The Secret Sauce for Planning Great Events: Flexibility

From planning to execution, flexibility sets event destinations apart in today’s era of rapid change and instability.

Association executives and meeting planners have their work cut out for them – and even more so in this era of rapid change and instability. The key trait successful executives share? Flexibility.

Is the goal of your next event improved member engagement or fundraising? Or maybe you’re looking to increase the attendance of your next event? No matter the desired outcome, the recipe that’s likely to get you there is a flexible attitude with a dash of creative problem solving.

What helps even more? Working with a destination city that’s willing and able to truly be an extension of your staff.

Gray Thornton, the President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), says this is what has him returning to Reno, Nevada each year for the WSF’s annual convention—known as the Sheep Show®. In fact, 30 of the past Sheep Show® events have been held in Reno.

“We run a fairly tight ship and a small staff so we consider the Reno-Sparks folks here as part of our family and part of our work and team,” Thornton said.

The Price Is Right

We asked the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) what helps their team shine for associations like WSF and the first secret ingredient they were able to share is the fact that they own or manage their convention facilities.

“This allows for reduced costs and lends itself to a flexible, professional planning process,” explained Charles Harris, president and CEO of the RSCVA, aka Visit Reno Tahoe.

Thornton echoed Harris’ praise of the flexible pricing the city is able to offer his group.

“The cost of hotel rooms are very, very reasonable, and the food prices are very, very reasonable,” Thornton said. “So that allows us to maximize the dollars that we can put into our purpose to put and keep wild sheep on the mountain.”

The Show Must Go On

Price isn’t the only place flexibility counts for Reno, though. It’s no secret that over the past two years meeting planners and attendees have had to change everything from their expectations to the format of their meetings on a dime.

Harris also pointed out that cutting-edge technology gives meeting planners peace of mind that the show will go on in the event it needs to go virtual or hybrid.

In fact, the Reno-Sparks Convention Center saw a $10 million refresh, including updates to technology to create a more seamless experience for planners and attendees.

Should the unexpected happen and a meeting absolutely needs to be canceled or rescheduled, destination incentives such as no attrition and flexible cancellation policies can be a meeting planner’s best friend.

Along with stringent health and safety protocols at hotels and meeting venues, these types of incentives can give association executives, meeting planners and attendees alike much-needed peace of mind.

Back in Reno, Harris notes that incentives like the city’s Come See, Fly Free program can help meeting planners feel extra confident in their decision to meet in Reno. With the program, the CVB will cover your airfare, premier accommodations, dining, entertainment and recreation.

Getting There Shouldn’t Stop You

Especially with today’s uncertainty around public events, the more convenient you can make it to get to you, the more attendees you can expect at your conference or meeting.

In fact, according to American Express Meetings & Events’ 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, “in the short term, local and regional travel will dominate, as planners contend with government regulations that are still in flux.”

For travelers, Harris says that destinations like Reno Tahoe, where driving is just as easy as flying, make travel arrangements more flexible. This area of Northern Nevada is centrally located to all major West Coast destinations.

Meanwhile, as the world continues to open up, Harris says that proximity to a major travel hub never hurts, explaining that many associations find it helpful to learn that more than 50 airports nationwide offer nonstop or one-stop flights to Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO).

Find a Destination That Checks All the Boxes

When researching venues for your next big event, it’s key to find a city that can work with you, no matter what challenges or opportunities life may bring.

That may involve a cancellation policy that gives you and your attendees peace of mind, a location that’s easy to get to, or technology that can keep your meeting moving – or maybe all of the above depending on your goals.

For Thornton, the thing that keeps him coming back to Reno year after year is the smiling faces he works with throughout the city.

“Reno is ‘The Biggest Little City in the World’ but—you know—it’s a friendly city and that’s what we love about coming here,” Thornton said.

(Candice Vivien/Nevada Momentum)