A great way to mix up your meeting and energize attendees is to plan an offsite event. By taking a break from the everyday meeting space, you can recharge your attendees with a fun, relaxed atmosphere to network and learn from peers.
Immersing your group in local attractions can take your attendee experience to the next level and give them a chance to enjoy the destination, which most attendees don’t plan for outside the meeting. And as the demand for face-to-face meetings continue to grow, the expectation for experiences to make valuable connections will become the norm.
So how do we find those one-of-a-kind venues for a memorable event?
Partner with your meeting destination’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Instead of the go-to Google search, ask your CVB for venue and activity recommendations. With groups in and out of their destination, CVBs can offer possibilities that other groups have experienced and found successful.
Ask a local planning committee participant or valued member. A resident of the destination can offer worthwhile insight into a venue from the perspective of an attendee. If you’re fortunate, they may have attended an event at a possible location and can give you a sense of the atmosphere and service.
Heading offsite can bust your budget but be up front and work with the venue to maximize your dollars. Think of creative ways to reduce equipment rentals and audio visual fees and watch out for hidden expenses. If you have a good partnership with the CVB, offer exposure incentives or sponsorship benefits to offset costs. I’ve found that most venues will work within your means and want events to be successful.
A great example of an offsite event and partnering with a destination is the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives Awards Celebration that was part of the 2016 Innovation Summit. We took attendees offsite to the Milwaukee Public Museum for a brief awards presentation and strolling reception. To maximize our budget, we chose to skip presentation slides to reduce audio visual costs and had inexpensive pop up banners made of each award winner to display during the awards ceremony. The banners not only served as decoration for the event but also nice gifts for the award winners. After the quick ceremony, attendees were transported back to a fall evening in Milwaukee at the turn of the 19th century as they enjoyed hor d'oeuvres and cocktails through the Streets of Old Milwaukee. We couldn’t have pulled off the event without the support from Visit Milwaukee as well as our partnership with the museum.
What offsite events have been successful for you? What have you done to enhance your attendee experience? With a few creative twists and fun elements, you can generate a meeting that will keep attendees coming back year after year.