Meeting Close to Home? How to Make Your Event Stand OutDecember 12, 2017 | Claire Lindh
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!