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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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ J U L Y 2 0 1 5 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 The South is known for its small-town appeal. Walkable downtowns, preserved history and a slower pace are all part of the charm. Meetings held at smaller sites allow groups to gather in towns where Southern hospitality is at its finest, where guests are welcomed with a friendly de- meanor and offered one-of-a-kind experiences for attendees to remember during their meetings and off-site events. Just ask Joey Pierce, communications man- ager for the Houma (La.) Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), who says locals make planners and attendees as much at home as venue and sales team managers. Where No One Is A Stranger "A great benefit to holding your meeting in the Houma area is the small-town charm that comes with our community. We often say that the peo- ple of Houma know no strangers, only friends they haven't met yet," Pierce said. "When you eat in our restaurants, you will feel as if you've stopped in to visit your Cajun grandmother. Locals will be more than happy to teach you how to do the Cajun two-step at one of our festive dance halls or help you pronounce the local lingo, such as laissez les bons temps roulez, or 'Let the good times roll.'" According to Robin North, vice president of sales and services for the Macon-Bibb County CVB, another plus of small markets is that a group can be the "big dog" in town. "You are recognized as a very important customer of the hotels and restaurants," she said. "Groups meet- ing in Macon are welcomed and recognized by our local businesses through the 'Show Your Badge' program, which allows them to receive discounts when they show their convention at- tendee badge at participating businesses." Individual Attention, Ample Spaces Smaller markets also mean individualized atten- tion for the meeting planner. "All conferences are important to our community," said Charles Winters, executive vice president of the Huntsville/Madison County CVB. "We work closely with every group to provide the very best experience for attendees. We offer lots of com- plimentary services including brochures, name badges, welcome bags and even on-site registra- tion assistance if there are enough attendees ex- pected. We will send your info out to local and regional media, and we even have a new blog site with a section dedicated entirely to meetings (ihearthsv.com/meet-huntsville)." Small markets are also easily accessible, especially for regional meetings. For instance, Winters said Huntsville/Madison County is located in the center of the Southeast and offers non-stop service to nine major airports. "Once you're here, many hotels offer compli- mentary airport shuttle service, an added value that everyone appreciates," he said. But, for those driving, smaller markets also mean less commute time. "Your time is precious. You'll spend less of it in a vehicle and more of it enjoying the attractions," said Winters. And, just because a market is small, it doesn't mean that some small towns don't offer large- scale venues that can host larger events and meetings. For instance, the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center offers a 36,000-square-foot Grand Hall and several spacious meeting rooms, said Pierce. "This facility can accommodate your at- tendees for formal or casual dining, breakout sessions and general assemblies," he said. Another large venue in a smaller market is the Northern Kentucky Convention Center (NKYCC), located on the south bank of the Ohio River. Directly across from downtown Cincin- nati, the facility is part of a rapidly expanding entertainment district and offers 110,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space for up to 3,000 people. For more space, the NKYCC con- nects to the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter, providing 56,000 square feet of contiguous meet- ing space on one level and up to 119,000 feet of meeting space under one roof. One-Of-A-Kind Venues What really stands out in second- and third-tier markets are the unique venues they showcase. From raceways to plantation homes to museums, Cover: Small Markets For Big Meetings LIVING LARGE By Ashley Wright How Small Markets Make You Feel Important Twelve Oaks Plantation in Houma, La. The Beach at Sandestin, Florida Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Amarillo, Texas