As first appeared in the Nashville Business Journal on August 1, 2014: http://assets.bizjournals.com/nashville/feature/help-desk/2014/08/five-things-to-think-about-when-choosing-your-next.html.
As Dallas found out earlier this month when it lost the bid for the 2016 Republican National Convention to Cleveland — location is everything.
Organizers said they picked Cleveland not only for its financing commitment and location in a battleground state, but because of its convenient transportation, hotel options, and general availability.
Whether your organization is hosting an event the size of the upcoming convention, or a small gathering of your sales team, these factors should be considered:
- Logistics: It’s the simplest things that can sometimes make all the difference — and are the easiest to overlook. Can the space handle your practical needs? For example, does the facility have enough seating? Is there modern decor? Is there an outdoor area to walk around? How about catering? If you really want to kick it up a notch, ask for a picture of the chairs (do they look comfortable?) and find out what brand of coffee they provide. And of course, check the proximity of the event space to the hotel where your guests will be staying — the closer the better.
- Technology: Most places nowadays provide Wi-Fi. Is there a limit to how many users can be logged on? Make sure there is no additional equipment you’ll need to bring or rent. Will your keynote speaker need anything for his/her presentation? Will you be using Skype to include out-of-towners? You’ll need to make sure the event space has the multimedia components you need, as well as someone there to make sure that it all runs smoothly. If you plan on live-tweeting the meeting, you might want to see if they can handle a separate projector screen (more on that here).
- Entertainment: Will it be easy for your guests to have a good time after business hours? Having activities such as shopping, golf and restaurants nearby make the conference more attractive to your attendees. Check for nearby arenas — any professional sports or concerts happening while you’re there? A ticket giveaway or contest could also build excitement and motivation during your event. If your attendees bring family, check for children’s activities and museums, and include that in your communication. And of course, give your attendees time to see the sights! If you’re going to the trouble of bringing everyone to an interesting spot, allow for free time in the schedule.
- Weather/Time of Year: Chicago is a great place for a conference… when it’s not January. Likewise, Cleveland might not have edged out Dallas for the RNC convention if the event wasn’t held in the summer. Just as it can be challenging to find a hotel or a rental car in Nashville during the CMA Festival every June, other cities have their own events to consider, or even other meetings and conferences that may compete with your needs.
- Strategic Thinking: No Republican candidate has ever won the national election without carrying Ohio, making it a strategic choice for the GOP event. If you’re going through all the effort to set up an out-of-town meeting, put yourself in the shoes of the people you’ll be inviting. To a client based in Wisconsin or Indiana, Chicago might not pack the same punch as Las Vegas or Miami … or Nashville! (Click here to read more on the advantages to keeping your conference close to home.)
Olivia Tomlin is the vice president of development and operations at Envision Conference Center in Brentwood, Tenn.