Field Trips: Not Just For Kids, But Meeting Attendees Too

Arranging field trips for your conference attendees not only gets them out of the traditional meeting room but also gives them the chance to see the industry in action and exchange ideas with colleagues.

One of my favorite memories of being in school was going on field trips. If forced to pick, I’d say my top three were excursions to the Bronx Zoo, Hayden Planetarium, and The Franklin Institute (I mean, how cool is that giant heart?).

Field trips shouldn’t stop once your school days are behind you.

There was the excitement leading up to it: Who would you sit next to on the bus? What would you pack for lunch? Would your parents give you money so you could buy a souvenir?

And then the day of, you were anxious on the ride there, wondering what’ll you see, who you’ll meet, and what you’ll learn.

But field trips shouldn’t stop once your school days are behind you. After all, it’s just as important to learn new things, explore new places, and meet new people as an adult.

That’s probably why a lot of associations offer field trips for attendees during their meetings and conferences. Not only do they give attendees the chance to break away from the traditional meeting venues, but these offsite adventures also provide them opportunities to see their industries in action and exchange ideas with peers.

For example, WEFTEC—the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference—offers attendees the opportunity to go on facility tours in locations where the meeting is being held. For its upcoming September meeting, happening at McCormick Place in Chicago, attendees have seven different tours to choose from. Among the options are tours of the city’s Jardine Water Purification Plant and the Shedd Aquarium’s Environmental Quality Lab and Life Support Systems. All cost $40.

The Ecological Society of America also offers field trips at its annual meeting, even asking members to submit formal field trip proposals through an online form. Attendees had 19 options to choose from last year—all with varying prices and durations.

Then there’s the National Marine Educators’ Association, which has 10 field trips lined up for its 2015 conference, taking place this summer in Newport, Rhode Island.  On the schedule is a tour of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography and scuba diving at Fort Wetherill.

What I personally like about the field trip idea is that it gives associations a way to highlight their members in the cities where their meetings are taking place. Plus, it could give attendees some new ideas about how to run their own organizations and companies when they get back to the office. Or, it may introduce those attendees who are new to your industry—or even student members—to a different side of the business that they may want to pursue in the future.

I remember having the chance to visit the Washingtonian magazine offices here in DC during one of my last semesters of college. While I was pretty convinced I wanted to be a journalist by sixth grade, seeing all the moving parts that went into producing a magazine in person was pretty thrilling and got me excited find a job in the industry.

Do you offer field trips for attendees during your meetings and conferences? If so, share how you go about doing it in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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