7 Ways to Deliver a Better Attendee Experience at Coastal Meetings

A group of five attendees takes a break from their coastal meeting to stroll down the beach without shoes.

Skift Take

Coastal destinations offer the perfect blend of business and leisure for an enhanced event experience, as exemplified by Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods, a coastal area in Southwest Florida ready to take your meetings and events to the next level.

This content was created collaboratively by Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

A beach destination can go a long way to adding an element of leisure appeal to any meeting or business event, but what can planners do to make the most of the surrounding natural splendor?

In a destination that combines miles of white-sand beaches with cultural attractions, nature preserves, and a thriving outdoor activity scene, it’s possible to give attendees the best of all worlds. The Fort Myers area, located on Florida’s west coast about 100 miles south of Tampa, checks all of the boxes.

Drawing from this exceptional setting, here are seven strategies for making the most of the surrounding natural beauty and maximizing the attendee experience at a coastal business event.

1. Bring Waterfront Views to the Event

One of the most obvious benefits of a coastal destination is the ability to utilize both indoor meeting rooms and outdoor areas with views of the water. Waterfront views immediately elevate any event, adding an element of luxury and relaxation.

There is no lack of waterfront vistas in the greater Fort Myers area, which is conveniently located just a few minutes from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). It has over 100 islands and 50 miles of white-sand beaches along 590 miles of shoreline.

The wide variety of meeting venues — totaling over 222,000 square feet of meeting space — includes the Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater, which sits in the heart of downtown Fort Myers on the shores of the Caloosahatchee River.

Remodeled in 2020, the convention center has 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and its Caloosa Ballroom can accommodate up to 3,000 attendees. It is adjacent to the Luminary Hotel for easy guest access and has an outdoor amphitheater with lovely riverfront views.

Five meeting attendees sit around a table in lounge seating on a rooftop patio with views of the ocean in the background. They are clinking their drinks in a "cheers."
Meeting attendees enjoy a meal at the Luminary Hotel.

Smaller events don’t have to sacrifice an azure backdrop; other shorefront venues in the Fort Myers area include:

2. Immersive Experiences in Natural Settings

Immersive experiences have become ubiquitous at events, but you don’t need cutting-edge technology to provide the ultimate level of attendee engagement — especially at coastal meetings. In a location like the Fort Myers area, you can encourage attendees to disconnect from technology and immerse themselves instead in stunning natural surroundings for unforgettable experiences.

Take the Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, for example, which is the second-largest preserved green space in Cape Coral. This wetland area has extensive walking trails as well as seasonal kayak rentals — both great options to wade quietly through the scenery for optimal wildlife sightings and bird-watching.

For adventurous groups, Kayak Excursions offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals as well as guided tours, providing a unique opportunity to observe manatees in their natural habitat. The tours depart from Bunche Beach, but they will also deliver rentals to a custom location.

Another stunning natural setting can be found at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a 7,600-acre wildlife refuge on Sanibel Island named after cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling. Lying just south of Fort Myers, the refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the U.S. and is home to 245 bird species.

Two large birds with teardrop-shaped bills, white necks, and pink wings stand in a shallow pool of green water.
Roseate Spoonbills at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

3. Take Cruises to the Next Level

In an area surrounded by water, it makes sense to venture beyond the shoreline and allow your attendees to explore the surroundings by boat. Not only are cruises great experiences in and of themselves, but they also allow you to visit areas inaccessible by land.

Tropic Star of Pine Island offers a variety of on-the-water adventures from Pineland Marina on Pine Island — whether it’s a sunset cruise on the harbor, a nature cruise, or a day trip to a nearby island, there’s something for every group. The two-hour narrated nature cruise will take participants around Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor looking for dolphins, manatees, and aquatic birds. All the while, the captain shares insights into the local ecosystem, mangrove islands, and the history of the area.

To add a bit of local color to your coastal meeting, attendees can even hop aboard a cruise to Cabbage Key for lunch at the famous Cabbage Key Inn. Its Dollar Bill bar gives a new meaning to expensive decor: Around $70,000 worth of dollar bills cover the walls and ceiling, many with signatures of past guests.

Approximately 30 inner guests sit around multiple tables inside the Dollar Bill Bar, a character-filled pitstop that will add whimsy to any coastal meeting.
Add a quirky touch of fun to your coastal meeting with a visit to the Dollar Bill Bar in Cabbage Key.

4. Turn Outdoor Activities Into a Give-Back Opportunity

Weaving corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives into events has never been more important, and coastal meetings are no exception. One of the best ways to generate a sense of meaningful contribution is through a hands-on activity that gets attendees involved. There are few more fulfilling experiences for attendees than leaving the destination better off than they found it, whether it be through giving back to the local community or restoring the surrounding ecosystems.

Reach out to local charities and organizations to see where you might have the most impact, and choose an activity that most aligns with your event’s goals and attendees’ interests. If the activity can generate a deeper sense of connection to the region’s unique landscapes, all the better.

As a prime example, there are few CSR activities more suited to coastal meetings than a beach clean-up, and Fort Myers presents multiple options. Attendees can volunteer at the Estero Bay Preserve State Park to help remove marine debris, monitor seagrasses, and test water quality. Similarly, Keep Lee County Beautiful offers guided beach clean-ups that incorporate teachings about the marine ecosystem.

Mangrove restoration offers another way to preserve the beauty of the coast: Founded in Fort Myers, MANG is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to restoring mangrove ecosystems. Groups visiting Fort Myers can work with MANG to organize tree-planting outings throughout the area. Those with a green thumb may also enjoy an activity facilitated by ECHO Global Farm. In keeping with the organization’s mission to support small farms worldwide, teams can sort and prepare seeds, plant or harvest a garden, or work to nurture a growing crop.

Help restore mangrove forests through opportunities with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

For those who prefer working indoors while enjoying a view of the great wide open, the Harry Chapin Food Bank can help to organize and deliver food-packing kits that can later be shared with families in need.

5. Incorporate Memorable Team Building Activities Into Coastal Meetings

Selecting a coastal destination like Fort Myers’ islands, beaches and neighborhoods for your event allows you to choose from an array of activities for memorable team-building experiences. Consider canvasing your attendees ahead of time to gauge their interest in all the possibilities on offer — both on land and at sea.

Sailing and Fishing

Options for on-the-water activities include sailing lessons from Offshore Sailing, which departs from Fort Myers Beach and Captiva Island, another favorite in the Fort Myers area. The sailing school offers different lesson options, all taught by U.S. Sailing-certified instructors, with no sailing experience required.

Another option is a fishing excursion — Boca Grande Pass is known as the “Tarpon Capital of the World,” but the region is ideal for multiple kinds of fishing, including inshore, offshore, and freshwater. Groups may organize fishing charters through Endless Summer Charters, and fishing tournaments can also be arranged for groups of up to 200.


Alternatively, groups may choose to remain on land and take advantage of the almost 50 golf courses in the greater Fort Myers area. The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa is an ideal venue for groups interested in golfing (and other sports like tennis and pickleball), with two renowned golf courses nearby: the newly renovated Saltleaf Golf Preserve (formerly Raptor Bay Golf Club) and the Spanish Wells Golf & Country Club.

Four golf balls are teed up in a line on the grass, with four golfers and multiple palm trees visible in the sun-drenched background.

Staying at the Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande gives guests access to the beautiful Gasparilla Golf Club, while public courses like the Coral Oaks Golf Course and the Fort Myers Country Club Golf Course allow groups to easily book tee times.

For a different kind of golf team-building experience, groups can book an event at Topgolf Fort Myers. Topgolf has become increasingly popular in recent years, with some likening it to bowling — except for golf. Groups can enjoy food and drinks while practicing their drives.

6. Take Mindfulness to the Beach

Mindfulness and relaxation activities have become non-negotiables at events, and there are many ways they can be worked into a Fort Myers meeting or event. Waterfront yoga lessons are perfect to get attendees moving first thing in the morning in a serene setting. They can be organized through Fort Myers Beach Yoga or through Edison and Ford Winter Estates, which offers yoga by the river.

Shell collecting and beach combing are other low-key activities that encourage attendees to meander along the beautiful shorelines, appreciate the nature around them, and try their hand at the “Sanibel Stoop“!

The Fort Myers region is home to more shell varieties than any other destination in North America — the only U.S. museum dedicated solely to shells, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, can be found on Sanibel. To help preserve this bounty for future generations and protect the natural ecosystem, the destination has banned collecting live shells, but visitors are free to collect empty shells as keepsakes.

A close-up shot of multiple seashells covering the beach in Fort Myers, Florida, the perfect location for a coastal meeting.

It’s also important to design wellness elements with intention and ensure they permeate all aspects of the event. Morning yoga or collecting seashells is a great start, but follow up with other things that show you prioritize attendee wellness. For example, plan for sufficient breaks for attendees to recharge throughout the day, design the schedule to ensure that they can get enough sleep, and offer menu options that are healthy and energizing.

7. Find a Destination Partner That Supports Creative Planning

As event planners face growing budget pressures and shorter lead times, it’s essential to work with an exceptional destination partner ready to share local knowledge. They can not only help arrange extracurricular activities, but free up time in the process.

Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods is your ideal partner in the Fort Myers area. Their team is always ready to help find the best meeting space and activities for your group. Services provided include:

  • Site selection and inspection assistance
  • A meeting planner toolkit with image galleries, B-roll footage, and a social media toolkit that can be used to promote your event
  • Creation of a free custom conference webpage
  • Onsite registration assistance courtesy of trained volunteer tourism ambassadors
  • Complimentary welcome bags and maps of what to see and do in the area

New meetings looking to book business anytime in May through December can also take advantage of the Island Incentive Offer to receive a $3 rebate per room, up to $5,000 total.

For more information and to start planning your next event or coastal meeting, visit

This content was created collaboratively by Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.