Meet Outside the Box: Apply Your Knowledge to a New Business

Create meaningful professional development opportunities by introducing attendees to local businesses that could benefit from their knowledge.

The number one reason attendees go to meetings and conferences is for education, reports The Experience Institute. Ninety-two percent of attendees rank it as their top reason to go a meeting, making it the deciding factor in whether they attend or not.

The goal for educational events is to reach out and really engage the audience, according to the 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast. That means attendees are integrated into the events with opportunity to provide feedback and raise ideas. When planning an event, either expressly for professional development or more for networking and leisure, consider making them an opportunity for attendees to apply their professional knowledge to a new or different industry from their own. Adults learn best when they can use their knowledge to address new problems or to look at their own in a different way.

Event planners can look for unique businesses in their meeting destination to provide learning in line with their meeting themes and objectives. Gold Rush Vinyl in Austin, Texas is an example of a business that also functions as a venue for professional development. Gold Rush presses old school vinyl records, a billion-dollar business that was on the verge of extinction when music went digital.

It’s typical for a vinyl pressing of a record to take months. Backlogs at some plants can mean six-month wait times for a record, a problem partly due to the fact that vinyl pressing overall hasn’t seen much innovation since the 1970s and there are few press manufacturers in existence today. The team at Gold Rush formulated a proprietary process that cuts that wait time to just weeks. Attendees can see that process right on the factory floor.

“You can’t tour most vinyl pressing factories,” explained Caren Kelleher, the company’s founder and president.. “Our factory can be toured. We wanted people to see the science behind what our team does and what makes it unique.”

The point, Kelleher says, is to get people thinking. Though Gold Rush’s business is making vinyl records for musicians, meeting attendees see issues related to their own industries .On a tour for representatives from Chambers of Commerce around Texas, attendees talked about everything from product innovation to ensuring safety in manufacturing. Attendees from other events discussed what kinds of intellectual property rights issues arise when using an analog format in the digital age. A group from Morgan Stanley was particularly interested in the resurgence of the vinyl record business itself and how understanding it might help them anticipate the next revival of other old or obsolete models into thriving enterprises.

Across the country, there are singular businesses and business models that attendees can explore as part of their own professional development. When looking for unique opportunities for your attendees, always begin with the goals of the meeting and the learning experience. Discerning event planners should seek local experts and partners who will consider their organization’s brand and objectives. Then let attendees integrate their skills and knowledge with the content to come away with a learning experience they can bring back to their work.

“It provides an immersive experience that allows people to exercise their brains and engage in some teamwork and brainstorming,” Kelleher says. “It creates a natural opportunity for bonding among colleagues.”

This series is brought to you by Visit Austin. Interested in planning your next event in the Live Music Capital of the World®? Learn more at

(Amanda Hoffman Art)