F&B, great room sets, and much more. Convene’s readers and editors point you to some of the best in 10 categories. A full description of the listings is available here.
Best Destination Videos
St. John’s, the capital and largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s easternmost province — is a busy metropolis set on a seemingly endless coastline, and Destination St. John’s video alternates between gorgeous natural vistas and bright, bustling city streets.
Fort Lauderdale has never shied away from the endless supply of sunshine that splashes down on its 23 miles of beaches — but in its peppy, polished “Meet Sunny” video, the destination uses that natural resource to make the case for meeting there.
You never see the inside of a ballroom or exhibit hall, or even of a hotel, in Monterey’s video. Instead, the bayside county on California’s Central Coast juxtaposes a driving rock score with images of outdoor fun — beaches, golf, farmers markets, wine tasting, sailing, whale watching, and on and on — and trusts that you’ll be jazzed to hold a meeting in that milieu.
Alberta is nestled amid the jaw-dropping splendor of the Canadian Rockies? Alberta goes in the direction you’d expect, and its video include with mountains and lakes and fields and horses and skiing, but takes an additional, extra-local step by setting all of that terrible beauty against “Roam,” a lovely, soaring number by Calgary singer-songwriter Wil Mimnaugh.
There’s something to be said for a video that makes you smile, and San Diego’s “Happiness Is Calling” pulls that off. From its jaunty music to its endless parade of people in motion — swimming, surfing, dancing, playing, relaxing — the video effortlessly makes the case for San Diego as a place where your attendees will just feel good.
Best Technology Tools
CVENT EVENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
“Simple is better,” reads the tagline on the home page of ANTIBODY Healthcare Communications’ website, a philosophy that also applies to the company’s choice of Cvent as its online registration partner. Not only does Cvent help ANTIBODY manage the approximately 200 events the company organizes each year, it provides a way for ANTIBODY, which is headquartered in Toronto but also has offices in New York and Montreal, to manage all its contacts in one place.
Evernote, according to Alisa J. Caldwell, CMP, senior manager of events for Ambit Energy in Dallas. “It is the best app for meeting professionals, hands down,” she said. “You have all your notes at your fingertips, and they are searchable and highly organized.” Evernote also has a reminder feature to help you stay on top of tasks with important deadlines, Caldwell said, and it makes sharing your notes with your team, vendors, and clients “super easy.”
Murielle DiDomenicantonio, board liaison officer and executive assistant to the CEO of Co-op Atlantic, a consumers’ cooperative in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, began using Wufoo, an online form-builder, to register attendees for an annual event that draws about 300 people. It was so easy to use and worked so well for that purpose that DiDomenicantonio kept finding more ways to use Wufoo — to collect meeting evaluations and board self-evaluations, create reports, collect travel authorizations and employee feedback, and more. “
Staff at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, where Kerri Begley, CMP, is vice president for conferences and special events, find Basecamp’s subscription-based project-management platform to be such a workhorse that they’ve integrated it into almost every aspect of their event-planning process
OnPeak earns superlatives for its Compass dashboard, which allows planners to slice and dice their housing-block data in multiple ways. “OnPeak’s reporting capabilities are outstanding,” said Karen Malone, vice president of meeting services for the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which uses onPeak when it holds its Annual Conference & Exhibition for its more than 23,000 members.
Best High-Tech Venues
The Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista has one feature built into its Grand Ballroom that particularly helps it stand out: AutoCAD diagrams of the ballroom’s rigging points, making it a snap to set up projection screens, lighting, and electrical equipment. In addition, planners can build free websites that let attendees see information about events and book rooms.
Besides offering venue-wide free Wi-Fi access, the the Grand Hyatt San Francisco offers professional on-site projection, digital-audio, and video equipment. The hotel also offers budget planning for digital expenses so planners won’t find any nasty surprises on their final bill.
CLEVELAND CONVENTION CENTER AND GLOBAL CENTER FOR HEALTH INNOVATION
“We toured the Cleveland Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation as part of a [PCMA] POWER Chapter Educational Session,” said Craig A. Hendrick, CDS, global account director for ConferenceDirect. “The amount of technical capability is amazing.” The facility offers site-wide wireless connectivity, multisite videoconferencing, high-definition display systems, and training labs for health- and science-focused meetings.
PALAIS DE CONGRÈS DE MONTRÉAL
The colorful Palais de congrès de Montréal convention center offers 88 55-inch HD screens throughout the facility, as well as a 90-square-foot video wall, making digital signage, branding, and broadcasting live social-media feeds to attendees a breeze.
The San Jose Convention Center, which is currently building out 169,957 square feet of new, flexible convention space, is notable both for its facility-wide high-speed Wi-Fi and for its in-house support for webcasting satellite and video streaming. The center also has a cyber café.
Best Meeting Apps
ACS’s mobile app, available for multiple devices, allowed users to take notes on sessions within the app, then send them out via email; browse educational sessions by date, division, theme, and presenter; and see detailed lists of exhibitors broken out by category. The conference program, schedule, and maps were accessible without a Wi-Fi connection.
AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS (ACEP)
Cori Dossett, CEM, CMP, president of Conferences Designed, nominated the app for ACEP’s Scientific Assembly (SA) 2013, held in Seattle last October. Aside from standard features such as venue maps, the app had a CME tracker and to-do list built in. “I have used several meeting apps,” Dossett said, “and found the SA ’13 to be the best thus far.”
The custom app that HelmsBriscoe created for its 2014 Annual Business Conference was a standout, thanks to features that included the agenda with venue maps and detailed event descriptions, a database of attendee profiles that was searchable by region and team, social-media integration, and the ability to take notes.
CUMBRE SANOFI 2013
The app developed for the Cumbre Sanofi medical conference in Cancun in April 2013 allowed summit participants to manage their agendas, share content via social networks, and view information about other attendees. And after the close of the event, organizers were able to analyze data generated by the app to track attendee engagement.
TNC partnered with Guidebook to create a conference app for its Climate, Risk & Resilience 2013 Learning Exchange, held at the Westin New Orleans Canal Place in May. Unique features included pre-conference reading, a to-do list, and photo album.
Best Off-Site Venues
Groups follow in the footsteps of British royalty and international dignitaries when they climb aboard the Britannia, which has welcomed Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton — and served as the honeymoon-cruise vessel for Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, in 1981. The Britannia is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.
CHIHULY GARDEN AND GLASS (SEATTLE)
The LEED Silver–certified Chihuly Garden and Glass opened in 2012 in Seattle Center in glass artists Dale Chihuly’s home state. Chihuly Garden and Glass houses a comprehensive collection of the master’s work in an exhibition hall with eight interior galleries, lush garden space, and the centerpiece Glasshouse — an impressive setting for receptions, dinners, and galas.
Opened in 2009 in a former 1880s ironworks-foundry building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bowl is part music hall, part restaurant, and the first LEED-certified bowling alley in the world. This year, Brooklyn Bowl rolled out two new venues, in London and Las Vegas.
Just south of Oklahoma City’s downtown, the urban waterfront area known as the Boathouse District features iconic architecture — three distinct buildings designed by Oklahoma City architect Rand Elliott. Along with views of the downtown skyline, the district has event spaces to accommodate more than 500 guests. Adventure-seeking groups can go dragon-boating on the river or zipline over the world’s tallest adventure course.
CARNEGIE LIBRARY AT MT. VERNON SQUARE (WASHINGTON, D.C.
This Beaux-Arts building was dedicated by Andrew Carnegie in 1903 as the District of Columbia Public Library, and has evolved into a high-demand venue, said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC, the convention and sports authority that oversees the library’s event space.. It is located across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and offers nine ornate rooms.
Best Places for Small Meetings
Conveniently located just three miles from Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the Research Triangle, this Embassy Suites offers more than 6,500 square feet of dedicated meeting space, including an executive boardroom and two ballrooms. In addition, groups can enjoy 7,000 square feet of event and outdoor space featuring a sleek water wall.
Only 25 minutes from Seattle, Willows Lodge sits on five landscaped acres bordering the Sammamish River in the heart of Washington’s wine country. The resort offers 84 rooms and suites and 5,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space accommodating groups of up to 192 people. The lodge’s Barking Frog restaurant now has wheels — a new food truck — making it possible to enjoy its award-winning Pacific Northwest–inspired cuisine at off-site events, be it a gourmet picnic in a field or dinner at a local winery.
In the heart of Chicago’s West Loop, taking up 15,000 square feet on several floors of a building built in the 1880s, Catalyst Ranch has been operating as a quirky boutique meeting and event space since 2002. Here, the rooms explode with bright colors, and are filled with vintage furniture, loads of artwork, ethnic furnishings, toys, and books. “It helps meeting attendees to remember what it felt like when they were kids and had unlimited imaginations,”said Eva Niewiadomski, owner and creator. “Meeting attendees, facilitators, and planners like the experiential nature of the space.”
Just 30 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, the Mediterranean-style Terranea Resort sits atop coastal bluffs offering sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. The 582-room resort features a 360-room hotel alongside 20 two-room bungalows, 50 three-room ocean-view casitas, and 32 luxury villas that provide groups with a more intimate setting. Opened in 2009, the 102-acre luxury estate has more than 135,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space — including 75,000 square feet outdoors (think manicured lawns, terraces, and lush gardens) — and the capacity to host receptions with up to 1,500 guests.
BOCA RATON RESORT & CLUB, A WALDORF ASTORIA RESORT
Opened in 1926 as the Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn, a large resort and membership-based club designed by renowned architect Addison Mizner, the Boca Raton Resort & Club has remained an elegant, iconic presence on the South Florida coastline. Meetings and events are conducted in a variety of venues: the 128,000-square-foot Mizner Conference Center; the Cloister, the original building’s charming meeting rooms; and the elegant Yacht Club for executive events.
Best Room Sets
Corporate real estate might not seem like the ideal audience for coloring outside the lines, but at its North American Summit 2013 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas last October, CoreNet Global did just that. The opening general session was set completely in the round, with a combination of seating configurations — classroom-style, round tables, and highboys — that attendees could select based on their own preferred level of engagement.
Every winter, Québec presents a two-week festival of parades, sporting events, banquets, ice and snow sculptures, and other activities celebrating the cold season. For this year’s program, held on Jan. 31–Feb. 16, Carnaval used a white-and-blue color scheme in the heart of Québec City — including white communal tables, soft blue lights, and ice-carved centerpieces with bottom-up lighting — to suggest a winter wonderland.
VMWARE GLOBAL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
At VMware’s 2013 Global Leadership Conference at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa, a warm, welcoming room set placed speakers in high-backed leather chairs at the center of a circular stage, surrounded by several concentric rows of easy chairs for attendees. “Our Global Leadership Conference in Monterey was an important milestone, and represented a challenge to the [events] team to not only bring our leaders together to meet but to build trust in order to create breakthrough challenges,” said Betsy Sutter, VMware’s chief people officer.
HSMAI MIKE LEVEN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
The theme of this year’s HSMAI Mike Leven Leadership Conference — a program for chapter board volunteers held at the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas on March 13–14 — was “Think Different.” That started with the room setup in the opening general session, where attendees could choose from lounge chairs set up like a home theater, to highboys at the back of the room, to arm chairs filling in the middle. “It took attendees completely by surprise, pleasantly,” said Michelle Huebner, president-elect of HSMAI’s Arizona chapter and national sales manager for Visit Mesa.
Science was integrated into the production design at ASH’s 2013 Annual Meeting & Exposition in New Orleans last December, thanks to the ruby-red gush of blood cells on the 250-foot-wide, 30-foot screen at the front of the plenary room. “We arrived at a vision to make the audience feel like they were sitting inside of a vein as healthy red blood cells (carrying oxygen) flowed through,” Reed said.
Best Social Media
When recruiting and staffing executives from around the world gathered at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on March 18–21, the attendees connected by using their LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter account through their show app. The show’s hashtags were #execforum and #2014bedifferent.
At Cisco Live U.S. 2014, held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center on May 18–22, the show’s social-media Hub included huge monitors showing real-time conversations from the event, and quickly became a place where ‘social-media types’ met up before and after sessions.” Cisco Live used data from social-media conversations about the event to keep on top of hot topics and emerging trends and guided keynote content.
The organizers of Jive Software’s JiveWorld 2013, which took place at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Oct. 21–23, used social-media challenges embedded in the JIVEWORLD13 GET REAL app to extend the social reach of their event. T Those challenges included checking in at various stations on the show floor, following @JiveWorld on Twitter, completing session surveys, and more.
NYC & COMPANY
NYCGo, the social-media arm of NYC & Company, used the image-driven microblogging service Tumblr and Twitter to post high-resolution photographs and videos of the city’s food, hotels, and venues in various neighborhoods on a daily basis. The social-media push drove traffic back to NYC & Company’s website so meeting organizers can get specific details on the city’s hundreds of unique venues for events. “With a few clicks here and there, I get what I need, from special off-site venues to hotels to special events,” said Ricky Hopkins, a global account executive for ConferenceDirect. “It just makes my job that much easier.”
Conference organizers at The International Society for Technology in Education’s 2013 Conference used the Twitter hashtag #ISTE2013 to encourage attendees to post hundreds of photos before, during, and after the conference — ranging from screen captures of especially potent session slides to shots of exhibition booths and enthusiastic selfies by badge-wearers.
Best Food & Beverage
Making cheese, curing meats, even fermenting vinegar — all of it goes down in the kitchen of the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, Ontario. “[They have] a major focus on fresh local ingredients, and a team who are up for the challenge of creating special menus to suit your budget,” said Jacqui Sullivan, CMP, director of conferences for Absolute Conferences & Events. “It is definitely not your typical convention-center food-and-beverage. And they provide great alternatives for those who have special needs.”
In Pittsburgh, space comes at a premium — so the kitchen team at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC), whose food service is managed by Levy Restaurants, uses the rooftop for its on-site garden. “I have held many social events at the DLCC, and their food has always been spectacular,” said Craig A. Hendrick, global account director for ConferenceDirect. “I love how they utilize herbs and vegetables grown on their own rooftop. And they have a focus on locally grown/raised across their menu. Not something you’d expect at a one-thousand-person dinner!”
Mary Gettel, education and partnerships specialist for the Health Care Association of Michigan & Michigan Center for Assisted Living, has been deeply impressed by both the look and taste of the food at FireKeepers Casino Hotel. “They managed to turn a simple Caesar salad into a work of art,” Gettel said. She also commended the culinary team at FireKeepers for their openness to customizable menus and their ability to creatively meet unique dietary needs, including kosher and allergies beyond the ‘typical’ allergens.
“Excellent” is the word that international meeting and event planner
Abe Korn uses to succinctly describe the food at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul. The hotel’s special-event menu is encyclopedic, and combines both European and Middle Eastern foods, whether it be pumpkin risotto or a lunch Bento box with fresh-minted tomato kisir salad; spiced, slow-roasted salmon; pan-seared sea bass; lemon-parsley mashed potato; sun-dried tomato, pomegranate, and coriander salsa; whipped vanilla-bean cheesecake; wild red-berry compote; or crisp almond tuille.
Despite its landlocked locale, Orlando boasts serious culinary talent — and the 12 eateries inside the Waldorf Astoria, Orlando are a testament to their prowess, from the “re-imagined” steakhouse Bull & Bear to the sushi served up inside Zeta Bar. The culinary team draws heavily on local produce for event menus such as an “Old School delicatessen” buffet that combines artisanal meats and meats, fresh-baked rye, “romaine spears,” and handcrafted mustards and mayonnaise.
Best CSR Initiatives
When the Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre (SECC) hosted the 9th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-9) in Glasgow in March 2014, center staff used their influence to convince artists performing at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro arena, including Beyoncé, to promote the EBCC-9’s Public Day, for which it invited locals in to hear the latest research from conference experts and others.
Since 1986, the nonprofit organization KaBOOM! has built more than 2,000 playgrounds that serve nearly 4 million children in 50 states, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. To do that, KaBOOM! has relied on an army of nearly 300,000 volunteers, including many who sign up to build a playground as part of a CSR activity while attending conferences and events. It also mirrors the art and science of meeting planning — after months of detailed planning and collaboration between multiple stakeholders, the construction of a KaBOOM! playground comes together in a day.
ODYSSEY TEAMS HELPING HANDS
Talk about powerful: Jamie Rice, regional director of national accounts at the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau, worked on a small team to build a prosthetic hand for a landmine-accident victim as part of a Helping Hands activity presented by Odyssey Teams at MPI’s World Education Congress in Las Vegas last July. The event lasted for a little under two hours, but Rice still feels its impact a year later. “Just to think that someone could pick something up, because of what we were doing,” she said.
At the Giveback Marketplace during the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual fam tour in June 2013, the CVB helped event partners get to know fam participants through the joint creation of hygiene kits. Hotels and venues offered donated personal-care items on tabletops, and fam attendees filled 100 bags with supplies as they walked through the marketplace. Half of the bags created at the event went to Vetshouse, a local program that supports homeless veterans, and half went to aid the victims of the May 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.
In June, Clean the World, which sanitizes hotel soap products and sends it to areas where soap is a luxury, unveiled new machinery in its Las Vegas plant that will allow it to sanitize and recycle enough soap products to produce nearly 20,000 three-ounce bars of soap a day. The upgrade is a result of a $1-million partnership between the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Clean the World, and makes it possible for Clean the World to increase its production and distribution to more than 6.5 million bars of soap a year.