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Convention and Visitors Bureaus 7

How to win friends and influence planners
by Jacky Runice

   Although written back in 1937, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie still sells in the 21st century. Carnegie insists that making others feel like the most important people in the world is a major key to success. It makes one wonder whether certain Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) make Carnegie’s tome their business bible.

   Winston-Salem, North Carolina, CVB, for example, has a staff that builds its reputation by helping others (read “reunion planners”) build theirs. The CVB customizes group information and promotes the Winston-Salem reunion with the planner. “We assist with creating and mailing flyers detailing reunion events, and relevant Winston-Salem events and attractions,” noted Twayna Bernard, family reunion specialist. “One goal is to increase attendance — to make it a bigger and better event. We always receive positive responses from reunion attendees because there is so much to see and do in Winston-Salem.”

   What are some of the activities available in this city of 185,000?

   Winston-Salem boasts the nation’s first arts council as well as the National Black Theatre Festival, Piedmont Opera Theater, Winston-Salem Symphony, the Stevens Center for Performing Arts and Sawtooth Center for Visual Arts. Museums abound, including Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), Museum of American Art, Children’s Museum at Old Salem, Toy Museum at Old Salem and Museum of Anthropology. The city has a robust history rich in Moravian ancestry (pencil in a stop at Mrs. Hanes’ Hand-Made Moravian Cookies) and African American heritage. Less than 90 minutes from Raleigh and Charlotte and halfway between Atlanta and Washington, DC, Winston-Salem attracts visitors with Old Salem, Tanglewood Park, historic Bethabara Park and Westbend Vineyards. And it’s just 15 minutes from one end of town to the other.

   “Staff at our Visitor Center work to ensure everyone has a great time at a reunion in our city,” said Bernard. “From tours of our museums and heritage sites with experienced step-on guides, to evening activities including festivals, performances and night spots, we work to find the right activities for every age group.” Any reunion planner knows that toddlers and grandparents aren’t necessarily challenging in terms of appropriate activities. The staff enjoys some planning success for the 12- to 17-year-old-set. “We find activities for youth, such as unique shopping in our Downtown Arts District, outdoor activities like the Music in the Streets series and cutting-edge bands and arts performances at PS 211,” added Bernard. Tours to Old Salem and St. Phillips Moravian Church, rich with ancestral history, are great options for extended families.

  If acquiring good improvisational skills isn’t one of Carnegie’s tips, it should be. Recently, a family reunion group arrived unannounced to the Winston-Salem Visitor Center. While one staff member welcomed the group of 25, another ran out and purchased hometown favorites, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, for the group. While the family toured the historic mill location of the Winston-Salem Visitor Center, staff organized tours for the balance of their day, made a lunch reservation and coordinated group rates at several local attractions. “It was all in a day’s work,” said Bernard. “The Visitor Center staff is just one more reason people love Winston-Salem.”

   Evelyn Terry, of the recent Henry/Jennings Family Reunion, agrees. “Twayna Bernard removed all anxiety by handling reunion mailers and helping generate theme and activity ideas. The CVB’s housing service handled room blocks and reservations.” The Henry/Jennings family chose Winston-Salem because many members had never been there and those who had, enjoyed the hospitable Southern city. They toured SciWorks, Krispy Kreme and Old Salem between their traditional memorial service, group dinner and picnic. “Others should consider Winston-Salem because it will please all attendees from the very young to the very old as a family-friendly city,” Terry explained.  “Also, a reunion in Winston-Salem, a second-tier city, is very low-stress.”

   The Ella Johnson Moore Family Reunion took place the same weekend in Winston-Salem. Planner Elvira Hunt noted, “The CVB offered great suggestions, got reunion mailers out and exuded patience with unexpected changes. The CVB got us competitive room rates with availability for all members.”

   Here’s how it works! The CVB faxes reunion leads to all hotels requesting a proposal. Area accommodations know the lead is available to competitors and respond with proposals that are more doable than planners would receive on their own. All proposals are relayed to the planner, who can now choose the best lodging for their group. The dozen Ella Johnson Moore family members, ages 25 to 70-plus, conducted their customary memorial service, presented a family talent show and found time to tour Tanglewood Park and Hanes Mall.

   If you haven’t a clue about developing a good tour itinerary, the Winston-Salem CVB works with each group to personalize an itinerary. An African American heritage focused itinerary might look something like this.

Find Your Heritage in the Heartland

9:45-10:45 AM           Old Salem and St. Philips Moravian Church

Your first stop takes you through Old Salem, the Moravian Church town built by the city’s early inhabitants. Founded in 1766, Salem has survived to become one of America’s most authentic and well-documented colonial sites. Now a living history town where costumed interpreters demonstrate the household activities and trades of the 18th and early 19th centuries, Salem welcomes you into its homes, shops and gardens.

Walk through Old Salem and learn about the rich history of African Americans in Salem. Visit St. Philips Moravian Church, the state’s oldest standing African American church. The Church and nearby Log Church are restored and now open as an interpretive site for the African American experience.

11:00-12:00 PM          Diggs Gallery

View arts and exhibits and experience our community’s vibrant African American culture. With its 6,500 square feet of gallery space, Diggs offers 10 to 15 visual art exhibitions each year and hosts educational programs in many of disciplines.

Take a guided tour of the sculpture garden and see the breathtaking Biggers Murals, Origins and Ascension, located in the O’Kelly Library. These powerful works tower over you, 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

12:20 PM                    Lunch at Meta’s

Enjoy a home-style meal at the local favorite, Meta’s.

1:20 PM                         Return to hotel

No matter what activities are chosen, folks who have reunited in Winston-Salem repeat the same sentiment. “Winston-Salem is peaceful place filled with love and hospitality,” said Elvira Hunt. Let the CVB win you over and influence your reunion in only the best ways. Winston-Salem contact 336-728-4218 or 866-728-4200 or swing by

About the author
Journalist/Editor Jacky Runice has penned a weekly travel column for Chicago's Daily Herald since 1994 and writes about travel and dining for; CBS Local Chicago; and She expands her repertoire at Kane, Lake and McHenry County (IL) Magazines with articles about everything from healthy living to technology. A former Chicago radio talk show host, Jacky has three grown children who have inherited her love of sampling new cultures, countries and cuisine.

Are you wondering what a convention and visitors bureau (CVB) can do for your reunion? Learn more at "What conventions and visitors bureaus can do for you." Then, contact the CVB in your city or away because they are there to help and most of their services are free.

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