According to Meeting Professionals International, more than $122 billion is spent annually in the U.S. meetings industry (2006). This money is most commonly spent at resort hotels, city hotels, suburban hotels, conference centers, restaurants, country clubs, convention centers, and at nearly every unique venue imaginable.
Whether at a corporate environment, association, non-profit or government agency, the most popular corporate events typically fall into one of the following programs:
1. Seminars and Conferences
Purpose: Organizations plan and hold these meetings with targeted audiences, and provide them with relevant information.
Description: Seminars are usually shorter events, lasting a couple hours, ½ day or a whole day. They have single or multiple speakers, and keep all participants together in the same space. Conferences, on the other hand, typically have multiple sessions that occur concurrently. They are typically held at hotels, begin with a keynote session and then hold breakout sessions by topic. A conference is usually planned for 2/3 of a day, one day, two days or sometimes longer.
2. Trade Shows
Purpose: Organizations attend trade shows as a lead generation activity, or host one to reinforce their image as an industry leader among those who attend, such as members, customers, prospects and suppliers.
Description: Event planning for trade shows involves negotiating sponsorship rates for trade show booth space, advertising and promotion at the event, and sometimes speaking opportunities at the event for the leadership at your company to speak. Many logistical details exist to assure that the trade show booth, promotional materials, giveaways, and staff arrive on time for your company.
3. Executive Retreats and Incentive Programs
Purpose: This is where the big bucks are spent on a per person basis. Often held at luxury resorts in exclusive destinations, and they receive the most visibility in an organization. Business development and organizational planning are the topics of the agenda.
Description: Executive retreats and incentive trips typically last between three and five days, and require attention to site selection, lodging, transportation, catering, business meetings, and golf and other activities. Negotiation skills must be sharp because these programs involve all aspects of event planning.
4. Golf Events
Purpose: One favorite event at every organization is to hold its annual golf outing. Relationship management is the primary objective; however, business content must always drive event planning, not the other way around.
Description: Most golf courses prefer their clients to reserve tee times either first thing in the morning or at 1 p.m., if you are not renting out the course and clubhouse for the whole day. That can cause scheduling issues as it relates to the business meeting content. During the planning phase, it is important to keep internal clients on track, and not allow them to minimize the business time.
5. Appreciation Events
Purpose: These programs allow an event host to spend informal time with its guests in a non-traditional environment, giving both parties an opportunity to build a rapport and learn more about mutual business priorities.
Description: There are limitless possibilities and types of appreciation events that organizations hold throughout the year. Common programs include:
- Dinner and theater
- Day at the race track
- Suites at sporting arenas
- Day and evening cruises
- Private parties at music festivals
- Holiday parties
- Tickets to the most popular events in town