Planning a Major Colorado Business Event

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Planning a Major Colorado Business Event 

By Beth Buehler


While attending the 24th annual Meetings Industry Council of Colorado Educational Conference and Trade Show in Denver, I was reminded of what happens behind the scenes when you plan a major Colorado business event or large gathering in any state. With 974 registrants, a large trade show area, multiple keynotes and breakout sessions and more, the council and its conference managers Kinsley Meetings pulled off a great event.


At the conference, I crossed paths with Stephanie Sadri, CMP, the Colorado-based director of meetings and events for the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) based in Virginia. A few weeks ago, I connected with Deb Brannon, owner of Altitude Events in Golden, who was visiting Crested Butte on a site visit for the 2024 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference (Gov Con). I’ve volunteered on the on-site planning team for Gov Con every year since it was last held in Crested Butte in 2015.


Both women serve on Destination Colorado Meetings’ planner panel and shared their insights about how to plan a major Colorado business event.

Gov Con 2023 opening reception at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, photo by Richard Haro

Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference

Brannon has planned meetings for 400 to 500-plus attendees all over Colorado. “It is truly a wonderful destination for meetings and events due to the diversity of options,” she says. “From charming mountain towns to more metropolitan cities, Colorado has something for everyone not to mention fantastic options for outdoor activities and scenery!”


She has been the contract meeting planner and worked alongside Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) staff to make Gov Con a reality for the past 10 years. The location of the gathering changes every year and during her tenure has included Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Denver, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Pueblo, Snowmass and Vail. This year, the event will be held Sept. 25-27 at Elevation Hotel and Lodge at Mountaineer Square in Mt. Crested Butte.


“The attendees love Colorado and rotating Gov Con throughout the state,” Brannon says. “We plan the conference in the fall. The weather this time of year is stunning and the fall foliage gorgeous.”

Volunteer trail cleanup project during Gov Con 2023 in Fort Collins, photo by Beth Buehler

While changing destinations annually can be tricky, Brannon and the CTO team work closely with local destination marketing organizations to find the perfect off-site venues, seek memorable adventures for attendees, and source local talent. Brannon emphasizes. “From the hidden gems and fantastic outdoor recreation to craft breweries and wildflowers, there is something for everyone in Colorado.”


Brannon also attends Destination Colorado Meetings’ annual Colorado Meetings Showcase in December to learn about new venues, hotels and suppliers and visits the association’s website for more detailed information.


When planning a major Colorado business event, she recommends tapping into the temperate climate and stunning landscapes throughout the state. “Every meeting or event I plan in Colorado, I always try to incorporate being outdoors. We have great weather in Colorado, so enjoy an outdoor breakout session or host a yoga class at the base of a mountain or a guided hike to explore the beauty of Colorado,” she suggests.

CTO Director Tim Wolfe presenting at Gov Con, photo by Deb Brannon

ACSA Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show 

Downtown Denver was the epicenter of the American Craft Spirits Association’s 11th annual convention on Feb. 25-27, with the Colorado Convention Center and Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center serving as the host venue and hotel. The convention attracted more than 1,300 registrants and 160 exhibitors. “This event marked a record-breaking turnout for us, showcasing remarkable growth we haven’t seen since pre-pandemic,” Sadri notes.


The annual convention has been held in various cities, including Portland, New Orleans, Louisville, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Austin, Chicago and Nashville. While the gathering was initially held in hotels, it began transitioning to convention centers in 2021 due to the expanding footprint.

ACSA trade show at Colorado Convention Center, photo by All Digital Photo & Video

The selection of Colorado for the 2024 convention was driven by several factors. “Foremost among these was accessibility, coupled with a grant available at the time. Additionally, Colorado boasts a sizable membership base for our organization, so it was advantageous to convene in a location with a robust contingent of members,” she says. “Plus, we seek out a destination that inherently excites attendees, and Colorado fit the bill perfectly. We like a destination where we can really lean into the culture, uniqueness and experiences.”


Attendee excitement about convening in Colorado helped drive participation. “They loved that Colorado was easy to get to, and there was so much to do while they were here. The Denver downtown area made it easy for them to do dinner and drinks, and some came in early or stayed late to enjoy the mountains,” Sadri says.

STEPUP graduation during 2024 ACSA Convention and Vendor Trade Show, photo by All Digital Photo & Video

As the meeting planner, Sadri benefitted from being a local but still relied on her personal and professional network and the VISIT DENVER team to find out the hippest and newest places for off-site events such as Globe Hall in the RiNo Art District for a closing party featuring local musician Casey Prestwood. Local distilleries also played an important role. Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse was the location for a PAC reception, and The Family Jones Spirit House hosted STEPUP graduation. STEPUP is a diversity initiative launched by ASCA in 2021 that aims to provide underserved and underrepresented individuals with training, encouragement and opportunities to enter the craft spirits community.


Colorado and its capitol city were ideal for both for the convention and the association’s 10th annual American Craft Spirits Competition that was judged at Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse in January. “Denver was a great location for our events due to its abundance of excellent venues, hotels, accommodations and activities,” Sadri confirms. “Regardless of where you venture within the state, Colorado exudes a readiness to host.”


When planning a major Colorado business event, she recommends “managing attendee expectations regarding travel times, particularly for activities like skiing, which may require more time than anticipated due to distances to mountain towns. Also, I could not emphasize the importance of acclimatizing to the altitude enough. I made sure we provided ample hydration resources and had a few extra ChapSticks on hand,” she says. “I also encouraged people to come in a day early if needed and to take it easy.”


She also recommends being transparent regarding public transportation as some attendees may have expectations shaped by experiences in larger metropolitan areas.


Like Brannon, Sadri utilizes Destination Colorado Meetings for discovering potential partners, gaining insights, and staying current with industry trends and best practices. She says, “Access to insider information through the website, including partner listings, tips and blogs, has bolstered my expertise and credibility within our organization, fostering trust in my decision-making and recommendations.”


Top Photo: Award recipients at the ACSA Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, photo by All Digital Photo & Video


Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 19 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and was on the team that introduced Southwest Meetings + Events. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.