7 Things to Consider When Planning a Destination Meeting
By Beth Buehler
After a few years of remoting working and putting the brakes on business travel, it’s high time to get teams out of town and to gather employees from around the country to reconnect, learn, talk strategy, launch new products and recognize top performers.
Planning a destination meeting may be the ideal solution, picking a place where people will be excited about gathering and inspired to take a few days before or after to explore. Colorado is often at the top of groups’ lists for these very reasons.
To get the process rolling, here are seven things to consider when planning a destination meeting.
What is your budget? That is the first question to determine what destinations to consider. Some communities are simply more expensive than others to visit in terms of lodging, venue and food costs for starters. Colorado offers a wide range of price points, and more expensive destinations and resorts often can offer reduced rates during off-peak days or seasons.
How many people will be attending? This is also a key question when considering if a destination has lodging, venues and activities that fit the numbers. Planning a board meeting or executive retreat is a totally different ballgame than a sales meeting for 100 or conference for 2,000. Colorado can host everything from a small team meeting that can happen in a spacious suite or a rustic-chic board room on a ranch to a sales meeting in a conference center overlooking with views of bustling city skylines or active ski slopes.
How will people get there? Give thought to if the destination needs to be in the same state or region where attendees are located so they can drive or if a central location in the United States is desired to fly employees in from across the country. Colorado is in the center of the United States and is home to the world’s third busiest airport, Denver International Airport (DEN), making it easy to fly here. Due to a network of regional airports, it’s also easy to get to other cities like Colorado Springs and Grand Junction and mountain destinations like Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Snowmass, Durango, Gunnison and Crested Butte. Also, Amtrak’s train routes connect Denver, Grand County, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. Or fly everyone into Denver and hire a transportation company to access nearby communities on the Front Range or in the mountains.
What are you looking for in a location? For some groups it’s more about matching the destination to the personality of the company or gathering in more far-flung to places where people haven’t been, versus making easy transportation the number one priority. Do you want easy walkability like that found in downtown Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver; a bit of remoteness yet plenty of luxury like at Gateway Canyons in Gateway or Wine Country Inn in Palisade; or gateways to the mountains and foothills like Golden and Colorado Springs? If you are looking for a total mountain experience, consider Estes Park by Rocky Mountain National Park or a ski town like Breckenridge.
What type of a venue do you want? Colorado is flush with great options, from convention centers and full-service hotels to ranches, renovated barns and outdoor patios, lawns and amphitheaters. Are you seeking luxury, slightly rustic yet comfortable or something in between? Do you need exhibit space, rooms for breakouts, a board room or something casual like a large home or cabin? Thinking about this in advance will help dial in the possibilities. Destination Colorado’s RFP process makes it easy to match your group’s needs with venues and destinations.
Will selecting a bucket-list destination help boost attendee numbers? First and foremost, a destination must work for the business purpose of the meeting. However, enthusiasm for the selected place can be a boost for your team and registration numbers. College towns like Boulder and Fort Collins are always fun and so are destinations with hot springs like Buena Vista, Durango and Glenwood Springs. For some groups, places with mountains are a sure draw, while others prefer cities like Aurora. Site visits are a good way to determine if a destination is a good fit for your group and keep your eyes open to possibilities while traveling for work and fun. Talk to destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and lodging properties about visiting once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few communities.
Need a helping hand? There is no need to do everything alone when many DMOs can provide ideas for venues, lodging, transportation, activities, attractions and more. Larger DMOs often provide various convention services. Local experts also can be in the form of destination management companies that can help plan a meeting or event from start to finish. The meetings and events industry in Colorado is well-connected so don’t be afraid to inquire about caterers, photographers, outfitters, local experiences, speakers and more.
If it’s an annual conference, it can be helpful to announce next year’s destination at the closing session to build excitement and get on peoples’ calendars. Why not be creative and put something that represents the next meeting locale on attendee’s seats or hand out swag on the way out … maybe a colorful bandana for a ranch getaway, branded tees and balls for a golf outing or a blow-up beach ball for a gathering near water.
I hope these seven things to consider when planning a destination meeting have been helpful.
Enjoy selecting the destination, it’s part of the fun and success of bringing people together.
Top Photo: Bravo! Vail concert at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Jack Affleck.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 17 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.