SEP 2015

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 5 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 11 COVER STORY: Trade Shows & Expo Halls From convention centers in large metropolitan areas that offer the hustle and bustle of urban life to expo halls in smaller towns with a slower pace and hometown charm, the South is flled with a variety of large event spaces that can meet the needs of almost any meeting planner. Although these spaces are more than capable of ftting larger groups into their sizable square footage, they also can offer unique spaces and options for groups of smaller sizes. All you have to do is ask and bring some creative ideas and an open mind. Smaller meetings are also often the bread and butter of hotels and cities because they offer short lead times and can ft in between larger groups and meetings. Thus, smaller groups are important to destinations and planners love to work with teams on creating one-of-a-kind events that utilize their larger spaces in new ways. At the Austin (Texas) Convention Center, Amy Harris, director of sales, said that al- though larger groups are often the focus of the center, their fexible meeting space allows for a number of different room sets, which enables tremendous fexibility in setting up small groups in any part of the facility. Festive Food Functions Several smaller groups have utilized the creativity of the Austin Convention Center's food and beverage staff to maximize the advantages of gathering in a large space, according to Harris. "Our catering team is very nimble and can set up concession areas virtually anywhere in the building," she said. "Balconies, terraces and foyers are located all around the building and can be used for food and beverage functions, breaks, etcetera, with alternative-style seating: couches, bouncy balls, high boys. Not only does it utilize the center's space but also offers a fun and unique experience for attendees to remember and enjoy." Using these separate spaces for meals is another way for smaller groups to maxi- mize their return on booking larger spaces. "Attendees like having a separate space for meals and breaks because it allows them to transition out of a focused work mode, really take a break, and go back in prepared to be alert and engaged again," said Sarah Cobb, a senior events manager with the Columbia (S.C.) Metropolitan Convention Center. She also suggested creating lounge space in unused areas of larger meeting The South's Large Event Facilities: Flexibility To Suit Groups Of All Sizes By Ashley Wright Inaugural Ball at Columbia S.C. Terrace at Columbia S.C., Metro Convention Center Fun Seats at Austin Convention Center Lexington County Night at Columbia Metro Convention Center

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