On-Site Visits Worth the Effort when Planning Meetings and Events

By Beth Buehler

Whether I’m visiting destinations, checking out venues or taking part in activities to help plan a meeting or event or to develop content for Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings, there is nothing like having your feet on the ground and actually experiencing the place and people. As a case in point I’ll utilize Destination Colorado’s annual Customer Appreciation Event that was held in Fort Collins on Oct. 24 – 25.

The Destination Colorado mountain biking crew surrounded by Fort Collins’ beautiful landscape.

Destination site visit example

Not only do I like how this fall outing showcased unique options in a great Colorado community, it connected suppliers with meeting and event planners in person, which is always the best way. Destination Colorado members could invite current and prospective clients to the gathering, and it was readily apparent that the planners enjoyed interacting with each other as well.

First up was a casual “Tasters and Tours” welcome event at New Belgium Brewing Company, one of the best-known craft brewers in the United States. Check-in at the host hotel, The Elizabeth Hotel, in Old Town was spiced up with registration held in the Magic Rat Music Lounge next to the front desk complete with welcome drinks and property tours.

The group was shuttled by Hermes Worldwide throughout the two days, including The Preserve at Bingham Hill, an event venue located in the countryside northwest of Fort Collins, for cocktails and dinner. The 4,500-square-foot event center was an ideal location with community tables stretching the length of the room, live music, appetizer and dessert stations, and a “jean bar” provided by the International Gifting Company for meeting planner guests to get fitted for a pair of jeans or a jean jacket.

Farm-to-table dinner seating for Destination Colorado guests at The Preserve at Bingham Hill.

The guest chef for the evening was from The Regional, a local restaurant that buys ingredients from Colorado suppliers to cook homegrown comfort food.

Fresh ingredients turned into delicious cuisine prepared by The Regional, a Fort Collins restaurant.

After breakfast and tours at Hilton Fort Collins, planners and their hosts could choose from fly fishing, mountain biking, a beer and bike tour, foodie walk, and an Old Town history tour that also featured a stop at the Museum of Discovery. Keeping in step with the fall football season, the appreciation event wrapped up with lunch and a field goal kicking contest at Colorado State University’s fairly new Canvas Stadium. Attendees were sent off with some sweet love in the form of beloved FoCoDoCo Donuts.

Fly-fishing excursion.

How a golf tournament turned into something more

For many years, Destination Colorado’s customer appreciation event was a golf outing, with alternative activities like an Iron Chef-style competition and Amazing Race being added for non-golfers in 2013 and 2014. The organization took a big leap by eliminating golf to focus more on the host destination’s venues and distinct experiences like a national park photo safari in Estes Park in 2015 and “Get Your Cowboy On” in Grand County for 2016. Next, it was a 2017 Beatles tribute concert at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, just west of Denver, with a reception on-site that featured plenty of costumes, a photo booth, and tasty food and drink.

In 2018, in tandem with Destination Colorado’s 25thanniversary, the event was held at Hotel Talisa Vail (recently rebranded as Grand Hyatt Vail) with an opening reception on-site that included s’mores around patio fire pits, breakfast at The Arrabelle, and on-mountain activities such as riding the alpine coaster, tubing, hiking and dining at Eagle’s Nest.

If you are a meeting or event planner, take the time for site visits to see places you might consider in the near future or down the road. If you are a supplier or a destination, exposing planners to hotels, venues services and activities that excel might just land you new clients!

Photos: Courtesy of Visit Fort Collins/Richard Haro

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.