McMinn, vice president of sales for
the Monterey County Convention &
Visitors Bureau, in California, offers
} Keep the networking going.
Having attendees close to the
meeting site fosters interaction.
} If more options for sanctioned net-
working are closer to the meeting
site, that saves on transportation.
} In any setting, there is safety in
} It offers more and unusual ways to
“brand” the district specifically for the meeting.
} Shopper and restaurant discounts are usually available for attendees — just flash your badge.
} Proximity to a convention center allows you to create merchant awareness with signage that makes
attendees feel welcome.
} Being “green” means there’s little or no need for
cars and buses, since there’s plenty to do around the
McMinn’s list hits the nail on the head. Meeting planners and destination representatives around the country
agree. But there are certain steps planners should take
to get the full benefits of these burgeoning convention-center districts. Here we offer some best practices that
wise planners will want to follow.
Let’s Do Lunch
“We definitely seek out pedestrian-friendly venues,”
says Lori Smith, director of conventions and meetings
for the Sacramento-based California Association of
School Business Officials. “Most of our folks fly or drive
to our meetings and just want to check into the hotel
and not get back into a car or bus.”
She points to several benefits of settings such as Long
Beach, CA, where her group recently held its “Heart of
School Business” meeting. They include discounts on
restaurants, dine-around opportunities, and savings on
transportation costs. But Smith zeroes in on the net-
working and interaction that Long Beach facilitates.
Her 3,000 attendees come
from all over the state and
don’t necessarily know one
another. Many share like
jobs in the business end of
running schools: directors of
transportation, payroll supervisors, child nutrition experts, and other specialties.
“They meet in the work-
shops and sometimes they continue conversations out
in the halls,” Smith says. “They’re talking and compar-
ing notes, and maybe they say, ‘Hey, let’s grab a bite to
eat.’ And they can walk right across the street from the
convention center and do that.”
She noticed people walking out of the Long Beach
Convention & Entertainment Center and heading over
to nearby restaurants such as Islands, P.F. Chang’s, and
Yardhouse. “When the restaurants are convenient and
close by, it makes it so much easier to keep the interac-
tions going,” Smith says.
The Long Beach convention center is centrally
located in the middle of the city’s downtown waterfront entertainment district. There are more than 125
restaurants located within an eight-block area around
Above: The Monterey Conference
Center is completing a $60
million renovation; Right: The
Long Beach Convention &
Entertainment Center is expanding
its turnkey spaces with The Cove