Post authored by Andy Smith, Senior VP, ESN & Strategic Sourcing
Many event organizers are scaling up investments in experiential design, but there are two experience drivers that are often overlooked. Two early, high-impact delight or disappointment triggers that warrant more attention in the context of experience design …
Destination & Venue Packs More Punch Than You Think
Step into the shoes of your event guests as they prepare for, travel to, and arrive at your event:
- Most put in long hours to make sure work and home needs are covered while they’re away.
- Many are heading out the door in the wee hours to catch an early morning flight.
- As they board their flight, which is likely packed, energy is already waning.
- Connecting flight? There are good odds they’ll have to scramble to catch it.
- By the time they get to baggage claim, most will have put in the equivalent of one full work day.
And it’s at this weary point that experiential driver #1 kicks in: Destination.
From the moment your event guest’s jet touches ground to the moment they arrive at their hotel, all kinds of destination impressions are being formed. Some are good—even wonderful. Some, not so good.
DMOs/CVBs do their best to set the stage for a smooth and pleasant journey from the airport to the hotel. Truth be told, some are better at this journey stewardship than others. If it’s managed closely, things tend to go more smoothly. On the other hand, if event guests are left to fend for themselves, these first impressions can run the gamut from delightful to dreadful.
Similar first impressions are added, once the event guest arrives at their hotel. Many hotels tackle the arrival touchpoints exceptionally well. Others struggle. And here’s the kicker: By the time your guests make it to your event, many have already formed strong opinions (even biases) about your event, and it hasn’t even started.
All that time and attention paid to every last detail from the opening general session to the big finale could unravel, due to a pre-event mishap beyond your control. But that’s not the only risk associated with your destination/venue choices.
Reluctance to Move Beyond the Usual Site Suspects
When it comes to choosing a conference destination, many groups slip into a comfortable, albeit predictable rotation groove. In year 1, they go east. In year 2, they go west. And in year 3, they might go right down the middle, with a central location. Then, they rinse & repeat.
For each region, there might be a short list of “tried & true” cities they stick with and that’s not altogether a bad strategy. Booking the same city twice within a short time span has its cost benefits. Returning to the same city also means less time needed for site inspections.
But with a tighter rotation pattern, there’s higher risk of destination fatigue. Your loyal attendees will start thinking, “been there, done that,” and may take a pass on attending that year.
Managing Risk, While Improving Guest Satisfaction Levels
We’ve scoped out two extremes where destination/venue can be a drag on event guest satisfaction:
- Painful experiences
- Repeat experiences
To ensure that you make your best destination/venue choice, you’ll need to move beyond your own historical data. You’ll need booking insight and data from other groups similar to your own. Keep in mind, this outside research will require more than a quick thumbs up/thumbs down endorsement from peers.
At Experient, we’re often tapped for that valuable third-party perspective. We’ve assembled comprehensive databases, each poised to evaluate the strengths and challenges for a destination or venue, based on a wide range of parameters. More importantly, we’re analyzing data across thousands of event bookings. This allows us to quickly filter relevant history for like-minded groups. Beyond rates, dates, and contract concession benchmarks, we’re also curating stories about how other groups have leveraged the unique features of a particular destination or venue to enhance the attendee experience. Add to that, insight on DMOs/CVBs known for their extra-mile support.
Looking for more insight about a specific destination or venue? Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consult call with one of our strategic destination experience specialists.