According to the American Express 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast, attendee engagement is critical to making any meeting or event successful. But what does that really look like? And how do you make sure attendees get (and stay) engaged? The truth is, planners can create highly customized events in any location, but the key to creating a gathering that attendees will remember is a simple one—go local. By using local experts and destination professionals, you gain invaluable insights into your destination of choice. Without this local, insider knowledge, your event can feel cookie-cutter even if it’s outside of the hotel or convention center.
In Austin, Texas, The Red Velvet Events group’s “Day at the Ranch” event provides a case study in creating a one-of-a-kind event for experienced professionals by making use of a great location and rich local expertise. Let’s take a look at what made it so engaging and so successful.
Unexpected Location Sets the Tone
More than 200 attendees in a group of hotel general managers and chefs spent a day at a working ranch with free-range Longhorn cattle in the Driftwood area outside Austin. The objective of the meeting was to provide attendees, most of whom were not from Texas, with a culinary education and networking experience showcasing the best of the state.
Tactile Experiences Mixed with Business Objectives
During the first part of the day, a local food foraging expert led the group around the ranch grounds to find and sample edible herbs and plants. That evening, attendees listened to presentations while dining on upscale barbecue including Elgin sausage—a Texas barbecue staple—and salads created from the plants they foraged earlier in the day.
Creation is a powerful professional development tool, according to a report in Harvard Business Review. On the ranch, attendees were treated to a mixology session where they learned to make the Texas-born “Mexican martini”—they even used some of the foraged ingredients to experiment with the cocktail and develop something they could take back to their own bars.
Discerning event planners should seek local experts and partners who will consider, first and foremost, their organization’s brand and their objectives. You can often tell when an event was designed intentionally to meet its goals and to incorporate the overall themes and messaging of the entire meeting. That’s when it becomes not just another dinner or another retreat, but an experience that resonates.