Accessibility and convenience cuts down on transportation costs and enables attendees to experience a destination’s unique venues and hidden gems.
According to the American Express 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, one of the top factors in determining whether to attend a meeting is accessibility. Attendees seek convenient host destinations and walkable cities.
Tory Ondrla, conference manager for the Association of College & Research Libraries, says accessibility and walkability of the meeting destination was her top priority when selecting a city for the organization’s recent annual meeting.
“Our members are collegiate librarians, they’re used to campus life where everything you need is a walk away,” she says. Accessibility isn’t just about making it easy to get around, Ondrla says, it’s about ensuring attendees get the most out of their meeting and the destination. “Our members don’t want the big box, cookie cutter experience. They want to see things you really can’t see anywhere else. They want to get to know the city’s history, it’s authentic culture,” she says. “The best way to get to know a city is to walk—that’s how you find all the gems.”
Ondrla and the ACRL selected Cleveland for their 2019 annual meeting after a site visit. The city was accessible and affordable, with world-class venues within walking distance of the meeting’s hub at the Huntington Convention Center. More than 3,000 attendees descended on the city, filling 2,100 rooms on its peak night—all within walking distance of the convention center.
The conference’s VIP Reception took place at the Cleveland Public Library’s main branch, a 94-year-old building renovated in 1999. The reception was treated to the traveling exhibit The World of Puppets: From Stage to Screen where they could explore artifacts, videos, interactive activities, including muppets from Sesame Street and a replica of President Obama… on stilts. “It’s an incredible venue,” Ondrla says. “You have so much in one place and there is always something new.”
During the day’s education sessions at the convention center, food trucks lined the grassy pavilion and attendees got to enjoy live music from local bands and artists. “It felt like campus life where you can walk to get great food for single digit dollars,” Ondrla says. “Our attendees got to sample some of the best food in the city and have something new. Pierogis were a big hit, and so was the raw cookie dough truck!”
The meeting’s closing event—the all-night conference reception— was a silent disco at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a one-of-a-kind venue with ever-changing features. “People lost their minds,” Ondrla jokes. “You would’ve thought it was Coachella, not a librarian meeting.”
The Experience Institute reports that if attendees like their experience, nearly 90 percent report they are likely to return and to recommend the meeting to colleagues. Ondrla’s attendees reported that they were so impressed by the destination, that they planned to visit again on their own.
One 2019 meeting attendee Tweeted simply, “Please begin forwarding my mail to Cleveland.”
To learn more about Cleveland, visit www.thisiscleveland.com/meetings.