By Dawn Harker
Today’s society is well traveled. Whether an individual travels domestically or internationally, they are accustomed to experiencing different places, cultures, and environments. During these travels, some experiences resonate more than others. When an experience resonates, people feel a connection with the destination or event. Achieving that bond is the holy grail of the meeting and event professional because it is in that space that attendees are most open to receiving your message and making genuine connections.
Colorado provides a diverse canvas on which to create authentic experiences that resonate with attendees and plenty of well-versed meeting services operators to help you. With a strong Western heritage, pioneers of the ski industry and the Denver Broncos, we have many stories to tell. Beyond that, each specific area in Colorado has its own unique story. Each mountain has a name, each valley has a settler and each river has an eagle’s nest on it somewhere. By bringing these elements to the guests, we invite them to have an authentic experience that leaves a lasting impression.
Key elements in creating group experiences with impact
Edutainment – Knowledge about local surroundings gives people an appreciation for the destination and fosters a connection. Incorporating this teaching into an entertainment element is “edutainment.” For example, Copper Mountain prides itself for being located on Ute Indian ground. You may honor this heritage by opening your meeting with a blessing from Ute elders. For a more dramatic impact, Native American dancers and musicians could perform for your group. If you don’t have a source for elements that are edutaining, local event planners and destination management companies are excellent resources.
Authentic – Embrace the resources of the destination by ensuring all elements of your event are real and authentic. No matter where you are staying, the most authentic resources are located nearby. Every destination in Colorado has a cowboy story to tell, so real Western resources are abundant. So, if you want a cowboy to sing by the fire, get a cowboy. To enmesh your attendees in an authentic Western experience, let them experience a ranch. The 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott was homesteaded in 1885 and served as the center of a large cattle and sheep operation until 1991. Still a working ranch, this facility is available to corporate groups; complete with catering services, this facility is an excellent location for activities, dinner events, team-building and more.
Interactive/Engaging – Colorado is a very active state and houses vast resources for getting attendees to engage. From indoor activities to outdoor excursions, guests will be more receptive if you sprinkle interactivity into the agenda. When meeting agendas are tight, creative uses of resources right outside the door such as ice rinks, snowshoeing and hiking trails, food tours and more can help make meetings interactive while still respecting the agenda. Bring the meeting room outdoors by customizing your message into the activity.
Indigenous – Embrace the local culture and create experiences that bring you the best of what is available in that destination. Colorado craft distillers have grown to nearly 50 in the past few years. Embrace this new element to the state’s culture by having a local spirits tasting. You could be even more indigenous and have guests visit a local distillery and interact with the process. Breckenridge Distillery offers tours that give people a chance to learn a little about the history of whiskey and the process of making a fine bourbon whiskey. In addition, attendees will learn about making vodka, an infusion, rum, and a liqueur. Tours can be customized to meet your needs and may include a reception on the distillery’s cocktail patio.
Planning a meeting or event goes far beyond the daily agenda. You are crafting an experience with the objective of impacting the guests in attendance. With its unparalleled beauty, vast resources and deep history, Colorado provides all the tools necessary to create an authentic experience.
Dawn Harker is the owner of AlpineAccess, a destination management company based in the Vail Valley and servicing Colorado’s resort communities. Dawn has more than 25 years of experience working with groups in the resort and travel industry in Colorado and brings this expertise into every facet of her work.