Choosing a location for your next meeting comes with plenty of big questions. Will attendees be receptive to a new location? Which past cities have drawn the biggest registration numbers? Does the convention center offer enough exhibit space? While the answers to all of these traditional questions play a crucial role in the decision process, today’s meeting environment is anything but traditional.
“The days of simply doing the same thing in the same or different location no longer appeal to attendees,” MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM, CHE, President, Bobrow Associates, Inc., says.
With this in mind, here are four key questions to consider as you rethink your approach to destination selection.
1) Where does the future look more accessible?
Every planner wants to make sure attendees can keep their travel expenses low, and many convention destinations are making great strides to make that possible.
“There may be more accessibility than you think,” Amy Hawkins, CMP, Director, Minding Your Business, says. “Do research on new developments at the airport.”
Hawkins says that some smaller cities are adding more daily flights from lower cost airlines. In addition to exploring what tomorrow holds at airports, Hawkins recommends keeping a finger on the pulse of new construction and new hotel properties.
2) Where will you get the attention you deserve?
While there can be perks to choosing a destination known as a “top convention city”, Hawkins recommends planners consider the benefits of being a big fish in a smaller pond.
“Depending on the city, a planner might be able to ‘own’ the convention center and likely not have to share space with another convention by booking in a smaller or mid-sized convention destination,” Hawkins says. “You could also make sure you have the attention of the city and not feel ignored for a larger program possibly happening at the same time.”
That attention can come with plenty of perks before the meeting, too. As you consider options for future meetings, be sure to ask what kind of additional marketing support each destination’s CVB provides.
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3) What kind of local assets will you be able to leverage?
While the possibilities inside the convention center or the hotel are clearly important, planners must also look well beyond the four walls of the convention space. For example, who are the local business leaders or academic experts? Does their expertise apply to your meeting? An organization’s Education Department can help research prospective cities to determine how the community can make the meeting even more successful.
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Those local assets can be more than the people who live in the community, too. They can also simply include the way a city conducts business. Hawkins says that sometimes smaller cities have more relaxed regulations and leave more room for negotiations. In some cases, that flexibility can even lead to giving planners the ability to take over public areas for receptions.
4) What is your data telling you?
Comparing cities is about more than looking at prices and add-ons, too. Bobrow says that planners must work to gain insights into how attendees feel.
“Understanding and accumulating data on what the group's attendees and prospective attendees want and need is essential,” Bobrow says. “Can the planner attract more attendees by choosing a destination where the attendees perceive greater value by attending the meeting?”
What are the most important factors that weigh on your mind when you look for a new meeting location? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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