Selecting a Convention Destination
What do veterinarians, social media managers, and rural internet providers have in common? They all convene. And each of their conventions had to land on a place to meet. Selecting a destination will almost certainly turn off some would-be attendees while perking up the ears of others. Here are a few criteria to consider when deciding on a destination for your next convention.
Geography and Flights
Your first step? Make a list of a hundred or so likely attendees. Who do you want to attract, and where do they live? Now get out a map. What cities are centrally located to the majority of them? Then, do some flight research. The website of the nearest airport will have a curated list of each airline’s incoming flights. Look for direct flight access from your likely attendees’ hometowns. Make a short list of 10-15 solid destinations before moving on to the next phase of the selection process.
What good is an easy flight if your guests have nowhere to rest their heads? Even large cities can have sporadic room availability during busy weeks. Call the cities’ bureaus of tourism to check if other events are being planned for your dates, and if so, the number of anticipated attendees. If Comicon is in town, think twice about whether you want your pros rubbing shoulders with dragons and other mythical creatures. Finally, check Hotels.com or another hotel curator for average room prices. If you can’t find decent rooms for under $250 per night, you’ll likely exclude a good number of attendees.
Sure, your speaker lineup may be cool, but it’s unlikely to overcome a sleepy setting. On the flip side, a busy working professional could make space for a city they’ve been wanting to visit (especially when it’s on the company’s dime.) When weighing your options, give extra points to destinations with that X-factor. When spouses ask to tag along, you know you’ve selected a good location. Tourist destinations like New York City, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco are popular convention spots, thanks in part to their inherent visiting appeal.
Why You Should Worry about Weather
A glance at hotel prices in Chicago for spring and winter says it all: weather matters. When snowstorms hit the midwest, no amount of swag or speaker talent will make up for canceled flights. It’s imperative to think about the weather when planning your event. Consider winter weather, hurricane and tornado seasons, and rainy seasons. If rock-bottom rates are available for 5-star cities, chances are there’s a reason other event planners aren’t biting. Ask a meteorologist–or Google.
By now you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful of cities. Now it’s time to pick up the phone. Nearly every city has a person or team devoted to convention and visitor relations. Give them a call and ask what they have up their sleeves. Perhaps they can offer free tote bags, customs airport signage, or even special access to historic venues. It never hurts to ask.