Making Your Event What They Might Actually Write Home About

Conference attendees are increasingly interested in leaving your event with an amazing experience. Find out if your host destination can help.

When it comes to happiness, memorable experiences trump things. This isn’t just anecdotal; psychological research proves it.

Conferences are now endeavoring to offer such memorable experiences in an effort to boost attendee satisfaction. According to IACC’s report Meeting Room of the Future, 75 percent of meeting planners said they are more focused on “experience creation” than they were two or five years ago.

For some amazing experience ideas, investigate what your host city has to offer. After all, what’s proving memorable to locals is probably going to work for visitors too.

Here are a few tips for discovering the experiences that will resonate with your meeting attendees.

Choose interesting off-site event spaces.

Holding a VIP event or other off-site to-do at a hot restaurant or bar is not a bad idea, but what about heading to an event space that offers more, well, experiences?

For example, the Indianapolis Zoo just opened a new eco-friendly event space—the Bicentennial Pavilion—that offers a private zoo experience.

“In addition to just being able to go around the zoo and enjoy the animals, just as you would in a normal visit, at a private event after hours, you can reserve lots of different animal chats,” said Carla Knapp, public relations specialist at the Indianapolis Zoo. “Then your guests are going to have that private, one-on-one experience.”

The zoo offers dolphin presentation and a sea lion chat, for example. “The keepers can answer questions and cover fun facts about the species, conservation issues, and stories about our animals,” Knapp said.

Rainy, an umbrella cockatoo, is a particularly popular event “speaker”—along with his keeper and educator. According to Knapp, Rainy loves to dance, so if there’s music, he will literally be shaking his tail feather.

Take advantage of a buzzy citywide event.

What’s going on in your host city around and during your conference? Sure, your runner members will appreciate intel on any 5Ks or other races, but are there other active events that might appeal to bigger group? If so, consider promoting those events and organizing a group of participants.

Every June, Indianapolis hosts the Indy Ultimate Urban Adventure Race. The seven-mile course through downtown “is designed to take people through all of the iconic venues in downtown related to sports, arts and culture, and the city’s rich military heritage,” said Ryan Vaughn, president of Indiana Sports Corp, the event organizer.

Participants get to kick a field goal at the Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts) and shoot a free throw at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the Pacers). And after hitting these and other sporting and cultural venues, the race takes participants through the memorial and monument part of downtown, where some Indy National Guardsmen will lead participants through a mini-boot camp.

“One of Indy’s unique characteristics is that you can do a lot of great things really close to each other,” Vaughn said. “We wanted a way to highlight that not only to people here but also visitors.”

A slightly more low-key but still active event is Monumental Yoga, a massive outdoor yoga class that takes place each summer solstice at Indy’s Monument Circle in the heart of downtown.

A few years ago, event organizer Cassie Stockcamp saw a picture of such an event in New York’s Times Square and decided to make it happen in Indy. In 2017, around 4,000 people participated in the main event—an hour-long, donation-based yoga session—and many took advantage of 20-minute classes of different yoga styles beforehand.

Offer a bike tour to see the sights and get some exercise.

Sure, walking tours are great, but a bike tour can get you even further afield. In cities that have bike share programs—more and more these days—taking a self-guided bike tour is easy. Or organize a group ride.

Indianapolis not only has the Indiana Pacers Bike Share, but it’s compact and flat downtown is made for bike exploration. Or head out to White River State Park—just west of the convention center and where the zoo is—for a more nature-focused excursion.

Biking is so easy in Indy that Stockcamp just sold her car and now uses her bike as her main form of transport. “You see the city in a different way on a bike,” she said.

Taking advantage of what your host city has to offer is a great way to give attendees an experience they’ll remember. And as a bonus, you have a collaborator in planning.

(Handout photo)