How to Create an Authentic Meeting in Colorado
By Beth Buehler
Today’s meeting attendees desire local experiences that truly reflect the destination. No longer can you rinse and repeat and keep an agenda nearly identical from year to year. Destination Colorado Meetings has perfected the art of keeping it fresh by rotating the location of its annual Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) and working with destination marketing organizations to plug into venues and activities that help tell the story of their communities.
This year’s CAE was held in Colorado’s second largest city, Colorado Springs, on Sept. 28-29. “Colorado Springs rolled out the red carpet for an amazing group of planners. The welcome dinner at the Flying W Ranch was authentic Colorado western, The Broadmoor delivered a five-star experience for all, and everyone was able to enjoy some fun activities followed by a fantastic lunch at the inspiring U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum,” says Brady Johnson, director of sales and marketing for C Lazy U Ranch in Granby and president of the Destination Colorado Meetings Board of Directors.
“I heard nothing but positive and raving responses from both planners and suppliers and some even said it was the best Customer Appreciation Event to date,” he adds.
Using this gathering as an example, here are seven tips regarding how to create an authentic meeting in Colorado that provides return on investment and keeps attendees coming back for more.
Seek Ideas from the Local Destination Marketing Organization – Visit Colorado Springs assisted with the planning of this year’s Customer Appreciation Event. Destination Colorado Meetings makes it a point to work with the local destination marketing organization (DMO) wherever it hosts the CAE. Since the event began shifting away from being a golf outing starting in 2015, it has been held in places such as Aspen, Denver, Estes Park, Fort Collins and Grand County. In Estes Park, there was a photography scavenger hunt while exploring the outdoors, and in Fort Collins, the closing luncheon was held at Colorado State University’s Canvas Stadium with a group photo taken on the field.
Select a Unique Host Property – Help set the stage by choosing a base camp that is truly distinct to the community, meaning you can’t find a carbon-copy hotel or resort like it anywhere else. The Broadmoor, the longest running Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond property in the world, has been attracting guests to Colorado Springs since opening 1918. It’s a place people seek to visit, and a meeting or event invite to this location is noticed. Property tours of the spacious grounds and facilities led by the sales team were available upon arrival on Thursday afternoon.
Capture the Culture – Members of Destination Colorado Meetings and their planner guests were treated to an evening at the Flying W Ranch, which dates to 1953. Nestled in the foothills of Pikes Peak, the ranch encompasses towering red-rock formations similar to those found in the neighboring Garden of the Gods. The CAE welcome event included cocktails, appetizers, a western dinner, a rodeo, and a musical performance by the world-renowned Flying W Wranglers.
Provide Opportunities to Network – After experiencing Flying W Ranch, attendees had more time to connect at Play, The Broadmoor’s lounge and bowling alley. Shuffleboard, pool and foosball also keep the interaction light and lively at Play. And who doesn’t like milkshakes, including the adult kind?
Offer a Menu of Local Activities – In conjunction with creating an authentic meeting in Colorado, come up with fun ways to embrace what the destination has to offer. On Friday morning, CAE participants could choose between a guided hike and falconry at The Broadmoor Seven Falls; a jeep tour; a downtown food, history and art walking tour; curling and a tour of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum (USOPM); and a watercolor art class held at the museum. All activity groups met back at USOPM for a farewell luncheon.
Work with Trusted Suppliers – Ask the local DMO and host hotel property for a list of suppliers that are experienced working with events. Not only will this help the event go off without a hitch, but the businesses will appreciate the opportunity and exposure to a wide range of people. In this case, Destination Colorado Meetings sought the expertise of one of its members for transportation, Colorado-based Hermes Worldwide.
Consider Gift Choices – If gifts are part of the mix, something made in the community is a nice way to send attendees home with something to savor and perhaps share as an authentic meeting gift. I’ve enjoyed receiving local honey, jams, coffee, tea, beer, wine, chocolates, pottery mugs and clothing items made by companies located in a host destination. Destination Colorado Meetings gave the participating meeting and event planners painted wine glasses and custom cookies that were created in Colorado Springs. Planners also received a tin filled with Patsy’s Original Candies butter almond toffee, smoked almonds and cashews from The Broadmoor and an assortment of craft soaps made by Rocky Mountain Soap Market, both located in Colorado Springs.
“I brought a new client that we worked with over the summer, as The Broadmoor would be a perfect destination for future events,” says Sara Lawrason, senior program director for Operation Altitude, a destination management company based in the Vail Valley. “We were able to knock out contracts for both 2024 and 2025, and there were so many great networking opportunities. I loved that I was able to introduce lots of hotel options and vendors to my guest in such an intimate setting.”
The bottom line is that paying attention to the authenticity of an event pays big dividends in regard to attendee satisfaction, gives a nod to what makes a destination special, and makes planning a gathering fun and rewarding.
Top Photo: By Jesse Pacheco, Lucky Stars Film
Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 18 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and was on the team that introduced Southwest Meetings + Events this summer. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.