Donna Klempnow – Rutherford County (Tennessee) CVB

Donna Klempnow

Director of Sales, Rutherford County (Tennessee) CVB

Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Describe your job.

I promote and sell Rutherford County as a premier destination for conventions, corporate meetings, association conferences, sporting events, reunions, and tour groups. I’m responsible for sales lead distribution, hotel history, and revenue reports for large sporting events and conferences; I coordinate and monitor county and city-wide hotel blocks for events; manage and maintain a volunteer database; and serve as a step-on-guide for tour groups visiting Rutherford County.

How did you get started and what got you from there to today?

I have been in the industry for more than 30 years, starting my career with AAA, where I learned about all types of travel: corporate, leisure, adventure travel, and destination weddings. Then, I switched to the hotel world to market and promote different brands, going from a hotel director of sales to regional and national director of sales positions. My current (and most favorite) job truly is a combination of all my previous jobs rolled into one. I use my knowledge of travel as a basis for understanding and exceeding the needs of our clients. I still work closely with hotels, and my background enables me to ensure events and room blocks are successful for both our clients and our hotels. I feel I did not choose this industry—it chose me—and I am loving every minute of it.

Do you have a favorite type, size, or style of event to plan, or do you prefer variety?

I love all types of events. Discovering all the requirements for each event, matching each client with the perfect venue, and providing the special touches to create an exceptional experience for every gathering keeps my job interesting and fun. Understanding the needs of the client and working with our team of tourism partners is important, and communication is key. This means asking the right questions about what planners have done in the past and how far they would like to go outside of the box for the current event.

What’s your proudest moment so far in your career?

Winning my first award in our industry with Hilton. I was a single mother with three children and always tried to impress upon them to do their best in schoolwork, because one day it could lead to their dream job. I was very happy to bring my family to the awards dinner and see their eyes light up when I won.

How has your business adapted to the ongoing uncertainties and challenges of the pandemic?

First and foremost, we focused on a “Safely Travel” message, so planners and travelers could feel safe coming to Rutherford County. The CVB purchased thousands of masks and hand sanitizers to give to travelers and event attendees. I personally delivered these supplies to our hotels. It enabled me to see their safety precautions and learn how we could help them. An unexpected bonus was an opportunity to refine our digital marketing strategy. Our social media platforms promoted safe travel and activities focused on “local” consumers and our regular travel markets. Our blog offered suggestions for virtual tours, outdoor venues, and activities. Most importantly, we wanted conference planners to know we are ready to welcome them back when they are ready to travel.

How do you keep up with industry trends and cutting-edge developments in the convention and meeting business? What new event industry trends are you excited about?

I read industry magazines and attend seminars, conventions, and educational classes. Talking to my peers is also a great resource. Who knows better than them what works and what doesn’t? I have become excited about multi-platform conference options, and I have gotten really good at Zoom and love that it gives us another way to communicate.

What are the essential skills every newcomer into the industry should possess?

Being flexible, fearless, and hardworking is so important. Never be afraid to try new and different ideas. Learn to go with the flow because no two days are the same in our industry. Think outside the box and strive to take every event to a new limit. Remember, always under-promise and over-deliver.

What is your best advice for industry newcomers?

Let everyone know you are open to learning, willing to listen to their advice, and willing to do your best.

When you are not creating events for your clients, what do you like to do?

I do love to travel, so I guess I’m in the right industry. So many of my trips are with friends and family. Guess who does the planning? It makes me feel great they trust me to find all those fun and unique places, attractions, and restaurants to experience.

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