Association meetings guru Jeff Dougherty, aka “Mr. Sacramento,” is known for his offbeat sense of humor. Whatever the theme of the occasion, he dresses the part—as a superhero, a horse jockey, a leprechaun or even a fork. On the serious side, in his role as director of California State Association Sales for Visit Sacramento, Dougherty is charged with soliciting association meetings and knowing what works for each group.
CAM+E: What does your sense of humor bring to Visit Sacramento?
JD: It definitely gives our destination more exposure. I was sitting at a reverse trade show, watching suppliers go from appointment to appointment repeating their same spiel. None of them was going to be remembered. I wanted to do something different. This led to the birth of “flat Mr. Sacramento.” I start each appointment with a leave-behind flat Mr. Sacramento, which has a few fun facts on the back and a call to action: “Take a picture with Mr. Sacramento and share it on social media for a chance to win a fabulous prize.” Everyone loves it.
CAM+E: How important is the association market to Sacramento, and how are you dealing with the challenges posed by the Sacramento Convention Center being closed [until fall 2020] for a major expansion and renovation?
JD: The association market is huge in Sacramento. With the convention center closed, we are working with many groups and hotels to creatively book “miniwides” [conferences split among multiple venues]. For example, CalSAE will be splitting its Seasonal Spectacular show between the Sheraton Grand and Hyatt Regency this year.
CAM+E: What can you do for planners that’s a bit out of the ordinary?
JD: We have an amazing convention services team that lets nothing get in the way of giving clients what they need. From help with marketing materials to setting up tours of unique reception venues, they are here to help. I like to say we have a secret service menu, like In-N-Out Burger. The Visit Sacramento menu offers Mr. Sacramento, a leprechaun or whoever or whatever else might be fitting to the occasion to welcome attendees to your conference.
CAM+E: What do you want meeting planners to know about bringing a group to Sacramento?
JD: We offer an ideal location to get a true taste of California in a single stop: delicious food and wine, fantastic weather, music, art and an array of exciting activities. Our convention center may be closed for renovation, but Sacramento is certainly open for business. And, post-expansion is booking fast.