Organizing a Great Conference Colorado Style

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I’ve been attending the Colorado Governor’s Conference on Tourism for more than a decade and have learned from watching my editorial advisory board member Deb Brannon, owner of Arvada-based Altitude Events, skillfully coordinate the three most recent gatherings for the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO).

The past two years, I’ve been part of the on-site team that makes sure the conference goes off as smoothly as possible. Here are five things that made the 2017 conference, held Oct. 25-27 in Grand Junction and attended by more than 460 representatives from the state’s tourism and hospitality industry, stand out.

Localize the Conference – Visit Grand Junction did a superb job making sure attendees experienced their area at every turn. I like how the Two Rivers Convention Center is located at one end of Main Street with three name-brand hotels and the walkability to the historic Avalon Theatre for a reception and the Twisted Turtle for a post-awards party and dance. Volunteers staffed a table throughout the conference to answer questions and handed out sachets made with area lavender; there was a local farmer’s market set up in the sunny convention center rotunda on Friday morning; peaches were integrated into several of the meals; and fun post-conference tours were offered.

Sustainability Can Be Cool – The CTO put a heavy emphasis on sustainability at this year’s conference. A couple of the approaches I really liked were providing colorful Silipint glasses for people to put their water and hot beverages in throughout the conference and take home (none were left over or left behind!) and offering unique conference bags made out of burlap. Instead of spending a half day stuffing bags and seeing materials thrown away, two self-fill tables with swag and brochures were set up so people could take only what they wanted, saving many items from the landfill.

Maximize the Reception Venue –  Built in 1923 and recently renovated, Avalon Theatre worked extremely well for showcasing three area communities: Grand Junction, Palisade and Fruita. Each town took a section to showcase local attractions, activities, foods, beer, wine and spirits. It helped move people throughout the venue and created a festive atmosphere.

Great Speakers Make a Difference – You can have the neatest swag and venues on the planet and great activities but good learning is at the core of any successful conference. Keynote addresses by Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, and Rick Steves, guidebook author and travel TV host, were among my favorites. I also enjoyed a panel discussion about influencers and found the mix of representatives from two social media agencies, the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau and the local REI store very informative for this discussion.

Give People Reasons to Attend Annually – Most people in the travel industry know that it is much easier to recruit return guests than start from scratch with potential new travelers. The same is true for conferences. In this case, not only is the education valuable, it’s fun to experience the hosting destination, important to recognize and celebrate accomplishments, valuable to network and a huge treat to see friends from the industry. Don’t miss the 2018 conference on Oct. 29-31 at the Hotel Talisa in Vail.

 

How much is too much? At many meetings and events, frazzled and fractured attention spans are put in hyperdrive with a wall-to-wall, dawnto-dusk agenda.

“Things are so rushed in today’s world,” says Angela Coleman, manager of events and meetings for KPMG, LLC in Denver. “Everybody’s got to do five things at once. We’re learning quickly that it doesn’t always benefit our attendees or conferencegoers.”

 

Heading into the start of a new year provides an excellent opportunity to hear from the people in the tasty trenches of Colorado’s burgeoning culinary scene. Feed Media helped us plug into food and beverage predictions from talented Denver and Boulder chefs, owners, beverage and hospitality directors, general managers and more. Just a warning, these observations might make you hungry and thirsty, but it will give you a cornucopia of ideas for group gatherings in 2018!

FOOD

 

MOUNTAINS

We’ve mentioned the new Outlaw Mountain Coaster introduced at Steamboat Ski Resort in 2017, and now there are new alpine coasters debuting at Copper Mountain Resort, Purgatory Resort and Snowmass. These fairly mild but super scenic thrill rides are great for meeting breaks!