Thank You To Our Sponsors!


Program Agenda 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

3:00 PM - 7:00 PM - Registration Open

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM - Reception and Virgo Showcase

Monday, April 29, 2019

8:00 AM - 8:45 AM - Breakfast
8:45 AM - 9:00 AM - Welcome to Lynchburg
Introduction by
Sheryl Wagner, Director of Tourism, Staunton CVB & 
Debbie Aylor, Tourism Manager, Spotsylvania County Department of Tourism

9:00 AM - 10:30 AM - General Session #1

Developing a Message that Resonates- How to explain the importance of Destination Marketing and the Visitor Economy to Non-Believers

SPEAKER: Bill Geist- Chief Instigator at DMOproz

DESCRIPTION:  We can recite the numbers and case studies all we want. If people refuse to believe that the Visitor Economy is real, they will continue to ignore the power of Tourism to enhance the economy and quality of life of our communities. Destination Marketing author Bill Geist will share examples from around the country of how crafting an unexpected message and using unconventional tactics can often result in communicating the importance of the Visitor Economy in ways that non-believers simply cannot refute.

10:30 AM - 10:45 AM - Break - Visit with Exhibitors

10:45 AM - 11:45 AM

Breakout #1 

Legislative Advocacy

SPEAKER: Robert Melvin, VRLTA

DESCRIPTION - The legislative advocacy session will dive into many important topics pertaining to interacting with legislators. It will cover what DMOs can do to get involved in promoting tourism issues with legislators, the importance of advocacy and the scope of it. In addition, it will dive into how legislators consider issues, conveying your position to them, building rapport, and remaining active and involved.

Breakout #2 

Discovering Your Sticky Copy

SPEAKER: Nikki Zellner, Content Consultant with Where Content Connects

DESCRIPTION - Is your content bringing you the right customers while you’re playing with your kids, while you’re journaling your next big idea, while you’re sipping wine in front of the fireplace, while you’re sleeping?  If you scoffed, did a shoulder shrug or shook your head with an emphatic no at the paragraph above… you might need help in the content department.  This isn't a show up, listen + scribble workshop. It's a hands-on approach that is meant to cause huge A-HA! moments for you + your brand.

11:45 AM - 12:00 PM- Break - Visit with Sponsors

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM - Virgo Awards Banquet

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Breakout #3 

Crisis Readiness and Response Playbook

SPEAKER: Greg Staley - Sr. VP of Communications, US Travel Association (USTA)  

DESCRIPTION:  The freedom to travel is one of the many liberties we enjoy as Americans, but travel marketers are operating in an era of new security threats and unexpected challenges. U.S. Travel will present key takeaways from the association’s “Crisis Readiness and Response Playbook,” designed to help destination leaders ready themselves, their organizations and their staff for unthinkable events that may arise. This session will provide an overview of how to plan for and respond to a crisis, as well as reassess your organization’s emergency protocols and procedures.


Breakout #4 

Battlefields, Beer, and BBQ: A Civil War Trails Progress Report

SPEAKER: Drew Gruber, Executive Director- Civil War Trails 

    DESCRIPTION - Think Civil War Trails is all about battlefields? Think again. Join Drew as he leads a discussion about how a program that started as a way connect 12 historic sites in Central Virginia has exploded into a multi state trail that connects visitors to thousands of historic sites, with all the brews and bbq in between. Civil War Trails is enjoying their most diverse audience to date. Come learn more about this dynamic—and multidimensional—program.

    2:30 PM - 2:45 PM - Break - Visit with Vendors

    2:45 PM - 3:45 PM

    General Session #2

    The Changing Roles of DMOs

    SPEAKER: Rachel Burgess - Principal, SIR

    DESCRIPTION - DMOs are evolving and expanding their roles far beyond traditional marketing. As competition for visitors, residents, workers, and businesses continues to intensify, the most innovative DMOs will work to actively manage the places and experiences they’re selling. Through SIR’s proprietary research, brought to life with national best practice examples, this keynote presentation lays out the pathway for DMOs to become their region’s most indispensable partner today and tomorrow.

    3:45 PM - 4:15 - Break

    4:15 PM - 5:15 PM 

    Breakout #5 

    Virginia is for Reunion Lovers

    Moderator: Dean Miller, National Sales Manager for Visit Fairfax

    DESCRIPTION - Many destinations throughout Virginia have targeted the family and military reunion markets as a source of profitable, incremental weekend business. This is a market in which smaller properties and those with minimal meeting space can successfully compete. Dean Miller of Visit Fairfax will describe the unique characteristics of this market, provide examples of destinations marketing to reunion groups, outline some unique opportunities available to your destination, and provide you with a list of practical reunion “DO”s and DON’T”s.

    Breakout #6  

    To Hell With Your Trendy Hashtag

    SPEAKER: Nikki Zellner- Content Consultant with Where Content Connects

    DESCRIPTION-  The social media hashtag? It isn't going to solve all of your awareness issues. Instead of focusing all of your time on what catchy phrases to draw attention to your area – you should be focused on media partnerships – and build an army instead. This workshop helps attendees get a better understanding of the media landscape (podcasts, morning segments, bloggers, print + digital publishers) that have the power to highlight your destination to millions of followers + provides key takeaways on where to look, content development and how to pitch it. Trendy hashtags optional.

    5:30 PM - 7:00 PM - Reception

    Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    7:00 AM - 8:45 AM - Breakfast 

    8:00 AM - 8:45 AM - Shirt Sleeve Sessions

    9:00 AM - 10:30 AM - General Session #3 

    Engaging Your Board

    SPEAKER: Bill Geist- Chief Instigator at DMOproz

      DESCRIPTION -As Destination Marketing Organizations grow, they invariably become more visible in the communities they serve. With this visibility often comes an increased interest from community members to serve on DMO Boards. 
You know what they say “be careful what you wish for”. Bill Geist will share stories of some of the scariest things he has seen working with DMO Boards for over 20 years.

      10:15 AM - 10:30 AM - Break - Visit with Vendors

      10:30 AM - 11:30 AM - General Session #4 

      The Ideology of Destination Promotion

      SPEAKER: Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer, Destinations International

      DESCRIPTION - While destination organizations consistently prove the social and economic benefits of their efforts, the battle for funding continues unabated. While politicians are beginning to understand the economic impact of tourism in communities, it’s the need for a destination organization that they continue to struggle with. We need to support our message of ROI with an emotional appeal based on shared values to convince political leaders that without a destination organization, these returns will slowly vanish. Furthermore, if we are going to be successful in changing the narrative surrounding our industry, we need to be talking in a manner that is simple and emotional, and connects their values to our organizations.

      11:30 AM - 12:00 PM - Membership Meeting

      12:15 PM -  Tour of the Academy of Music Theatre

      Symposium Conclusion 

      Become an Exhibitor or Sponsor

      There will be five food events during the symposium, which will be located in the exhibit area
      (2 receptions, 2 breakfasts and 1 break). Exhibit tables are 6 ft. but may be replaced with exhibitor’s own materials not to exceed 8’ x 4’. Pipe and drape cannot be used because of the location.

      One event registration is included with the purchase of an exhibit table.

      Sponsorship and Exhibit Options


      • DMO Members (Full Conference)- $195
      • Non-Members (Full Conference)- $250
      • Sunday Night Reception Only - $60
      • Monday Night Reception Only - $60
      • Sunday and Monday Night Reception Only - $120
      • Student Rate* - $75
          *Includes all sessions and luncheon on Monday - the reception is not included.

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      Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, PO Box 3363, Warrenton, VA 20188
      Phone: (540) 904-4710 | Fax: (202) 962-3939 | Email:

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