Giving Your Meeting Experience Some Local Flair

Embrace the flavor of your host city and give your attendees a distinctly local experience.

As appetites for travel return, experts predict that meeting and convention attendees will be looking to incorporate personal experiences with their business travel. This makes it the perfect time to get local with your planning—offering guests an event they’ll both look forward to and remember.

It’s important to position your event destination as an opportunity for attendees to experience something new, and getting tuned in to local events, venues, dining, and entertainment is a great way to make that happen.

For tips on how to incorporate more local flair into your next event, we turned to the pros in Orlando.

Hanging with the Locals

“Helping your attendees discover some of the more hidden hot spots in your destination city can help to elevate your event and make it one that they’ll want to return to year after year,” advised Casandra Matej, president and CEO, Visit Orlando.

It might be overwhelming to think about the research and planning needed to find those special spots, but Matej says to leverage the expertise of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) or Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) to find “where the locals go.”

“These organizations are there to help and can identify local experiences and venues that your attendees will enjoy,” Matej said. “The destination experts are often locals themselves which can add a personal touch to the planning process.”

Matej says that many groups have attendees who want to experience regional neighborhoods like Historic Downtown Winter Garden and its farmer’s market, or Park Avenue in Winter Park with its vast collection of restaurants and retail shops. Lake Nona, in southeast Orlando, hosts hundreds of local community events each year that groups can incorporate into their agenda.

You Won’t Find this at Home

Another terrific way to incorporate more local flavor into your next event is to look at the options for local entertainment you can either offer attendees during their downtime or add it to the group itinerary.

“Finding entertainment options attendees won’t find at home can really help to set your event apart and make it a can’t-miss choice,” Matej said.

In Orlando, Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort has partnered to develop an original show with Cirque du Soleil for the first time, presenting Drawn to Life, a combination of Disney animation and awe-inspiring performances, with ten unique acrobatic acts.

For culture buffs, Steinmetz Hall at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts may feature local talent and is also one of the few theaters that can transform in shape, seating and sound. The innovative space can accommodate 850 guests for a reception, 600 for a banquet and 1,700 theater-style. 

Space exploration is intrinsically part of Orlando area and attendees can witness that when they explore the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, including the new Deep Space Launch Complex, or groups can arrange for an astronaut meet and greet or guest speaking opportunity.

And while the theme parks are world famous, they are woven into the local Orlando fabric. Attendees can join Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th Anniversary—a big milestone in Orlando. Discovery Cove’s Flamingo Mingle will give your guests an up-close experience with the iconic pink birds in a lush tropical setting. For the thrill seekers in the group, Universal Orlando Resort offers exhilarating attractions that even has the locals screaming for more.

Award-Winning Local Flavors

Looking beyond traditional entertainment, Matej says meals can turn into opportunities for unique local experiences. “Dining in local, award-winning venues can take your event from routine to ‘can’t miss,’” said Matej.

The Orlando dining scene is on the rise and attendees can enjoy exquisite meals at any of the city’s four Michelin star winning restaurants—Capa Steakhouse & Bar at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, Soseki Modern Omaske, Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, or Kadence.

“Your local CVB or DMO can also help direct you to some of the smaller, hidden gem restaurants that will help to give your attendees the real flavor of your destination city,” added Matej.

Restaurants unique to Orlando include The Monroe in downtown Orlando’s Creative Village, which boasts 3,000 square feet of interior restaurant space, and 1,500 square feet in a backyard patio, nearby Maxine’s on Shine, and The Ravenous Pig Brewing Co., Foxtail Coffee Co. and Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream in The Milk District.

Want more insider tips on all the local hot spots in Orlando? Check out for all the latest on Cvent’s No. 1 meeting destination in the country.

(Handout photo)