Whether you’re planning your first corporate meeting or an annual event, one of your most important decisions is choosing the destination. You may love the bright lights of Las Vegas, but will your attendees? Will they be just as happy with a less expensive place like Denver? Or do they want to make a vacation out if it and send the kids to Disney World while they’re in meetings? Are there other cities or regions that could suit everyone’s needs even better?
With so many wonderful cities around the country and world to pick from, how do you actually choose?
Enliven helps our customwers work through these considerations to find the perfect city for their next meeting:
What’s the size of your meeting?
Some cities have the capacity for a 10,000-person event or larger – with meeting venues, hotel rooms, transportation infrastructure and amenities – and others just don’t. Conversely, smaller events can be accommodated, and almost always more economically, in smaller cities. Depending on your expected attendance, you may find your choices quickly expanded or narrowed, or that popular cities are already booked for your meeting size and dates.
What’s the purpose of your meeting?
A sales-oriented conference where attendees are in sessions and networking the entire time won’t draw families. “For them, proximity to the airport and with affordable, timely flights is important. Las Vegas, Chicago, New York are top cities then,” says Susan Gibson, National Account Manager for Experient – a Maritz Global Events Company. “On the other hand, if this is a celebratory event meant to reward people, then someplace they can extend their time as a vacation and bring their family might be better: Hawaii, Florida and San Diego, for example.”
Will your attendees be able to arrive, depart, and navigate easily?
"Where are attendees traveling from? If they are less than 200 miles from the destination, they will probably drive," says Gibson. "If participants are far flung, or even international, are the airport, hotel and/or other attractions located near the event venue? Is the city walkable and/or have public transportation? Is the city accustomed to visitors from distant places and can it accommodate various dietary demands? Will your participants feel comfortable there?
Which city will help (or hurt) your brand?
A desirable location will always increase your attendance. But sometimes cities are at the mercy of their state legislatures. For example, a law passed (since repealed) in North Carolina discriminating against gay and transgendered individuals made Charlotte unattractive to potential visiting groups who did not want to be perceived as discriminatory themselves. If participants have strong feelings about gambling, scratch Las Vegas or Atlantic City, despite their other positive qualities.
How are the cities promoting themselves (i.e.: marketing, incentives, sponsorships, etc.)?
Cities might offer incentives to visiting companies whos meetings and events tie to their national rankings as destinations. It never hurts to ask. Recent events, and how they impact the perception of the city, can also play a role here. San Juan, Puerto Rico, once a prime destination for incentive events, suffered catastrophic damage in last fall’s Hurricane Maria. The island is still recovering, and while it encourages both tourism and the return of corporate events, the perception is that the island is still closed for business.
Weather, airport or venue development or construction might attract or detract visitors. But negative factors could become advantages if you schedule your next five meetings in a particular city – you might get a better rate at the venue and hotels. Or perhaps the convention center is being replaced by a bigger one soon. The city needs to book the old one this year and offers discounted rates and more perks (like valet or free parking). Signing multiple year contracts might make a city enticing because it comes with incentives for future years.
Ultimately, Enliven’s goal is to help you find a destination that suits your needs, and that your attendees find convenient, cost-effective and attractive. Let our years of event design and production expertise help direct you to the best cities for your meetings.
What are your considerations for meeting cities? Do they match up with our list? Let us know.