Prepare the attendees.
Before they even get into the country, educate your attendees so they can get the most out of the experience. Active education can provide guests with small dictionaries, travel guides, local maps, or anything else that can assist them in getting around or understanding the locals' way of life. Passive education comes in the planning, and the small details that planners understand but their attendees do not blatantly see. This includes using local restaurants, so they not only experience the food but learn about the culture without realising it. "Educating attendees is something that can be done actively or passively, depending on the purpose of the programme," says Eli Gorin, CMP, CMM, chief operating officer at FHTDirect -- International Group Housing.
Leave the hotel.
"Tailor the experience to showcase the best of the destination. No one wants to sit in a soulless boardroom that could be anywhere in the world," says Christina DeHaven, CMP, director of client engagement at Grass Roots Meetings & Events. She recently visited Dubai and was impressed with its juxtaposition of the old and
"I assumed that Dubai would be much like Vegas, but there is so much culture, like the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and the souks in Old City," she says. "For groups, an evening in the desert can't be missed. It's easy to think that Dubai is skyscrapers in the desert and believe me, the architecture is absolutely impressive, but learning about the cultural ties to the region was fascinating."
Add regional flair.
One easy trap to fall into is to view the destination in broad strokes rather than as a destination with a culture that is unique. At least one authentic restaurant that showcases local cuisine is included in all the programmes Gorin plans. He also makes sure attendee gifts feature a sense of place.
A meeting that Gorin helped plan in Praia do Forte, Brazil, 45 minutes north of Salvador de Bahia, was held in an eco-resort adjacent to a small village that had shops, restaurants, kiosks, and even a small whale museum.
"We did simple dinners in some of the local restaurants, and the food was amazing. All the attendees really enjoyed the opportunity to see and experience more," he says.