As if you didn’t already have 1001 details to worry about, your boss has now given you the directive to add an off-site function to your next conference, and specifically used the words “memorable and special” when describing the expected outcome! Forgetting the fact that you’ve never done this before in your planning career, you forge ahead like the fearless pro you picture in your head whenever the term ‘intrepid planner’ shows up in that bubble circling above you. So, grabbing a pen and paper, you immediately start the first of many lists that, that when completed, will lay the groundwork for a very successful event. As a logical thinker, your top considerations should include all of the following:
How and when dos this event fit into the big picture of the entire meeting? Not only do you need to consider the day, date and position (as an element during the program, or an elective pre or post) of this event, but you must also think of the timing as it pertains to the overall program flow, as in how much time do we really need to successfully pull this off?
Do you have enough time to travel to a desired off-premise location, or should you find a venue within a specific radius to make this happen?
How much money is being allotted for sponsoring this event, and will it be enough to cover all necessary expenses? (HINT: sounds like the start of another list – this one titled ‘expenses!’)
What is the over-riding reason for planning this function? Is it just for fun or is there a real purpose; and if there’s a purpose, what exactly is it?
How will everyone get to this location, how much will this expense take out of the overall budget, and how much time should you allow for loading, traveling, and dropping passengers?
Does going off-site fit into the overall meeting message, or does it feel like an odd element? This requires consideration of many factors including clearly identifying the purpose of leaving the main venue and holding another function somewhere else. No matter the location, the event has to blend in with your chosen conference theme.
This is different than the flow element already mentioned. This is where you develop an actual event timeline from start to finish, factoring in the minute when your first guest arrives to the last departure. Using ‘real time’ examples will be critical. Walk the walk, ride the route, eat, drink, play or participate in whatever fashion you are asking your guests to do. Make a timeline outlining the play-by-play action that will take place between the beginning and the end.
3. Attendee Dress/Attire
Will participants need special clothing to attend (i.e. coats for an outdoor event, flip flops for a beach party, etc.) and, if so, make sure you allow time for everyone to change. Critical to the success of this step is making sure everyone knows what the dress code will be well ahead of time!
2. Food, Beverage and Fun Factor
You have to think about all these elements and more. Even if your guests have just eaten a substantial meal in the hotel and are going out to a ball game, beverages and souvenirs can still make or break the overall experience.
1. Comfort Level
Will this venue and event allow for all attendees to enjoy it? Consider all your age groups and genres as well as generational differences in whatever event you’re hosting; and remember that in the end it’s all a reflection on your company, so you want to make sure it’s a positive one.
Terry Matthews-Lombardo, CMP