Attendees want a deeper connection to your meeting destination. Here’s how planners can foster that relationship

What’s your favorite part of traveling? Camaraderie and a break from daily stresses might be high on your list, but for many, experience takes the cake. About 53 percent of consumers say that the most interesting part of travel is discovering hidden, local places or spots in a new destination, according to Mintel’s 2017 research on emerging travel trends.

And if research is any indication, attendees are feeling a similar way: A study from Marriott International and the PCMA Foundation on the future of meetings found that attendees want events to establish a clear sense of space. That is, they want meetings to leverage their destinations with agendas that celebrate their surroundings.

Planning an event for millennial attendees? All the more reason to prioritize your destination. Millennials value experiences over material goods, with 85 percent putting priority on venturing out of their comfort zones and learning new things, according to Mintel’s 2018 report on experiential travel.

So, embrace your meeting’s adventurous side and focus on your destination with the following strategies:

1. Honor your location.

Every destination has its own charm and history—so leverage that. Prioritize exploration and visit your location’s sights, eat local fare and do as the locals do. Is there a cool community program that’s the talk of the town? Attendees won’t miss out by adding it to the agenda as a breakout session.

No time for exploration outside the meeting room? Partner with local businesses on suggested after-hours programming instead.

2. Find the right venue.

Sterile, generic meeting spaces are out, and unique, authentic locations are in. So, find a venue that champions your destination’s local culture in both design and practice. For instance, some venues might partner with community groups on activities that are open to the public. Work with your venue manager to leverage your meeting space as another way to connect with the city in a short time frame. 

3. Make your meeting a tech-free zone.

Social media and mobile devices can pull attendees away from the present. To ensure that guests stay rooted in your destination, consider limiting attendees’ screen time. The distance from their everyday lives will allow guests to minimize work and personal stresses and open themselves up to new experiences.

4. Focus on nature, if applicable.

You can only see so much of a new city from inside four walls, so get outdoors. For meetings that are all business, consider taking your breakout session outside, such as a bike tour of your destination. Not only will it get attendees moving, but it also will reset attendees’ minds and sharpen focus come the next agenda item.

5. Give back to the local community.

Another way to deepen an attendee’s connection to a community: throwing them into its causes. Check out volunteer opportunities in the area to learn more about how guests can leave their mark on your destination. 

For more information, download a copy of the full Marriott International and PCMA Foundation’s study, “The Future of Meetings & Events”.