By Beth Buehler
Each year my editorial advisory board for Colorado Meetings + Events magazine gathers to discuss the state of the industry. That, plus what I hear through casual conversations and networking at conferences and read in press releases and industry publications form the basis for the five meeting trends I’ve identified below that are in no particular order. It’s not scientific but simply observation!
Providing unique experiences – Incorporating yoga, mountain biking and other activities to get attendees out of the meeting room, along with options like having happy hour out by a fire pit and incorporating why we live and meet in Colorado is key, suggested Deb Brannon, who plans events for the Colorado Tourism Office. On the incentive side, clients are becoming excited to camp in the mountains in tipis versus staying in five-star hotels. They are excited about rustic and unique, added Deana Mitchell, owner of Realize Planning.
Scheduling multiple events with meetings – It may be an all-day meeting, followed by a preview of a movie and a cocktail hour. Meetings also are becoming interactive. For example, during breaks attendees are looking at exhibits when meeting at museums to have interaction and shared experiences, noted Danny Findley, who worked for History Colorado Center in Denver before recently joining DSC, a destination management company based in the Vail area and with offices in several locations.
Mixing it up with décor – On the corporate side, people are more open to mixing styles and themes with décor strategies. Five years ago, some corporate audiences wouldn’t have considered repurposed wood, shiny/metallic/sparkly touches, etc., shared corporate planner Angela Coleman. Colorado décor companies can help groups plug into current trends that have a local twist incorporated.
Including CSR activities – Another Colorado-based corporate meeting planner, Amy Drotar, has helped organize building libraries and schools for her company’s gatherings and noticed that these types of activities tend to be highly rated by attendees who desire to be involved in the planning and execution of the activity. I recently wrote a feature article on building CSR activities into meetings for the fall/winter 2016 issue of Mountain Meetings. Colorado-based CBST Adventures offers a menu of Community Impact options such as Boot Camp Donation Challenge, Gift of Giving GPS Quest, Trail Maintenance Team Adventure, Built for Need Bicycle Challenge, Community Gardens and Camper Quest. For a holiday party held in Keystone, CBST helped teams from an engineering services company build a 15-hole miniature golf course using nonperishable foods that were later donated to two nonprofits.
Combining beverages & activities – Colorado is becoming quite the producer of microbrews, craft spirits and a wide array of wines. Many destinations and hotels are coming up with neat combinations of how to enjoy local beverages and activities. Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau has created a fun list of five happy hour hikes. In Steamboat Springs, spend the afternoon tubing down the Yampa River bordered by restaurants on Yampa Street that have stairs directly from the river into a backyard or deck for food and drink stops throughout the day.
In Fort Collins, Paddler’s Pub on the grounds of Mountain Whitewater Rafting Company serves local craft beer and wine after a wild day on the Cache La Poudre River. Sand volleyball and yard games keep the fun going, plus there is live music and local food trucks on summer weekends. The Gant, a condominium hotel with a conference center in Aspen, has developed an Elevated Libation tour that runs between Aspen and a partner lodging property in Vail, stopping at microbreweries and distilleries along the way.
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.