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Growing pains: What happens when your meeting outgrows the venue?

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Record-breaking registration numbers is every meeting planner’s dream. But what if attendance grows so much that the contracted meeting venue is no longer the ideal location? Put on your thinking cap because it’s time for a creative backup plan that will appear flawless to the participants.

AMPED recently encountered this very situation when hosting the world’s largest single gathering of multiple sclerosis physicians, clinical researchers and scientists in Boston. The convention center contract was signed years ago, prior to our full-service management, at which time a realistic growth goal was 6,500 attendees. This attendance projection made for the perfect match between the venue and the program. However, when we saw a huge surge in registration numbers just weeks before the kickoff of the live event, it was time to think outside the box.

The convention center auditorium could not accommodate our nearly 9,000 registrants. Thankfully, technology made an overflow plan possible. We were able to stream video of the keynote presentation from the auditorium to the largest ballroom in the convention center. In the event we needed another overflow room, we were prepared to stream into a second ballroom.

We had originally planned to have all food and beverage in the exhibit hall to drive traffic to our valued exhibitors and supporters. Unfortunately, the packed exhibit hall could not handle the 38 percent increase in attendance, so we had to rethink our menus as well as the food and beverage placement. It would be impossible for all attendees to go through a buffet line one by one; the length of time for decision making and serving would create unacceptably long lines. Boxed lunches were the best solution fulfilling our need for a “grab and go” scenario.

The sheer volume of people meant we also needed to reconsider the staffing plan. Having additional team members on hand to direct traffic to either an overflow meeting room or the nearest food station was key.

Make no mistake, finding the best solution for your attendees is not a one-person task. You’re going to need your entire team behind you to make this successful. Bring in your logistics professionals, audiovisual crew and catering team, in addition to your program experts who truly understand the heart of the event.

Although stressful at times, I am so proud to have been a part of a passionate team that was fully committed to producing an outstanding event. The compliments and positive feedback continue to pour in. Congrats to all!

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