By Beth Buehler
One of the bonuses of planning a destination meeting in a state like Colorado, where people also like to vacation, is that it’s a boon for attendance and the happiness factor of attendees. One of the best things planners can do is utilize the assets of the destination—instead of sequestering meeting goers to a conference center or hotel—and provide options for spouses and significant others who might like to make the journey. We already spend enough work hours away from those we care about and having the option to bring a special someone along can boost the spirits of all involved. Here are some thoughts about what can be offered to engage your meeting attendee’s travel companions, which we can’t always assume will be a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend but could be a grown child, parent or friend.
- During the Day – What to do while attendees are busy learning and going to meetings? No need to jam-pack the schedule for those tagging along, but instead present a few activities to choose from each day and leave time to explore the destination. Offer choices well in advance in order to gauge interest and make adjustments as needed. Look at interest categories like sporty/action, culture, shopping, culinary and history to come up with options. Meeting in downtown Denver? Perhaps offer a bus to Cherry Creek for a full range of choices such as shopping at the mall and the boutique district just across the street, going on a culinary or art gallery tour, enjoying a treatment at one of the spas or biking the 11.2-mile paved trail from downtown’s Confluence Park to Cherry Creek Reservoir.
- Bringing the Whole Group Together – I like how a group meeting in Telluride during the summer and staying at Madeline Hotel and Residences and Peaks Resort and Spa had an outdoor farm-to-table reception on the plaza of the ski area base with regional farmers present and live entertainment. Farm dinners in Delta County on the Western Slope and Boulder, a progressive brewery tour in Fort Collins followed by dinner in Old Town, a golf outing on one of Colorado’s great courses, yoga in the morning before meetings get underway, and hiking and rafting excursions of various adventure levels are all great interactive ways to unite the whole crew.
- Pre- or Post-Meeting Activities – In an article not long ago in Mountain Meetings, it paired cities and mountain towns for examples of gatherings that start out in a larger town and end at higher elevation. It’s not tough to meet in Denver and offer options before or after in fun nearby mountain destinations like Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Vail. Meeting in Colorado Springs? Add on a day or two to fully enjoy all the area has to offer like Garden of the Gods, U.S. Olympic Training Center, Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and more. If the meeting is at The Broadmoor, offer attendees the option of continuing on to the resort’s nearby Emerald Valley Ranch and Cloud Camp. At Cheyenne Mountain Resort, an attendee and his or her guest might want an extra day to play a round of golf or game of tennis, lounge around the pool or go to the spa.
Some destination meetings such as several medical gatherings in Snowmass excel at making significant others feel welcome and included by making it easy to meet up for a few hours on the slopes between meetings and après ski and networking at the base area at the end of the day. The payoff? Attendees and guests that come back year after year and tell their friends and colleagues!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.