Connecting with peers in natural and interactive settings is where the rubber meets the road for meeting attendees.
Conferences are focused on the primary objective of building attendee knowledge, but, the savviest attendees seek opportunities to connect with their peers. The Experience Institute reports that more than three quarters of meeting attendees go for opportunities to network.
The need for education and the desire for networking tasks event organizers with providing both new and actionable meeting content and with curating environments and experiences that allow their most knowledgeable attendees to connect with their peers.
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) chose Cleveland to provide exactly that to its Key Professionals Association Committee, a group of CEOs from some of the largest member societies in the country, including the American Dental Association, American Society of Interior Designers and the American College of Rheumatology.
ASAE’s homebase is Washington, DC, a city well equipped to cater to the powerful and influential, such as the KPAC attendees. But for the semi annual gathering, ASAE issued an RFP to find a city that could meet its needs—impressive enough for its high-powered meeting attendees with compelling venues and experiences that would engage them.
Engage all your attendees senses, recommends the IACC, an association of meeting venues and suppliers, in its 2018 report. Good food, unique structures, and beautiful city features can encourage authentic and meaningful interactions.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for the committee members to get that critical peer-to-peer interaction, talking to people who really understand what they’re going through,” explains Jenna Worely, CAE, Senior Director of Executive and Board Operations for ASAE. “Cleveland had an outstanding diversity of venues, dining opportunities and features.”
The KPAC meeting hosted its opening reception in the Hyatt Regency at The Arcade, a Victorian-era landmark once dubbed Cleveland’s Crystal Palace and featuring a glass skylight hovering 300 feet over four balconies, a food court and assorted shops. During the business day, the KPAC attendees had a structured agenda and presentations in a hotel ballroom, where the vast majority of meetings are still held.
ASAE worked closely with the Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau to find venues and experiences outside of the work day where CEOs could talk directly. They were going for “Wow!” “These are people used to being wined and dined,” Worley said. “We wanted to take them places that would impress them.”
And impressed they were. The group toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame then visited the vibrant Flats East Bank area of dining, shopping and live music venues. ASAE hosted a cocktail hour-styled dinner for its committee at the Alley Cat Oyster Bar with sunset views over the city’s Cuyahoga River.
“We ensure that the business content of the meeting is relevant and interactive, giving the CEOs an opportunity to apply their own knowledge and experience,” Worley said. “But it’s in the social events outside the structured part of the meeting where the real meeting take place. That’s where the attendees connect one-on-one or in small groups, relaxed and eager to talk.”