When you take your big event to a new city, yes, you have business to tend to and objectives to achieve, but you also have an opportunity to help your members get to know an exciting, engaging destination. Sounds easy, right? Not always. While the business goals of your attendees may be similar, their predilections and preferences for leisure activities are likely far more varied. Read on for a sampling of how to fill your attendees’ time, not kill it.
Not every destination boasts a smashing setting for outdoor pursuits, but everyone’s gotta eat! Creating events around your city’s food scene is something that just about everyone can get onboard with. Consider something with multiple courses or small plates for tasting, something led by a chef or bartender that allows for education along with the fun and offers built-in time for networking while noshing. Ideas: fun food/beverage pairings, cocktail or coffee classes, food hall explorations or a walking tour that’s a foodie’s version of a pub crawl.
A Night (or Day) at the Museum
There’s no shortage of beautiful museums – art, history, science – all across the country, and many of them have space for your meeting – plus phenomenal exhibits for attendees to enjoy as they mix, mingle, wine and dine. Or level up with something a little experimental. Museums are often beautiful settings for a performance by a local or national act – soul singer to cirque troupe, they’re ideal for lectures – which can be about the collection, a specific artist or scientists, or even something different that ties art, science or whatever the venue’s subject matter is to the goals of your meetings. Of course, a behind-the-scenes tour that shows guests something they won’t see with regular admission is always an exciting prospect, as well.
A Market Fair
Even the least enthusiastic shopper can find something to search for at a fabulous farmer’s market or indie craft/artist fair – whether it’s a smashing piece of art for their office or a nice gift for an admin, significant other, child or friend back home. Does your destination have one? The farmer’s market could tie into that aforementioned foodie culture, highlighting the farm-to-table or raw food movements, for example, and feature a relevant speaker, such as a local chef, market coordinator or farmer. Tie in an outdoor tasting or coffee break to whet their appetites, then turn them loose for some free time to peruse.
On a Budget?
All associations are.
And as it comes time to look forward and plan for the upcoming fiscal year, there are a number of things all organizations should assess to make sure its pockets are deep enough not only for what’s already on the calendar, but the unexpected, as well.
Go quarterly. Your budget isn’t something to be looked at just once a year. Review often and make it a dynamic, flexible process. Set ranges instead of hard numbers so you don’t end up with less in the coffers when it comes time to plan an event or make an investment.
Be inclusive. Budgeting isn’t just for your finance team. Creating a committee that pulls from all the association’s arms can be a great way to ensure even representation and encourage interdepartmental transparency that extends out to the membership, who may prove to be the most valuable voices of all. They are on the front lines of the industry and see which way the wind is currently blowing.
Estimate wisely. Costs and revenue are key, but it’s important to broaden your scope. Narrow visions that only include planned expenditures can put your organization on a treadmill that walks the same circuit every year without leaving room for expansion into new realms when it comes to programs and services. Look critically at what your members enjoy most and where you saw the best return on investment, and then leave room to grow, improve, innovate!
Author Amy Drew Thompson is a travel and hospitality writer.
Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/Steve Debenport