Quick Tips: Smaller Cities, Big Returns

Big airports. Big arenas. Big hotels. Big convention centers. Big cost.

Bigger (excepting what they say about Texas!) may not always
be better.

So while attendees might be wowed at the idea of New York, Chicago or San Francisco – and surely these cities do have their charms – in the case of meetings, it’s results that counts. Were members engaged? Did they make connections? Did they learn? Moreover, did they leave feeling as though the event had real value?

Smaller cities, those we’d place in Tier 2 or 3, can be just as, if not more, effective in helping you check all the boxes while affording planners a host of benefits – including affordability!

It’s the economy, planner! Let’s start there. Smaller cities are, in the vast majority of cases, more affordable, which means more meeting bang for your buck all across the board. Not to mention wide-open spaces. We’re not talking Great Plains here, we mean meeting space. Why elbow folks out of your way in places like Las Vegas when there’s a plethora of meeting space available for bookings in less competitive, less crowded markets where you’ll have far more power at the negotiating table, because your business matters.

Feeling wanted. Don’t you want to feel wanted? If your event falls short of big-city numbers in a place like Miami, you can be a bigger fish in an alternative like Jacksonville! Jacksonville (particularly in summertime) has its own version of glittering Atlantic shoreline – not to mention urban redevelopment, an expanding culinary scene and beautiful green spaces – along with a unique brand of Floridian southern hospitality. Smaller cities want to be a part of your event, and planners feel that appreciation, building relationships that last while affording attendees an experience that’s often unexpected and unique.

Smaller means singular – and successful. Of course, big cities have their own distinct personalities, but so, too, do small and mid-size towns where – quite frankly – cosmopolitan culture has been steadily migrating because they are havens for growth! The artists, artisans and businesses fighting for affordable spaces have been heading to smaller cities in droves – upping the culture antes of these towns while enjoying affordable overhead and residents that are delighted to have them. And business follows business. Smaller cities are where opportunity beckons, so where better to find a destination that aligns with your organization’s goals?

Tech Smart

Technology is not cheap. And if your organization is a little behind the times where tech is concerned, budget may well be the reason. Building new functions and overhauling old ones are expensive undertakings, and worries about how soon the new tech will become obsolete are valid. So where, wonder association execs, should the smart money go?

Talk to members. Be discriminating. There are lots of fun bells and whistles to be had, but you don’t need them all, and most members won’t care – they just want functionality and ease. Poll them to find out what they’re looking for when they hit up the site. What do they like? What do they avoid? Collect this information before you make any changes.

Stick with the proven. Developers make cool things, that’s undeniable. But don’t be seduced by the latest and greatest. Instead, go with up-to-date tools that aren’t so new they’ve not been properly vetted by the masses. Find colleagues at other associations whose organizations have recently undergone upgrades. Ask what they love and what they’d do differently and navigate their site – especially any e-commerce functions! – to see if you find the process clean, clear
and easy.

It’s not members-only. While member experience should always be top-of-mind, don’t forget about the back of the house. That means the site – and everything that makes it tick behind the digital curtain – needs to be just as user-friendly for the staff. Make all the functions (put an emphasis on content creation!) as intuitive as possible to ensure rapid and successful dissemination to membership. The easier the system, the sharper the learning curve, keeping training – and cost – at
a minimum!

Author Amy Drew Thompson is a professional lifestyle and travel writer.
Photo credit: ©

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