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When a conference is held in a city known for its warm weather and sunshine, it’s a safe bet that attendees will be looking for ways to get outside and capitalize on these aspects. Rather than crafting an itinerary that keeps attendees inside, savvy meeting planners are seeking unconventional, meeting-compatible spaces that allow attendees to take full advantage of the sights, scenery, flavors and, yes, weather of the destination while attending the conference sessions—all to inspire creativity, increase engagement and provide a casual atmosphere for networking.
The southwestern United States, which is known for having more than 300 days of sunshine each year, is one of those regions where attendees crave outdoor experiences, especially in the winter when the temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees during the day.
“Most people do not sign up to attend a conference [just] to go back and forth from meeting room to hotel room without experiencing the city,” says Jacqueline Davis, marketing and communications manager for Phoenix Convention Center & Venues.
One way to encourage attendee participation in relevant sessions is to add immersive experiences and programming that engages the senses in an outdoor venue. “Offering a combination of indoor and outdoor activity can help attendees make the most of their trip while meeting and working with like-minded people and industry peers,” Davis says.
In fact, a recent study by IACC finds that meeting planners are increasingly looking for flexible space that offers access to indoor/outdoor venues or the technology and logistics to bring the indoors out. Meeting planners often find that casual, outdoor settings can help attendees to relax, mingle and network, while infusing a bit of creativity and energy into the event.
At the top of the wish list for planners is an urban location with access to creative outdoor spaces, the report finds. And, thanks again to its famous weather, Phoenix is leading the way in bringing such venues to life.
“We find that a lot of meeting planners are looking for outdoor space to enhance the experience for attendees by offering a chance to take full advantage of the weather,” Davis says. To respond to these requests, the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues reimagined the space between its North and West buildings as a natural extension of programming already taking place on its campus. Last year, the convention center formally branded the space as “Canyon on Third” and created an identity for it. The space’s design picks up on the convention center’s interior palate of colors, textures and finishes designed to capture the warm hues of the Sonoran Desert and the cool tones of an Arizona sky, “paying homage to the many canyons in Arizona,” Davis says.
However, what makes Canyon on Third stand out isn’t merely that it’s an outdoor venue—it’s the fact that this 80,000+ square feet of urban outdoor event space offers a secure area that can be customized to accommodate a variety of activities. In fact, Canyon on Third holds as many as 2,000 attendees for a variety of activities that can be customized with banquet tables, performance stages, climbing walls, outdoor bars and grills, and other elements.
The NFL Experience, the NCAA Final Four and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association are among the events and conventions that have used Canyon on Third as a larger-than-life extension of the convention center’s exhibit space and transformed it into an experience that enhanced participants’ time in the destination.
“One of the key factors in the success of these events is the service a meeting and event planner can receive from dedicated partners,” Davis says. For unique experiences like these, collaboration with local resources and experts can be the trick to pulling off any type of event in your host destination.
In particular, the Phoenix Convention Center works exclusively with Aventura Catering to create special menus that pair fresh, local ingredients and unique décor designed specifically for each event. The center also works exclusively with AV Concepts for audiovisual and rigging needs, including a proprietary 3D projection system that surprises and engages attendees’ sense of wonder by adding dimension and optical illusion to images.
Such benefits of an unexpected space can be the difference between an average meeting and a spectacular event. With attendees already enjoying the outdoors during the day, it’s easy for them to continue the networking at off-site events in the evening as well.
“We’re fortunate that Canyon on Third sits in the heart of downtown Phoenix, surrounded by bars, restaurants, cultural amenities and neighborhood districts that feature several local, small businesses,” Davis says. “The Arizona weather provides a fantastic backdrop for events and outdoor activities year-round.”
This story was written and published by Associations Now. For more meetings trends in Phoenix, visit AssociationsNow.com.