Summer-Fresh Meeting Ideas

Meetings are making the most of the season to provide attendees with experiences that give a nod to their summer favorites.

We’re on the verge of “triple H” time here in DC—hazy, hot, and humid. You know, that time of year where you start sweating as soon as you step foot outside.

Even though I’m more of a fall and winter gal myself (hello, fleece, jackets, and scarves), there are a handful of things I like about the summer: backyard barbecues with friends and family, an excuse to eat ice cream as a meal on those truly sweltering days, and outdoor concerts and festivals.

It’s the time of year when everyone gets to go to camp, and we get to go to camp too.

Taking a cue from some classic summer favorites, organizations are making the most of this season’s weather and activities to bring some fun and nostalgia to their meetings and conferences.

A trip to the carnival. One of my childhood summer memories was going to the town carnival every August with friends. We’d eat funnel cake, ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, and play Whack-A-Mole.

C2, which was held in May in Montreal, played into attendees’ childhood nostalgia with an outdoor plaza that featured a Ferris wheel, tent, and food trucks. Attendees were encouraged to network in the Ferris wheel pods. The plaza also included conference space called the Big Top BDC. With a capacity of 200, the Big Top hosted some 20 speakers who addressed topics such as investment, social business and innovation, renewable energies, and new technologies.

Camp isn’t just for kids. Summer Brand Camp—an annual conference in Dallas for foodservice industry professionals working in human resources, marketing, and operations—incorporates camp-style elements.

“When we started this, we knew it’s Dallas, Texas. It’s June. It’s hot. So we want it to be casual and fun. We didn’t want another conference. It’s the time of year when everyone gets to go to camp, and we get to go to camp too,” said Joni Doolin, CEO of TDn2K, the producer of the event, to Biz Bash.

The camp theme comes to life through a number of meeting elements: Shorts and flip flops are the preferred attire, faux forest backdrops and Adirondack chairs are part of the décor, s’mores are on the menu, and campers are divided into small groups called “tents” that compete against one another.

Summer Brand Camp is “currently closed for innovation” and won’t be happening in 2016. But, in true camper fashion, the team wrote and performed a “Closed for Innovation” song:

Fire up the grill. Barbecues are another staple of summer, and a number of associations have incorporated them into their meetings and conventions. The Arkansas Gas Association, for example, will host its 15th Annual Bar-B-Q Cook Off and Dinner [PDF] at its annual conference in September. Attendees will compete against each other for the top prize.

No surprise here, but the National Barbecue Association hosted two competitions at its annual conference in March. The first, the 2016 NBBQA Celebrity Steak Cook-Off, let attendees compete alongside some of the biggest names in BBQ and grilling, while the Classic Steak Cook-Off has participants competing for a $2,000 first-place prize. Other associations on the barbecue bandwagon this summer: the Minnesota Trucking Association and the Oregon Fuels Association.

How has your organization incorporated season-friendly activities into your meetings and conventions? Share your ideas in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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