How Austin Played a Starring Role in ConferenceDirect’s 2023 CD Forum

A Sponsored Message From Visit Austin

Author: Tracy Block       

people in cowboy hats at tables in bar

ConferenceDirect worked with Austin-based Fifth Street DMC and other local partners to design an engaging program infused with Austin’s signature culture and personality.

When choosing a host destination for the 2023 CD Forum — the annual signature client event of ConferenceDirect, a meeting planning company — senior vice president J.J. Wills ultimately landed on Austin. The Texas capital city stood out for several reasons, chief among them its increasing popularity as a meeting destination. “It is a welcoming city with a diverse culture — music, art, food, and outdoor recreation — plus, it’s centrally located and easy to get to,” Wills said.

Held at Fairmont Austin, Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, CD Forum brought together nearly 200 of ConferenceDirect’s clients, associates, and partners for three days of networking, education, and collaboration. To bring the conference program to life, Wills and team relied on several Austin-based partners including Fifth Street DMC, which handled much of the logistics, including airport transfers and off-site events. Visit Austin also played a significant role, facilitating introductions to local speakers and curating activities to suit the group’s wide variety of interests, including a visit to Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater, a kayaking excursion on Lady Bird Lake, and tours of the city’s famous street murals and vintage shops. Visit Austin also helped Wills’ team narrow down walkable options for off-site dinners and after-hours venues, deciding on Hilton Austin and Hotel Van Zandt, as well as local musicians and authentic Texas barbecue.

A Lasting Legacy

Besides creating engaging networking and educational opportunities for its attendees, ConferenceDirect sought to leave a positive legacy in the destination. That included utilizing Social OffSet — an initiative that enables groups meeting in destinations whose policies don’t align with their values to offset their spending in that state by seamlessly enabling attendees to make donations to local organizations that do support their values. “It was important to us to showcase the [platform] as a tool for the industry to use when they are holding meetings in any city across the country,” Wills said. CD Forum also collaborated with the Texas Advocacy Project to highlight the fight against human trafficking, hosting a speaker from the project along with a hands-on CSR activity, as well as offered a career workshop to local high-school students interested in the events industry.

Wellness and sustainability were also woven into the program — yoga and meditation sessions were on offer along with plant-based menus and reusable water bottles from Austin-based YETI. Partner Encore assisted with ensuring the program was accessible to all, using AI technology for text captioning and offering headsets for audio support during sessions. “Visit Austin, Fifth Street, and the Fairmont Austin were valuable partners in making this happen,” Wills said.

When asked if she recommends Austin to other event professionals, Wills responds with an emphatic yes. “Austin feels unique, authentic, welcoming and fun,” she said. “It has everything you need in a ‘big city’ to host a conference — but with local flair.”

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