The Ultimate Collaboration: Colocate Your Next Meeting

Teaming Up With Other Organizations? Keep Participants’ Needs First in Mind.

What’s better than one stellar meeting? Two stellar meetings, combined. Specifically, two or more organizations combining meetings to share resources. Called colocating, this practice helps maximize budget and can lead to intriguing collaborations.

Take it from your peer-experts. Business Events Industry Week 2024 is a colocated event that’s powered by PCMA and Destinations International, in partnership with Destination DC, Events DC, IAEE, ICCA, and the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals, and destination organizations. The 2023 event, which took place at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, saw nearly 2,000 participants gather—a number made achievable by joining forces.

“Based on what participants for Business Events Industry Week were looking for, based on who our target audience is, it’s a great example of how colocated events can become very, very successful,” says Junior Tauvaa, chief business officer at PCMA. Read on to learn more about how colocation can further your goals—and how to do it right.

What Are the Benefits of Colocation?

The number one consideration for your events—the attendee—comes out ahead with colocation. Participants can register for an event through one organization but have access to programming and networking opportunities from groups that are separate from but complementary to their “home” organization. This grants them the benefits of attending multiple events, but in an efficient, realistic manner.

“We’re time-deficient as a society,” Tauvaa says. “Attendees vote with their time. Having these colocated events makes sense for everyone. There’s only so much time you can take out of the office, so it’s a big, big plus for our community to offer this to attendees from a time perspective.”

It’s also a plus for you, your organization, and any exhibitors you have. By expanding your event to include partnerships with other groups, organizations can save on spend while maximizing resources—critical in an era when events divisions at large organizations are still regrouping after the tumult of the pandemic and may be short on personnel.

“For most event organizers, their biggest challenges are lack of budget and lack of time, and most planners are handling multiple events,” Tauvaa says. “Having these events be colocated together takes into account these challenges and makes it easier for organizers.”

Exhibitors may also appreciate the chance to be in front of a fresh audience. As for host organizations’ business development departments, they can use a colocated event as an opportunity to test the waters for future joint ventures.

“Look at the experience you’re trying to create, and make it easy for everyone to see how they can meet their objectives at the event. You can capitalize on the energy of each other.”
Junior Tauvaa, Chief Business Officer at PCMA

Three Tips for Success in Colocating an Event

“There’s always an opportunity for organizations to colocate if there’s a similar value proposition,” Tauvaa says. “The challenging part is for these organizations to come together and identify gaps without stepping on each other’s toes.” Here are some principles to help you do exactly that:

Know what you want to accomplish. What are your educational goals? What are your networking goals? Revenue goals? What sort of business connections do you hope to make? Going into discussions with your potential cohosts with an idea of what you want to accomplish will help ensure that your goals will be met while identifying synergies that work for all host organizations. It will also help you make sure that you’re able to build the best case for bringing in the vendors and sponsors who underwrite the event.

Let the attendee guide everything you do. “Every organization that’s participating will concentrate on what they want to accomplish,” Tauvaa says. “The key is to understand what the participant experience will be.” For example, as you begin to assemble programming, identify events that compete with one another for similar attendees and find ways for them to avoid missing out. Use participant-first logic at every stage of planning. Business Events Industry Week, for example, used a singular registration platform for its 2023 event. Easy for logistics, but difficult for handling responses. This year, organizers opted to have each participating organization handle its own registration—ultimately putting attendees’ needs first.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. In theory, a colocated meeting saves all planners time and resources. But unless you’re diligent about regular communication, it’s easy for the opposite to happen—duplicated efforts, important items falling through the cracks. For Business Events Industry Week, all industry organizations met regularly to ensure everything was on track at all points on the journey, from concepting to programming to branding to registration. The size of the event meant that there was a planner dedicated to coordinating across all groups. That might not be necessary for your meeting, but designating a person to be the keeper of liaising may be helpful.

The first time you plan a colocated event, you might feel dizzy—meeting planners are used to shouldering a lot of work, and working with colleagues at different organizations can both ease and complicate the process. But by keeping your eyes on the attendee experience, you’re setting all host organizations up for success.

“Look at the experience you’re trying to create, and make it easy for everyone to see how they can meet their objectives at the event,” Tauvaa says. “You can capitalize on the energy of each other.”