Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

Best Venue Initiatives

by By the Editors of Convene | Aug 06, 2013


When it comes to sustainability, the Denver Zoo has some heavyweight credentials: It was the first zoo in the country to achieve Platinum LEED certification for a large-animal exhibit, the Toyota Elephant Passage. The Passage, which is only one of multiple sites available for rental, includes a preserve that is home to Asian elephants and other animals. 

For meeting attendees, sustainability translates into F&B practices that rely on locally sourced produce, sustainable seafood, and recyclable dinnerware. (A program that turns zoo waste into energy aims to make the zoo a zero-waste facility by 2025.) Meeting planners also appreciate the role the zoo plays in preserving wildlife, said Felise Buckhart, corporate events manager for the zoo. “Planners love how the fees go directly to the zoo,” she said. “It’s a giveback.”


For the right meetings, the “Red Tag” Meeting Space Special at the Ottawa Convention Centre in Ottawa was one red-hot deal: It offered half off the price of meeting space, Wi-Fi, and AV services for qualifying meetings. To be eligible, events had to be booked after June 5, 2012, and be held in one of two periods — one in late summer and one in the winter — over the next nine months. 

The offer, which resulted in 79 bookings, was restricted to smallish meetings, defined as 250 people meeting for less than three days. Designed to fill out the center’s schedule, it was “mostly promoted locally,” said Zoe Lomer, sales and marketing associate for the center, since local organizations were more likely to be able to take advantage of the short booking window.

And since Ottawa is the capital of Canada — and a budget-conscious destination, according to Lomer — it was a slam-dunk for government meeting planners, as well as organizations like Canadian Labour Congress, which is headquartered in Ottawa and took advantage of the promotion to hold a leadership meeting at the center.


When Herbalife, the global nutrition company, wanted to throw a party for 10,000 people during its North American Extravaganza in Long Beach, Calif., last October at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, the CVB had an interesting suggestion: “They said, ‘Well, we have a rooftop parking lot that we can use as a space,’’’ said Adolfo Romero, an Herbalife corporate alliance manager.

Can concrete be chic? Herbalife has a reputation for throwing great parties, and the Long Beach bash “turned out to be one of the most successful parties in our company’s history,” Romero said. The downtown parking lot roof offered panoramic views of the beach and the city skyline, with the Herbalife logo projected onto a nearby hotel, and went from functional to fabulous by way of lighting, portable bars, cabanas, and two dance floors.


By offering “free Wi-Fi,” Nicole Burrows, a sourcing manager at Experient who is based in Seattle, knew that the Austin Convention Center wasn’t offering to provide all of the wireless access that her meeting client — which happens to be Microsoft — could use. But the center’s complimentary Wi-Fi provides good basic coverage, Burrows said, for high-tech meeting attendees, who expect to travel from free networks in their hotels to a free network in the convention center.

Access to free Wi-Fi “is very important,” Burrows said. “It’s one of the top things we look at.” In addition to Austin, our survey respondents had good words for the free Wi-Fi offered by the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, and the Quebec City Convention Centre.


Since the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) develops its own mobile app for its annual meeting, there’s some overlap with the features of MyBCEC, the mobile app developed by the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, said Jim Donovan, ISSCR’s director for membership and meeting services. But the MyBCEC app is so useful and well done, Donovan said, that ISSCR promoted its use to members in the final program.

One of the things that the convention-center app did best at the ISSCR Annual Meeting in June was to help the more than 4,000 attendees make their way
out of the center and into the city, he said. In addition to listings of nearby restaurants, entertainment, and retail options, with maps, the MyBCEC app helped users — including Donovan — navigate the local public-transportation system, opening up even more of Boston to attendees.

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