Sure, virtual events can be less time-consuming, less disruptive, and less expensive for attendees, but the truth is that they are also much less impactful. According to the Harvard Business Review, research shows that in-person meetings bolster creativity and connectedness that staring at small video boxes on our laptops simply can’t replicate.
Having said that, the pandemic has made holding in-person conferences and events for associations difficult. Travel restrictions and safety precautions have canceled or put a significant dent in associations’ ability to hold meetings, which ASAE research shows are typically their highest non-dues revenue drivers and their most effective way to attract and retain members.
The planning experts at Experience Sioux Falls know it doesn’t have to be this way. Throughout the pandemic, they have found innovative ways for organizations to come together to share ideas and experiences safely and propel the futures of their industries. “We’re very fortunate in Sioux Falls that our venues are extremely flexible for associations’ needs,” says Anna Derry, Director of Sales. “They can pretty much do whatever needs to be done to make groups comfortable, and our team prides itself on a hands-on approach to helping planners organize everything from COVID testing to local transportation to fun outdoor activities.”
Derry breaks down the most common issues and concerns that association event planners face and explains creative solutions to put on safe, impactful, and memorable events.
Providing Safe and Comfortable Environments for Ideas to Flourish
It goes without saying that concerns about health and safety are top of mind for planners and attendees alike. Not everyone views precautions like masks or social distancing the same way, which is why Experience Sioux Falls has embraced a customized approach vs. one-size-fits-all. “Our venues are able to scale up and down to accommodate any size and level of safety concerns,” explains Derry. “All of our venues are willing to do what visiting groups need and want to be comfortable as far as safety goes.”
Experience Sioux Falls has developed an ingenious capacity chart that accounts for a group’s parameters for social distancing based on standard, moderate, or strict social distancing preferences. “The group lets us know what they’re looking for, and using this chart we are able to quickly determine which venues will be ideal space-wise to meet their needs.”
Attendees Want Moments to Unplug and Have Fun
What happens during off-hours at annual meetings can be just as stimulating to attendees as what they learn from scheduled keynotes. “Many planners are looking for a little outdoor adventure for their attendees to meet, bond, and collaborate outside the conference walls,” explains Derry. “And we have so many approachable ways to do that. Sioux Falls has a 19-mile bike loop that goes around the city and connects to different neighborhoods. There’s also Falls Park, just north of downtown, where you can see the gorgeous falls on the Big Sioux River, and Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, a national historic landmark where thousands of Native Americans settled. There are hiking trails and so much natural beauty to take in.”
Research from the Greater Good Science Center shows that when people experience a sense of awe, it leads them to cooperate, share resources more, and stimulates wonder and curiosity. These are all great things for association members coming together to discuss their work’s past, present, and future. “Being outside has proven to have so many healing qualities,” says Derry. “And it allows attendees to make the connections that make them want to come back to these conferences year after year.”
Planners Need Help With Details Big and Small
Association professionals are stretched for time and resources more than ever. Experience Sioux Falls’ team prides itself on giving planners a very personalized experience, helping with every detail big and small. “We are not a huge faceless organization,” says Derry. “We have a relationship with planners from when we start talking about Sioux Falls as an option to when the event is actually happening. We have a services manager who can assist with things like registration, name badges, transportation — we are there every step of the way.”
This approach from start to finish helps the team see any issues that might arise and quickly make adjustments. “We’re willing to go the extra mile to make whatever needs to happen happen.”
Derry says that time and time again, planners tell her how surprised they are by the city itself. “Besides all of the things we have to offer, one thing that sets us apart is the community here,” she explains. “When you walk by somebody on the street, they smile and wave. People hold the door open for one another. It is a very welcoming place.”
She explains that planners will not feel like just one of the hundreds of events going on when they come to Sioux Falls. “We take pride in bringing associations to our city. We want them here, and we are personally invested in them having a great time. We appreciate visitors who come to our city, and we work hard to earn that business.”