From small corporate meetings to massive industry conferences, it’s important that businesses put some strategic planning into where these gatherings are located.
Not only do you want the meeting to be in a place that has enough resources to meet your needs, but here should also be enough amenities to keep attendees occupied during their free time.
What to Look for in a Meeting Destination
When it comes to gathering a few hundred or thousand people together for an annual business conference or important meeting, there obviously needs to be some strategic planning. Chief among the planning responsibilities is choosing where the meeting will take place. Generally speaking, the following four factors will influence the outcome:
- Location. You obviously have to start out with location. Are all of your attendees located in a particular region, state or city? If so, this narrows down your possibilities. If everyone is spread out across the country, then you’ll need to think about which cities are most convenient for the largest number of people.
- Cost. Money is also a significant detail. Depending on your budget, you may have to stick close to home. And if you’re paying travel expenses for attendees, you certainly need to consider destinations that are easily accessible.
- Meeting space. Most large cities have plenty of conference centers and meeting areas, but don’t make any assumptions. It’s smart to inquire about specific accommodations well in advance. The last thing you want to do is choose a destination, only to find out there isn’t any meeting space available.
- Nearby amenities. Finally, think about the nearby amenities. If you want your attendees to have an enjoyable experience, there need to be things to do outside of the structured time.
Depending on the type of meeting you’re hosting, where your attendees are located, and how much time you have, other factors may come into play. However, these four are certainly at or near the top of the checklist.
Keeping things like location, cost, meeting space, and nearby amenities in mind, there are a few destinations that stand out above the rest. Here are a few of the top cities that should be included in your search:
While Austin, the capital of Texas, has always been an influential city within the state, it hasn’t always been a popular travel destination for those outside its borders. However, somewhere over the past couple of decades, something changed. It’s now considered a must-see city.
In terms of conferencing, Austin is ideal because it has more than 300 hotels, a multitude of large conference centers, and one of the lowest crime rates among the country’s largest cities. It also has tons of attractive amenities, including world-class food, trendy shopping districts, and plenty of live music.
2. San Antonio
Just a short drive southwest of Austin lies San Antonio, another favorite destination for businesses looking to host conferences and meetings in lively cities that have character and charm.
“From the Alamo to the river walk, countless outdoor activities to some of the top restaurants and bars in the country, you’ll never run out of things to do in San Antonio,” notes US Storage Centers. The Alamo is obviously the biggest attraction in the city, but there are also plenty of business amenities and world-class conference centers to choose from.
Plus, if any of your attendees are big golfers, there are some renowned courses just begging to be played. These include The Quarry, Alamo Golf Trail, Olympia Hills, and La Cantera.
3. Las Vegas
Don’t count out Las Vegas if you’re looking for a fun and exciting place to host your conference. There are obviously plenty of conference centers, resorts, and hotels available at your disposal, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding accommodations. And, despite what you may assume about this lavish tourist destination, hotels aren’t unreasonably priced. As long as you don’t expect to stay on The Strip, you can get rooms for less than $150 per night.
Outside of the actual conference centers and hotels, there’s certainly a lot for attendees to do during their spare time. Whether they want to spend a few dollars at the slot machines or see a popular show, there’s literally something for everyone.
According to one list of the top 50 meeting destinations in the U.S., Orlando is the number one spot. Outside of New York, it has the most “large hotels” in the country. Most of these hotels come with nice conference rooms and amenities, which cut down on travel and make it easy to efficiently host large groups.
While Orlando isn’t as centralized as many of the other cities on this list, that doesn’t mean there aren’t amenities. There are golf courses, amusement parks, fine dining, and great shopping. Attendees definitely won’t be bored during their time off.
Coming in second on the aforementioned list of the top 50 meeting destinations in the U.S. is Chicago. The Windy City is well-known for its top-notch conference centers and hotel accommodations, but it’s also a favorite because of the many other attractions it offers visitors.
If you want your attendees to have a good time, put together a sample itinerary for them. In addition to the typical touristy things, include some lesser-known (yet equally enjoyable) attractions. From boat rides on Lake Michigan to performances at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, this city offers a little bit of everything. And unlike Orlando, it’s pretty easy to move around the city.
Atlanta has always been a top destination for southeasterners, but it’s now becoming a nationally recognized conference destination for businesses all over the country. The city has some of the top convention hotels and it’s pretty easy to get cheap rates for large groups.
But what really sets Atlanta apart is the fact that it’s so easy to reach. Hartsfield-Jackson Airport connects to just about any city you could possibly arrive from and direct flights are generally an option. However, once you arrive, be aware of the fact that it’s not the easiest city to navigate. Thankfully, there’s a lot of work being done around the city’s center, which makes it much more walkable.
Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the south, Nashville is another top destination. The city has a massive new convention center just a block off Broadway and there’s always a lot to do, no matter the time of day.
You’ll have to book well in advance if you want to host your conference in the Music City, though. Nashville is one of the hottest destinations in the country right now and space fills up quickly. If you’re willing to move a little outside of the city’s center, then there are more flexible options.
Related Article: Ask the Market Experts: Which Conference is Indispensable to You?
Where Will You Go?
There are a lot of really cool business destinations. Many cities are recognizing the importance of attracting conferences and the effort they’re putting into establishing meeting-friendly amenities is evident.
As you look for the right destination for your next corporate meeting or business conference, consider one of these seven cities. They’re head and shoulders above the competition.