Hitting the Professional Meeting Trifecta with Unique Venues

Use both traditional and unconventional meeting spaces to provide attendees with educational content, networking opportunities & unique experiences.

Meeting planners already have the high-stakes task of creating experiences that make attendees return year after year and attendees are raising the challenge by asking for even more. A meeting’s primary objective is building attendee knowledge, but attendees are also tourists, seeking novel experiences that are tied to the uniqueness of the destination itself, according to findings from The Experience Institute. Finally, attendees seek opportunities to make meaningful and effective connections with peers. More than 75% of meeting attendees go for opportunities to network. Meeting planners, then, have to create experiences that satisfy all three criteria and they’re looking to the destination as a partner to make it all happen.

Cathy McPhillips, VP of Marketing for the Content Marketing Institute, says planners should consider locations that meet a host of needs for their clients, even if they seem off the beaten path. The Content Marketing Institute hosts its annual meeting—Content Marketing World—in Cleveland, Ohio, hometown of its founder Joe Pulizzi, every year in September. The midwestern city might not immediately sound as glamorous or enticing as New York or Chicago, but it has everything its 4,000 attendees hailing from 60 countries seek.

“It’s affordable,” McPhillips says. “It’s close to a major airport, there are outdoor excursions and it has internationally known venues that you cannot find anywhere else.” Including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where the meeting’s kickoff party is held each year. Attendees can see the newest installations such as tributes to the latest inductees—including Bon Jovi, The Cars and Nina Simone in 2018 and Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks and Def Leppard in 2019. We love the venue because it’s always changing,” McPhillips explains. “Our alumni can experience a new part of the Hall every year and our new attendees get to experience it for the first time.”

The Hall is also within walking distance of the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland where the majority of sessions in the meetings’ 14 specialized education tracks take place. “Hosting the meeting at the convention center allows us to centralize the experiences and makes it easier for people to get around and see the city,” McPhillips adds. The institute mapped a 3-mile loop around the area for meeting attendees with recommendations for shopping, dining and leisure all along the route to give attendees an opportunity to identify locations they could try in-between sessions, to network with peers, or simply to experience on their own time.

McPhillips says the institute is always looking for new venues to provide attendees unique experiences whether it’s their first or ninth time at the meeting. Last year, attendees went to the Jacobs Pavilion in the Flats East Bank, new collection of dining, shopping and live music venues, where they were treated to performances from local bands Welshley Arms and 1964 and 10 food trucks from local restaurants. This year, attendees will return to the Flats for a Wednesday evening networking event at the Punch Bowl Social, a dining and gaming venue with four bars, a roof-top deck, and games including billiards, foosball, and miniature golf. And when attendees are done for the night, they’ve got bright red Lolly Trollies, available to return them to their hotels.

“It’s amazing how many of our international attendees tell us that Cleveland isn’t at all what they expected,” McPhillips says. “Our attendees tell us they’d come back to the city and bring their families for a vacation.”

“It’s fun to blow their minds showing them all the city has to offer.”

To learn more about Cleveland, visit

(Handout photo)