Month: December 2017

Meeting Close to Home? How to Make Your Event Stand Out

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It’s tempting to host your annual corporate meeting or conference in a far-away city. But what if budget-related issues prompt you to host closer to home? That’s when it’s time to embrace your city’s local appeal to deliver an unforgettable event.

 

Rising Cost Pressures

Budgets are usually always top-of-mind when planning a corporate meeting or annual event. Yet according to the 2018 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast, meeting planners are under increasing pressure to be even more cost-conscious.

“Meetings professionals suggest that meeting owners are looking more closely than ever at the details of their meeting spend,” according to the report. And “as meeting spend is registering on company radars, so too is the interest in tightening meeting policy and meeting planning processes.”

 

A Possible Cost-Cutting Alternative? More Local Events

It’s not yet clear how this increased focus on budgeting and spending will impact specific meeting planning factors. One likely outcome will be an uptick in meetings and events that are hosted in a company’s home city in an effort to trim travel and other related expenses.

Hosting close to home can add a bit of anxiety to the planning process. Will attendees still have an exceptional experience without the allure of a far-flung destination? Absolutely. It’s all about identifying what makes your city stand out, then incorporating those elements (or people) into your event. Here are a few ideas to get you started!

 

4 Ways to Make Your Local Meeting or Event Stand Out

  1. Tap Into Your City’s Star Power

What—or who—puts your city on the map? Maybe an award-winning chef is bringing national acclaim to the area. Or perhaps a celebrity or public figure is a native of the area. Are there any local venues, brands or products that are attracting a national spotlight?

Brainstorm some possibilities and see how you can incorporate a person, product or location into your meeting or event. If your budget allows, perhaps you could enlist a high-profile speaker with local ties to deliver a keynote address. Or partner with a well-known chef, brewer, coffee roaster or bartender to collaborate on food or a beverage for your attendees. Another idea? Book a well-known local musician to deliver an exclusive performance. Of course, you don’t want to focus your budget on one aspect of your event. But with a little brainstorming and planning, there’s likely some exciting ways that you can leverage your city’s star power to surprise and delight your attendees.

  1. Go Behind the Scenes

Part of delivering a memorable attendee experience includes engaging programming that’s informational and entertaining. As you’re creating your meeting or event agenda, why not include a behind-the-scenes tour of a local landmark, facility or other relevant location?

Let’s use our area as an example. Our headquarters are a short drive from downtown Kansas City, Mo., home to a thriving brewery, distillery and coffee scene. Many of the breweries, roasting plants and production facilities offer tours (some with tastings!) that are a neat way to get a behind-the-scenes look at how various products are made.

Of course, you don’t have to just focus on beverage-related options. What else does your host city offer that could make for a neat behind-the-scenes tour? Museums are a great option. Or, you could create your own tour with a theme that ties into your event. Let’s say your company focuses on innovation and/or technology. You could schedule a tour of some start-up companies and co-working spaces in your area to give attendees a firsthand look at the work that’s happening close to home (not to mention some valuable networking opportunities for all involved).

Another suggestion? Do a little research to find out what’s manufactured in your area. Fun fact: Until earlier this year, Kellogg Company had a facility in nearby Kansas City, Kan., where they made crackers, including Cheez-Its. Are there similar national (or even global) manufacturing connections to your home city? Depending on your industry and the theme of your conference or event, a tour of one of these facilities could give attendees a rare opportunity to see how some of their favorite products are made.

  1. Think Like a Tourist

Staycations continue to be popular alternatives to pricey vacations. Why not embrace the appeal of a staycation as you plan your next meeting or conference?

If your agenda allows time for sightseeing, compile a handy map or flier with some suggestions and highlights. Or, customize a popular local event for your attendees. We did something similar earlier this year for a client’s unconference. The area in which the event was held hosts a monthly gallery crawl, so we worked with the client to schedule a mini gallery crawl complete with several stops, food and entertainment. Then, attendees were given customized maps and encouraged to continue their exploring and networking as schedules allowed.

Another idea is to incorporate a popular landmark or destination into your event agenda, whether with a tour or as a venue. If you have a number of attendees traveling to your home city for the event, they might struggle to find time to experience the city when juggling a busy event agenda. Instead, incorporate opportunities for sightseeing and local exploration into the programming. That way, out-of-town attendees can experience what you love most about your city in a way that makes them more likely to share what’s happening with their own networks. Selfies, anyone?

  1. Give the Gift of Local Swag

Keep the energy of your event going with local swag that attendees can take with them when they go. Again, this is a prime opportunity to tap into some of your city’s makers, whether individuals or brands. Gift them with a customized coffee blend, for example, or another food product that’s intrinsically linked with your city. (For us in Kansas City, it’s always barbecue!) One of our favorite ideas is a “Best of Your City” gift basket in which you include a few small gifts to help attendees remember the sights, sounds and tastes of your city. A couple of things to keep in mind, especially if you opt for edible gifts: do what you can to accommodate a range of dietary requirements, and also consider travel. It may be easier to ship gift baskets to attendees once the event concludes, depending on the size of the group, shipping costs and other pertinent factors.

Dorothy said it best in The Wizard of Oz when she proclaimed, “There’s no place like home.” (We’re a Kansas company—of course you get a Wizard of Oz reference!) The same applies to your locally hosted meeting or event. Once you put a little creative muscle behind the brainstorming, we bet you’ll discover some exciting and intriguing ways to make your local event stand out. If we can help by sharing more on how we’ve helped clients do the same, drop us a note and we’ll schedule a time to talk!

The One Thing That All Successful Meetings and Events Have in Common: Creativity

Meeting and Event Planning: 3 Ways to Get More Creative

Corporate meetings and events haven’t traditionally been associated with creativity, but that’s quickly changing.

It’s easy to take a more formulaic approach to planning a corporate event like an annual meeting, a tradeshow or a conference. Yet as attendees continue to demand engaging experiences and corporate events become a more significant driver of business strategy, meeting and event planners are under increasing pressure to step outside of the box.

And that’s why creativity plays a growing role in both planning and execution. In fact, survey results highlighted in the 2018 American Express Global Meetings Forecast indicate that creativity is one of the things that most excites meeting and event planners, especially in the next few years.

“‘There is a need to mix it up and make sure we are engaging the audience,’ said a North American meeting planner in the American Express report. ‘The expectation is that we’ll create a level of excitement and engagement so attendees want to be there and part of the conversation.’”

The looming question, of course, is how to tap into the power of creativity when planning your next event or meeting. We’ve compiled a few ideas to help capture your imagination. Ready to think big?

Change the Venue

One of the easiest ways to leverage the power of creativity at your next meeting or event is to change the venue. Think about trying another city. Or, if the logistics of a geographic move aren’t feasible, consider different venues in your host city. It’s amazing how a change of scenery can refresh and invigorate not just your event, but also the attendees themselves.

And here’s the thing. It’s absolutely fine to start small. Perhaps you host a large group of attendees with a presentation-heavy agenda, and it’s easier to keep using conference or convention facilities. No problem! But can you also experiment with adding a different venue to your programming? Try an evening happy hour or networking mixer at a creative space like an art gallery or a museum. Or coordinate with a local coworking space to host smaller breakout sessions or workshops. Just one creative change can make a big difference to your attendees, and give you room to expand and refine your creative approach in the coming years.

Try a Different Format

Event agendas are another area that’s ripe with creative potential. You may have heard about the rise of the “unconference”—a more informal approach to a conference that includes ample opportunities for collaboration, learning, and sharing. As you plan your next event or meeting, take a look at your agenda (as well as your event goals). What do you want attendees to do, learn and feel while at your event? And what sort of impression do you want to leave them with? The answers to those questions can help you identify opportunities to make some creative changes to your programming.

Again, it’s perfectly acceptable to start small. Let’s say your event or meeting always includes a keynote address and a mix of relevant, topic-specific presentations. Can you modify your agenda to also include some informal breakout discussions organized by attendee role or area of interest? Even a small change like adding some welcoming collaborative areas throughout your event venue, complete with comfy seating and refreshments, can help your attendees feel a greater sense of connectivity to the event and to each other.

Embrace Experiences

Whether they’re on vacation or attending an annual meeting or company event, people want experiences. This is especially true for young professionals, who are focused on seeing, doing and sharing.

Delivering an immersive, experiential event is one of the most effective ways to captivate and delight your attendees. And that means that they’re not only likely to return next year, but they’re also more likely to spread the word about what they experienced in a way that makes them influential brand ambassadors.

As you consider ways to add experiences to your meeting or event programming, it’s always helpful to go back to the basics. What are your event goals? What do you want attendees to know about and associate with your brand? And what are some ways you can tap into the allure of your surroundings?

We recently worked with an automotive client who wanted to kick off its annual incentive program in a memorable way. Not only did they want to make an immediate impression on attendees; they also wanted to highlight the warm, rustic aesthetic of the event’s Utah location. Our approach? An authentic farm-to-table dinner with five mouthwatering courses cooked open-kitchen style. The client had a chance to highlight the incredible culinary talent and array of local ingredients in a way that also set the tone for the event.

There’s no shortage of ways to add experiences to your next meeting or event. Some of our favorites include private musical performances, behind-the-scenes tours of local attractions or points of interest, rooftop dining or networking, and off-site workshops or demonstrations.

Embracing creativity as an integral part of your event or meeting not only delivers a more enjoyable, memorable and effective attendee experience—it’s also fun! Because let’s face it, if you’re planning a recurring annual event, it can be easy to slip into auto-pilot and follow the same tried-and-true format. Now, however, is the perfect time to shake off the cobwebs and try something new that makes a lasting impact on your attendees and your brand.

And if you find yourself in need of a gentle push to take that first step outside of the box? That’s why we’re here. We relish the opportunity to help you deliver innovative, engaging events that produce results. Whether you want to start small with a few key changes or go in a completely different direction from past events and meetings, we’ll help you bring your creative vision to life. Let’s explore the art of the possible.