Fresh ideas are essential for keeping attendees truly engaged. What so-called "rules" are made to be broken? Here are five meeting myths that may be holding back your full creative potential.
That’s the way we’ve always done it — it’s a common phrase among meeting planners and event professionals. In many cases, it makes sense: There are valuable guardrails in place that can help provide a framework for your success, such as how to accurately measure an event’s ROI and how to protect your interests in an attrition clause. However, there are plenty of commonly-held beliefs about the way we have always planned events that aren’t actually true. As you look ahead to organizing your next event and picking the perfect host destination, be sure to remember that these five rules don’t actually apply. In fact, these meeting myths may even be limiting your creativity as a planner.
Myth #1: Attendees Can Only See One Season During the Meeting
Reality: Snowball fights and golf swings can happen within a few hours of each other.
Should you pick a host destination where attendees will enjoy the sun-soaked outdoors and you can plan rigorous team-building hikes and rewarding afternoon tee times? Or would your audience prefer the feeling of being at the top of the world with a set of skis and an aprés happy hour by an outdoor fireplace? While the host destination selection process usually involves picking one or the other, you can deliver the summer sun and the winter snow — on the same day. Think about the attendee journey in Flagstaff, Arizona, where you can take a lift to the top of a 6,900-foot mountain to snap a photo. Then, just a few hours later, you can be back near sea level at the first tee at Canyon Course, Meadow Course, or any of the other renowned golf courses in the area. It’s what all of us want: the best of both worlds.
Myth #2: Business Events Require Big-City Backdrops
Reality: Small-town flair can deliver big business impact.
Take a look at any of the typical “best meeting cities” lists, and you’ll see plenty of the usual suspects: Las Vegas, Orlando, and other urban population centers with loads of square footage. Bigger can indeed be better — there’s a reason why major groups like the American Pharmacists Association and the Society of Behavioral Medicine have chosen the Phoenix Convention Center for some of their most important gatherings — but business events can thrive in more intimate environments.
Think about trading square footage statistics and breakout room floor plans for the kind of inspiration that doesn’t need any numbers attached to it. Encourage team bonding with the cozy charm of the private Cosmic Cottages at the High Country Motor Lodge on historic Route 66 in Flagstaff, or the red-rock backdrop of the Enchantment Resort in Sedona. It might require a bit more time in transit, but once they’re there, your attendees will thank you for replacing the noise of the big city with the serenity of a smaller place.
Meeting Myth #3: Face-to-Face Connections Always Need a Wi-Fi Connection
Reality: Sometimes, a break from the screen is the best ingredient for creativity and connection.
What’s the upload speed? How much does the top Wi-Fi package cost? Where should you place beacons throughout the venue to make sure those geo-located sponsor messages show up in the mobile app? The event industry — like every industry — has made high-tech touches a priority as every attendee arrives with multiple devices.
However, events don’t always have to be centered around smartphones. In fact, a lot of your attendees are probably begging for a break from them. Research has shown that a majority of people are looking for non-technology-related activities, and events can provide that much-needed hiatus from the glow of the screen. Consider a morning meditation session, one of the offerings at the L’Auberge de Sedona, or a practitioner-led joyful workshop at CIVANA, a wellness resort and spa located in the aptly-named town of Carefree, Arizona. No matter where you host your next event, think about ways to insert a screen-free segment of the experience.
Meeting Myth #4: You Can’t Have a Networking Celebration Without Cocktails
Reality: You can raise an equally-awesome toast with a mocktail.
How many bars should you have at the evening reception? Where should they be placed throughout the venue to limit the wait time in line? What kind of wine should you serve? While much of the planning for an event’s evening activity focuses on booze, perhaps it’s time to ask a different question: What can you do to appeal to attendees who don’t want to drink?
According to Gallup research, 35 percent of drinking-age Americans don’t ever drink. If one in every three of your attendees doesn’t care about the open bar, it’s time to think about ways to satisfy an alcohol-free appetite. As you plan your next event, work with your venue’s beverage team to develop a signature booze-free cocktail that can appeal to the crowd who wants to stay sober and be fully alert for that 9:00 a.m. general session. If you need some inspiration, just look at some of the best mocktails you can sample around Arizona including tasty options like a serrano chile, pineapple, and passion fruit combination at The W Hotel in Scottsdale and a black tea syrup, pear, and rhubarb bitter medley at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
Myth #5: The VIP Experience Only Happens at Resorts
Reality: Your attendees will love rolling up their sleeves and putting their hands to work in an outdoor adventure.
Waldorf Astoria, Ritz-Carlton, Luxury Collection, Fairmont and more — you’ll find the five-star treatment everywhere you turn in Arizona. However, while the state has a high concentration of the top-notch hotels and resorts you and your attendees know well, luxury doesn’t solely live in those properties. If you want to give your VIPs a different kind of high-end experience, think about introducing them to an environment they won’t find anywhere else. For example, they can go skeet shooting, horseback riding, and ATV cruising at the Rancho de los Cabelleros ranch in Wickenburg. After a full day of being a ranch dude, they can head to the spa and play a round of golf the next day.
It’s not just a ranch experience that can surprise your attendees, either. Make the menu the centerpiece of the experience at Terra Farm + Manor — an immersive farm-to-table retreat that sets a new standard for culinary immersive experiences with renowned-chef-led cooking lessons, farm tours, yoga classes, and guided meditation exercises. Set in the middle of the 1.25-million-acre Prescott National Forest, your attendees will indulge in a new definition of deliciousness.
Want to host an outdoor event activity for your VIP executives, but are unsure about what you need to make it happen? Download our free Planner Checklist for Outdoor Activities and Events to make sure your creative ideas go according to plan. The checklist is the perfect cheat sheet to help you manage outdoor venue logistics, design around the weather, and coordinate supplies and accessories.
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To learn more about how to debunk the meeting myths of the event industry and embrace new opportunities that will inspire your audience, check out the Visit Arizona website.
This content was created collaboratively by the Arizona Office of Tourism and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.