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The Rock is ready for 2011 conference

Courtesy Little Rock CVB

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Little Rock, Ark., became a city in 1831, but the national media and the world rediscovered it in 2004, when reporters from the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News and Newsweek, among others, descended on the capital, for the opening of the William J. Clinton Library and Presidential Center, an attraction that stirred things up.

At the time, Chicago Tribune reporter Alan Solomon wrote, “Downtown Little Rock has 2,000 new or refurbished hotel rooms…new office towers, new restaurants, a new yellow trolley, a new (or at least newly energized) River Market District and a new sense of itself. Which, combined with the Clinton Library, threatens to make this state capital of 183,000 a draw.” Benjamin Forgey, a writer for the Washington Post wrote, “There’s a certain magic in the transformation, all around.”

Attendees of the second-annual Small Market Meetings Conference will enjoy all of the improvements that resulted from the Clinton Center’s arrival and more when they gather in Little Rock Sept. 26-28.

For qualified meeting planners, the conference is a chance to get acquainted with a smaller city that has, in the last six years, become a mightier meeting destination.

At the same time, planners can meet with representatives of other small cities and destinations, and learn more about what makes them viable and attractive options for smaller meetings.

The conference, all meals and social functions, education sessions and a two-night stay at the AAA Four Diamond, Forbes Four Star Peabody Little Rock are complimentary to meeting planners. They will also be reimbursed up to $400 for travel expenses. American Eagle, Continental Express, Delta, Frontier Airlines, Northwest, Southwest, US Airways serve Little Rock National Airport.

The city is 139 miles from Memphis; 307 miles from Dallas, 360 miles from Nashville and St. Louis; and 405 miles from Kansas City, Mo.

In choosing Little Rock as the site of its second conference, organizers found a site with the attributes attendees enjoyed at the inaugural conference last fall in Shreveport, La.

“In Shreveport, planners appreciated being able to walk from their rooms in the Hilton Shreveport to the exhibit hall in the attached Shreveport Convention Center,” said Joseph Cappuzzello, president of the Small Market Meetings Conference. “The arrangement in Little Rock is similarly ideal, as the Peabody Little Rock and Statehouse Convention Center are physically attached. That convenience is so important with conferences like ours, that compress a lot of information and activity into a couple of days.”

Last year’s SMM Conference gave suppliers and meeting planners numerous opportunities to network, a feature that was applauded by attendees. Unlike some conferences, suppliers are welcomed at all events during the Small Market Meetings Conference.

“The meeting planners and suppliers initially get to know one another during the one-on-one, six-minute appointments that are the foundation of this conference,” said Cappuzzello. “It is a format we use with other conferences and what we have seen is that after people make that initial contact they want to continue those conversations. The structure of our conference and the friendly, casual tone that we set from the start make it easy for those conversations to continue, at meal times, during our social functions or in informal outings to local restaurants and bars.

“That’s why we liked the Peabody and the Statehouse center so much,” said Cappuzzello. “Attendees will be able to walk or take the trolley to the River Market District. The Peabody’s lobby is large, but the lobby bar is designed so people can sit in comfortable chairs, in small groups or larger ones and catch up with one another.”

In coming months, Small Market Meetings will cover more aspects of the conferences, from profiles of speakers and details about tours of Little Rock to descriptions of special events and a description of the one-to-one meetings that set the conference apart.