Venue Choice: First and Most Important Factor in Coordinating a Meeting
By Andy Dolce Founder, Chairman & Managing Partner, Dolce International | October 2008
In the early years in this industry, corporate meetings and conferences were stodgy affairs with limited options in terms of location and capability. Although sites offered room accommodations for large groups, guests had only two choices on the dinner menu. Meeting equipment consisted of an easel and a slide projector, and too frequently, there was a coffee hour that offered more varieties of sweeteners than beverages.
Clearly we have come light years when it comes to the depth and variety we offer meeting planners in our meetings, but it is the choice of venues - the meeting site or destination - that has truly made a big impact on the industry. In fact, the excitement, anticipation and expectations that surround a conference are completely contingent on the venue choice. Meeting planners live by this truth. Venue, some might argue, is perhaps even more important than the very content of the conference. If the setting is a distraction, or the center ill-equipped for the agenda, the conference goals simply cannot be met. This is why meeting planners spend so much time deliberating on the property, as much as they would on planning their conference agenda. The right venue doesn't just enhance the meeting; it sets the tone for the entire event, contributes to overall productivity, and leaves attendees satisfied with their worthwhile experience. It is hardly an overstatement to say that venue determines the meeting's success.
A meeting planner must pick their client's venue based on flexibility and comfort, criteria that are inherent in conference centers. Although conference centers are ideal places to accommodate small to mid-sized meetings, not all conference centers are created equal, nor do they necessarily serve the same needs. Conference center companies represent a variety of facilities, including executive, resort, universities hotels, and corporate learning centers. (Meeting planners can also consider convention centers if there group is large.) Furthermore, these different types of sites can be found in various urban, suburban, resort and college settings.
Although it sounds confusing, selecting a site can actually be easy once you identify your conference objectives. While flexibility and comfort are mainstays for choosing a venue, each client also has a unique set of priorities such as cost, availability, cutting edge technology, ultra-modern resort facilities, food and beverage, destination, safety, and seclusion.
Meanwhile, meeting planners are aggressively courted by the thousands of hotel facilities that bill themselves out as meeting centers, but come up short in every respect of the definition of a true "conference center". Meeting planners must decide if they will choose from the more than 300 members of the International Association of Conference Centers, truly experienced in coordinating the details for more specialized meetings. It's important for conference planners to realize that more than half the space of an IACC-certified venue is devoted to conference space separate from the leisure areas. Why is this important? For starters, it guarantees clients' business can be conducted in environs ideally suited for it. It means they literally own that area of real estate for the duration of the conference, space where their guests can mingle with each other, minus the distractions of the property's other guests. Consider it a quasi-headquarters for a company-only better because it's a welcome change of scenery.
The conference center philosophy is based on flexibility; not only in our means of executing an array of themed events, but also in our flexibility and collaboration with our clients with pricing plans. Companies trust that when they come to a certified conference center, they won't be socked with hidden fees and surcharges, but will enjoy the highest quality event at the right price. Indeed, most hotel competitors excel at the "add-on charge", which when added up weigh heavily on the per person cost of a meeting. On the other hand, our ability to offer flexible pricing plans within the Complete Meeting Package (the conference center's industry standard pricing plan) results in no surprise costs and easy per person calculations.