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Great After-Hours Events Leave Lasting Impressions

One of the best ways to ensure that a meeting leaves attendees with a memorable experience is with creative after-hours events, which can involve special tours, unique venues, team-building activities and more.

“People who are coming to a destination want to experience what the locals experience, but at the same time, they want something unique and personal for them,” said Erin Degulis, director of convention services at Go Providence in Providence, Rhode Island.

From dining in the desert to yoga paddleboarding, here are some insights that convention and visitors bureaus shared about planning original events, along with five questions that planners should ask themselves as they make arrangements.

What is your organization all about?

Convention and visitors bureaus often steer planners toward different ideas for their events depending on the nature of their organization. Medical groups occasionally host an evening of Tankards and Tonics at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary in Alexandria, Virginia, which was one of the first pharmacies in the nation and frequented by notable figures like George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

“Everybody dresses up like pharmacists with the jackets, and we have infused vodka in test tubes. It’s really fun if you have a group in health care,” said Lorraine Loyd, vice president of sales at Visit Alexandria.

Likewise, scientific groups, such as the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, often visit Providence to take advantage of the local research facilities.

“Rhode Island is a pioneer in wind farming and wind energy,” said Kristen Adamo, vice president of marketing and communications at Go Providence. “So attendees were able to tour the site of a special wind project that’s one of the first of its kind in the country.”   

What can attendees take away from the experience?

One way to grab people’s attention is with an activity that teaches new skills or ideas to use back home. In Alexandria, planners sometimes work with a company called Fetching Photos, which leads groups on a “photo safari” through historic neighborhoods.

Before departing, members of the group download several photography apps and receive a tutorial on taking unique pictures with their phones. The guide then takes them past charming old homes and cobblestone roads to practice these new techniques. Afterward, participants can take home the apps as well as great new ideas on how to take better pictures.

In cities known for their local cuisine, groups can test their teamwork and cooking skills with a culinary challenge, which often includes a brief cooking lesson.

“You break into teams of three or four, and you’re given certain ingredients to work with, then you’re judged on presentation, taste and so on,” said Loyd.