes a moment to chat with Matt Skallerud, President of Pink Banana Media.  As Pink Banana Media's focus is on helping clients target their specific LGBT demographic online, LGBTMPA had contracted with Pink Banana Media to help bring initial awareness to its launch, as well as help it to develop a social media presence online.

LGBTMPA: So what were some of your initial first steps in assisting the LGBTMPA with its social media presence?

MJS: Nearly all of our clients start by having a presence on Facebook as their first step in creating their social media presence online.  Facebook has made it incredibly easy to create, as well as build out in terms of photos, description and links.  The problem is that its so easy that everyone does it... that, combined with the fact that Facebook has made business page postings nearly non-existent in a person's News Feed means that unless you're doing hyper-targeted, paid advertising with Facebook, it's hard to stand out and get your message noticed.

We did some research and found that the meeting and event planners were strong on LinkedIn.  So we helped them to create both a LinkedIn group and a LinkedIn company page.  We also ensured they had @LGBTMPA covered on Twitter as well.  As things progress and we get some good photos and short-form videos from upcoming events, we'll focus on an Instagram and YouTube as next logical steps.

LGBTMPA: You mentioned hyper-targeted, paid advertising on Facebook. Can you elaborate?

MJS:  Yes!  So while Facebook makes organic (free) business posts difficult to find, it has made a paid, sponsored post stand out nicely in the News Feed.  The trick is to make sure you are targeting your EXACT demographic.  We've had clients come to us and say "I've tried Facebook advertising, but it didn't work... I reached thousands of gays & lesbians and had virtually no performance whatsoever!"  So my first question is "who did you target?"  It turns out 9 times out of 10, it was simply an LGBT audience, and that's just not going to work!  You need to be more specific and targeted than that.

Once upon a time, that strategy probably made sense when our choices were just LGBT media versus traditional media.  With the growth of online targeting, advertisers were ecstatic that they had new opportunities to target a more focused niche audience within the LGBT community, such as travel, health or sports.  But with Facebook's hyper-targeting capabilities, an advertiser can now reach much more effectively their "exact" target demographic, sometimes in multiple ways which can be A/B tested to see which strategies are the most effective.

For the LGBTMPA, we were successfully able to target an LGBT audience that had shown an interest in, or worked in, the hospitality industry, with a focus on event and meeting planning.  So right from the very start, we were able to build up a strong foundation on Facebook of individuals who had a specific interest in the meeting and event planning world, with an LGBT angle.

LGBTMPA:  So what else has worked for promoting the LGBTMPA online?

MJS:  We've also had some strong success in monitoring any and all articles related to the meeting and event planning world, but with an LGBT perspective.  We take these articles and broadcast them through the LGBTMPA network, thereby putting the association at the center of these conversations and positioning the LGBTMPA as a thought leader in the LGBT Meeting Professionals world.  By including articles and content specific to the LGBTMPA as well, including these interviews and this blog, help the LGBTMPA to build up its credibility and online membership base over time.  We make sure to include relevant hashtags related both to the article being posted, as well as meeting and event planning in general, such as #meetingplanners and #eventplanners.

Over time, the LGBTMPA's social media presence grows, and all of this activity becomes indexed in Google, Yahoo and Bing search, helping to ensure that no matter where someone is looking for information related to the world of LGBT meeting and event planners, the LGBTMPA will be there as the most relevant source for information, news and content for this community.

Monday, November 21, 2016

LGBTMPA Interviews Gary Murakami

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?" -Martin Luther King, Jr.

LGBTMPA takes a moment to chat with Gary Murakami, CMP, CMM, Director of Global Sales for MGM Resorts International to get his insights and thoughts on the importance of professional involvement in industry associations and specifically, LGBTMPA. Gary is currently on the Board of Directors for Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and a member of the Convention Industry Council APEX Standards Committee. He is also actively involved in LGBT organizations including serving as Chair of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) Foundation Board of Directors and Chair for the Out & Equal San Francisco Bay Area Affiliate.

LGBTMPA: Why did you get involved with LGBTMPA and how do you think this association can contribute to the industry?

GM: The involvement and network of a meetings and events association specific to the LGBT community and its allies will provide a critical opportunity to assist in an individual's professional development, as well as to enhance one's network. LGBTMPA can articulate the unique needs and concerns for the LGBT professional in addition to advocate and deliver feedback to issues that can affect the hospitality industry. I am particularly enthusiastic to see the continued development of LGBTMPA as the association continues to grow and to evolve. The association can further demonstrate the significant purchasing power and impact of LGBT meeting professionals in addition to those conventions and meetings that serve the LGBT community and businesses. LGBTMPA can serve as the voice of the LGBT meeting professional and assist in advancing the overall professionalism and education/learning opportunities.

LGBTMPA: How has your involvement in meetings and events industry organizations changed you or have had an impact on your career?

GM: I remain passionate and inspired by our industry each and every day by its ability to connect and to change lives. The industry overall is a significant driver and contributor to the world economy and shapes and stimulates ideas, creativity, and business. As someone that has been involved with numerous other industry organizations including Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), I foresee that an organization like LGBTMPA can work collaboratively alongside these associations and others to further grow and develop the overall industry with a focus on the specific needs and issues of the LGBT meeting professional community. Through my involvement in various organizations, I have had an incredible opportunity to grow my career through education and to increase my professional network.

To stay informed, join LGBTMPA at

Monday, November 7, 2016

LGBTMPA Interviews James Delmar

Today, many destinations across the country have the ability to confirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) groups and meetings. The most successful destinations are able to leverage their assets and relationships to win and win big. We sat down with James Delmar, National Accounts Manager of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau to get his thoughts. Over the last 36 months, James has been able to confirm approximately $20M in economic impact for future years into the Philadelphia marketplace.

JD: While many destinations these days deem themselves as LGBTQ friendly, truly successful destinations go the extra step by working to accommodate a wide range of groups and their respective budgets. They do so by ensuring that their hospitality partners, including convention centers, hotels, restaurants, and attractions, understand the positive economic impact that an LGBTQ gathering - or any other large gathering for that matter - can have to their bottom line. The job of the CVB rep is to tell the customer's revenue story to the hospitality partners in terms that make the biggest impact.

For example, when working through the process of confirming the Creating Change Conference, the nation's largest gathering of LGBTQ advocates, for January 19-22, 2017, the challenge was making the hotel aware of all of the economic factors around why this business made sense to book, especially when the customers hotel room rate budget was well below the hotels room rate targets.

Step 1 in the process is gathering history from the customer along with the history from within the marketplace. Being forthright with the customer concerning the hotel's expectation and letting the customer know that you are working on their behalf allows the customer to understand market conditions while ensuring you are honoring your relationship with the hotel.

Step 2 is taking all the data and presenting that to the hotel on behalf of the customer. Being able to show how the Creating Change Conference's historic data supports the rate and concession requests along with showing how the market performed over the last few years for a specific week Creating Change is looking to meet was key in helping both parties understand what is necessary to meet both parties ultimate goal...a successful meeting at the right hotel in the right destination at the right price.

At this point, both parties have a baseline from which to negotiate the finer points of the agreement. Each group is different and each way to approach a booking will be different. Being able to assess the situation and work as a liaison between the customer and the hospitality community has been the key to Philadelphia's success.

To stay up to date, become an LGBT Meeting Professionals Association member at

Monday, October 24, 2016

Southern Comfort Transgender Conference 2016

Greater Fort Lauderdale welcomed the 26th Annual Southern Comfort Conference to its sunny shores in 2016, and will host the conference, one of the largest gatherings of the transgender community in the world, next year.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale is the only CVB in the U.S. with a designated LGBTQ department and in 2014, commissioned the first-ever survey of transgender travelers in North America with the goal of identifying the travel motivations, needs and priorities of the market.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2016

Richard Gray, LGBTQ managing director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB); vice chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) - After a career in investment banking and a second career as a hotelier, Richard Gray joined the GFLCVB, which goes by "Visit Sunny," in 2012, becoming the first full-time CVB sales and marketing executive whose sole responsibility is the LGBT market. It was a good fit for the man who helped created Visit Sunny's first-in-the-U.S. LGBT marketing initiative in 1996, subsequently becoming the CVB's volunteer LGBT liaison and helping build this segment of its business. Gray's budget, which started at $35,000 two decades ago, now exceeds $1 million, and helps attract some 1.3 million LGBT travelers, who spend approximately $1.5 billion in the area -- including, last year the 1,000 attendees at the 25th Southern Comfort Conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the country.


Friday, October 14, 2016

LGBTMPA Interviews Jeff Guaracino

Jeff Guaracino, author of the forthcoming book, "Handbook for LGBT Tourism and Hospitality: A Guide for Business Practice" and President and CEO of Welcome America, shared his professional insights and tips on the industry with the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association:

JG: In the meeting and convention world, many LGBT groups can be found within the SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal) market. There are LGBT-related groups for just about everything, from the Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists in London to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association. 

Back in 2007, Jack Ferguson, senior vice president (later president and CEO) of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), said, “The LGBT convention market is still in its embryonic stage and is developing towards infancy.” In 2015, Julie Coker, president and CEO of the Philadelphia CVB, affirmed that LGBT groups are now firmly in the SMERF market, with the Out and Equal conference being one of the largest conventions in the United States. Why has this change happened, and what opportunities does it offer?

It used to be more difficult to tap the LGBT meeting, group, and convention market because meeting planners and group organizers (often volunteers) were harder to find and the lack of permanent offices made prevented traditional sales calls. Today, however, the Web has made these planners visible and easier to reach.

LGBTMPA: How powerful is this emerging industry?

JG: LGBT meetings and conventions are a big business. For example, The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board reported a $950,000 economic impact to Los Angeles from a recent International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association Convention. Delegates to the three-day convention spent $260,000 at the Hyatt Regency alone. Las Vegas is another popular destination for meetings and conventions for all kinds of travelers. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) saw the value in the LGBT market and wanted to position the city to earn the business. As Las Vegas entered the LGBT tourism segment, the destination sought meeting, group, convention, and large-event opportunities. In recent years, the LVCVA recorded booking 85,000 room nights for LGBT groups, with a non-gaming economic impact of over $25 million.

LGBTMPA: What are some of your tips for attracting the LGBT meeting and convention business?

JG: Go to the largest LGBT conventions to meet with other industry leaders and meeting planners. Often times you can find or refer a client who is organizing a small group LGBT meeting or sporting event. You can also get great ideas for sponsors, programming and the issues of that particular audience. Engage local LGBT leaders who might be able to refer other business to you (both LGBT and straight).  Remember, engagement with the LGBT community is not only a good business decision it also signals that your organization is openly accepts all groups of people, is progressive and those values align with many meeting planners. Sell and develop relationships. After you evaluate and position your service, space or product for the LGBT market but you have to sell the heck out of it.  Building or growing a market segment requires consistent investment and time to measure your ROI. 

Reserve a copy of Jeff Guaracino’s book at

LGBTMPA: Join our growing list of LGBT Meeting Professionals to stay informed at

Monday, October 10, 2016

Introducing the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBTMPA)

Launched this week to serve the unique needs of LGBT meeting planners around the globe, has created the ideal online marketplace for LGBT event planners, meeting planners and all of their industry contacts.  Designed to facilitate networking and growing business relationships, their main goal is to simply build business for the LGBT meeting planning community.

The LGBTMPA serves a unique space in the marketplace.  There are various groups and associations serving the LGBT travel community, including the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and Community Marketing.  There are also several large groups and associations serving the meeting and event planning community, including the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Meeting Professionals International (MPI), and within these are subgroups serving niche markets within this community, including LGBT.  They often meet up, on average, once or twice per year at these various association conferences and conventions held worldwide, at meet ups or small formalized evening gatherings just for the LGBT contingent attending the event.  In addition, there has been an increase in LGBT educational programming at these conferences and conventions, typically focusing on some of the basics in reaching and communicating to the LGBT marketplace.

With the LGBTMPA firmly in place, they are taking this to the next level, with an inaugural mid-Atlantic conference planned for Fall 2017 in Atlantic City.  The programming at this event will include interactive seminars about LGBT meeting best practices, as well as explore market opportunities, research and trends.  In addition, marketing strategies and tactics will be discussed, along with revenue generation tips, industry innovator panels and more.

Lastly, there will be a directory of resources coming online this year, along with a library of videos... all with the express goal of furthering the LGBT meeting & event planner community.

Stay tuned for further updates on both this association and the upcoming conference in the coming weeks.