Four Paradigm Shifts to Reshape Your Next Meeting for Attendees 

A change of scenery could be just what your event needs to rekindle attendee excitement. Follow this guide to learn how to make it happen.

Association members have received an education in how to get what they need without gathering face to face. So to get them to commit to attending an event in person, they need something fresh, surprising, and worthwhile. Planners who go off the beaten path with an unconventional venue can generate excitement, establish meaningful connections, and have members eagerly anticipating the next event. 

Here are four ways planners can reshape their next meeting. 

1. Get Out of the Big City 

Most events are held in urban areas, but the same old programming in familiar big-city destinations can breed boredom. 

“You can definitely stay in the city if you’re going to sit in a conference room and meet for three days straight,” said Tricia Duffney, sales manager for Rancho de los Caballeros, a dude ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona. “I believe getting attendees out of the city and bringing them to a serene location is beneficial for everyone’s mindset.” 

At Rancho de los Caballeros, about 70 miles northwest of Phoenix, visitors can golf—a conference staple—and also try their hands at skeet shooting, archery, and horseback riding. A popular team-building event at this and other dude ranches is team penning, where people mount up on horses to move cattle from one pen to another. 

“Everybody gets to complete it successfully—we build it to be successful,” said Steven True, ​​​​president of the Dude Ranchers’ Association. “You can see people coming off the horses, and they’re excited, and they’re proud of themselves. It brings them together because they have that shared unique experience, and I think that builds a very successful meeting.” 

2. Embrace the Outdoors 

Want to revolutionize a meeting? Take it outside. 

“The outdoors is experienced universally: Everyone is looking at the same sky, seeing the same natural scenery,” said Josh Coddington, director of communications for the Arizona Office of Tourism. “But also, being outdoors is unique to the person experiencing it. It elicits different feelings and reactions in each person.” 

The awe-inspiring sense of the great outdoors can also elicit a sense of togetherness. A metaphysical philosophy association understood this appeal when it held a conference at True’s White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, 10 years ago and kept coming back. 

“We take them on a mile-and-a-half hike out into the desert, where they have a meeting, and we have cookies and coffee and tea waiting for them,” True explained. “It seems to make for a very productive meeting. And all they’re doing is meeting outside in a gorgeous location that they’re not used to.” 

3. Focus on Intimacy

Unconventional spaces take the business of making connections to the next level, bringing people together in a way that conventional spaces can’t. 

“A unique venue gives people something to connect on, something to talk about,” Coddington said. “Not only will you have a better event, but your attendees will remember that event a lot better as well, and that’ll make them want to come to more future events.” 

True said the team-building activities at dude ranches create intimacy for the whole event. “They’re all in it together, and it brings them closer,” he said. “You see them up at happy hour, and nobody is sitting there playing on their phone or going back to the room to watch TV. They’re all hanging out with each other and chatting about their day.” 

4. Match the Format to the Setting 

When holding an event in a unique space, planners should resist the temptation to replicate a traditional meeting. To maximize the effectiveness of the setting, they may need to rethink their whole approach. 

“Anytime you plan a meeting outdoors, you should fully embrace it being outdoors,” Coddington said. “Try to utilize the natural meeting spaces, and don’t bring out a bunch of tables and chairs. Forget the PowerPoint or any sort of visual presentation and really just focus on the presenter talking to the attendees. Instead of handouts, make the information available later. That really helps people both focus on the person talking and appreciate the fact that they’re outdoors.” 

Perhaps an early general session could be spent educating attendees about where they are or asking attendees about their reactions to the space, Coddington said. 

Schedules should be crafted to capitalize on whatever the location offers, True said. “Don’t just have a quarterly report,” he said. “If you’re out staring at a trout fishing stream, maybe you could take trout fishing lessons.” 

At her ranch, Duffney asks meeting planners to give her at least one free afternoon for activities. “We try to make it so that they get up, have breakfast, and do their meeting early,” she said. “I think attendees appreciate that short time of hard focus for them to get things done so they can go play.” 

The Arizona Office of Tourism leads the state’s tourism industry with the development of global marketing programs to promote Arizona as a premier travel destination. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Arizona features world-class resorts, natural wonders including the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, world-famous guest ranches, and championship golf courses for visitors to enjoy anytime. Learn more at