Having worked with and for many people planning conferences, I often notice that there is very little time factored in for free time. Most people planning conferences tend to see free time as a sign that they have not been able to fill a gap in the program. However, a lot of delegates that I’ve spoken with say that they would have preferred a “night off” which would allow them to see the city and particularly the attractions that cater to their interests.
The job of a meeting planner can be a thankless job. And maybe it’s because of that that I tend to see a lot of planners feel the need to always plan for an activity or group dinner during the meeting’s down time. Otherwise, they fear, their clients will think that they haven’t done a complete job. Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to have tours, dinners and other types of activities to make the overall conference attractive to delegates still considering whether or not to attend. But does that mean that there has to be something planned for every down period?
Planning Conferences – Giving People Free Time Can Have A Positive Impact
I remember being impressed a few years back when my company was contracted as the local destination management company (DMC). That planner told me that when she is planning conferences, she always factors a free night for her delegates. But with a twist. The planner had my company set up a hospitality desk. We put a staff there to answer any questions, provide restaurant, attractions and night club suggestions. There was also an envelope for each delegate with $50 for them to use as they liked. The delegates loved the idea. They were very happy and appreciated that the company gave them some “mad money” for the evening to use at their discretion. The company was happy with the planner as their employees gave positive feedback about the conference. The whole night cost much less than it would have for a planned event. The only costs were for the hospitality staff and the 50 bucks that was put in the envelopes.