By Beth Buehler
Whether it’s learning about a new product, keeping professional credentials and certifications current or finding out about the latest trends and industry happenings, no one wants to sit in a workshop that is boring, features dated material and is totally contained within four walls for eight hours. Colorado offers an alternative to ho-hum workshop type meetings with a wide range of venues, facilitators, speakers and ways to add pizzazz to your planned workshop plan.
Workshops that stand out, in a good way …
1. Feature a meeting space that is energizing and has what you need. There is no need to settle for average, when Colorado specializes in unique venues. Think out of the box and book a meeting room that is at the zoos in Denver and Colorado Springs, beautiful gardens such as the Denver Botanic Gardens and Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, high up in a clock tower in downtown Denver or at The Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp in Colorado Springs, at one of the many entertainment complex’s such as The Wild Game Entertainment Experience in Evergreen, or at one of the state’s numerous ski areas where the vistas are almost surreal.
Build your venue type into the workshop theme or utilize its offerings for an outdoor lunch, small breakouts, team-building and more. Or perhaps a full-service hotel or resort that has a meeting room with windows, a spa that can provide chair massages or yoga over a break, lodging, A/V and everything needed to make the flow of a workshop easy and flawless is the ticket. Destination Colorado can help workshop organizers find the right venue through an easy online RFP (request for proposal) process.
2. Have great content and build in time for interacting. Even the most outstanding venue on the planet can’t make up for a workshop that doesn’t deliver interesting and useful information. Recently, I was brainstorming with three of my editorial advisory board members about a breakout session/workshop that we are developing for the 2017 Meetings Industry Council of Colorado Educational Conference & Trade Show in March. We looked at last year’s survey results about what people want to learn about and pondered how we could make a panel discussion more interesting and interactive. The big idea? Bring in a management level individual to interact with two meeting planners and have an honest conversation about how to plan gatherings that both attract attendees annually and accomplish what the C-Suite (or an association or nonprofit board of directors) is looking for. Attendees often hear from people planning events but not the people who approve them or the behind-the-scenes conversations. We have fairly limited time for the session, but the plan is make time for breaking into small groups to address a situation or question and most certainly for Q & A.
3. Include breaks that are worthwhile, energizing and help to continue the conversation. At this same conference, I like the breaks where there is more than just strolling the trade show floor, like having an artist on hand to draw caricatures, a professional photographer taking head shots and a build-your-own trail mix station. These are ways to get people interacting, just like an hour hike before the opening session or a hands-on “project” or team-building activity during the workshop day that helps illustrate the main messages. Colorado has many great facilitators, speakers, destination management companies, suppliers and team-building companies to help make planning workshops easy.
Also integrate local, healthy foods into breaks. In Colorado, peaches and sweet cherries from the Western Slope are welcome treats and there are producers of yogurt, granola, cheeses, fresh juices and more based in the state. Consider bringing in the people who make these items to serve and talk about them in a workshop and consider a team-building activity that involves creating a food item using only Colorado or your own company’s products. Boulder and other Colorado communities like Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail are finding success with walking conferences, where attendees walk between various nearby venues for workshops, providing plenty of time for conversation and invigorating fresh air. Boulder also has found success bringing in food trucks for an outdoor, mingling lunch.
Make your next workshop stand out using these three fairly simple tips and watch what happens to attendee learning and C-Suite satisfaction. Colorado is the perfect place to go beyond the ordinary for these important gatherings.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.