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 ⎜ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 4 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 34 ➤ Around the pool is an ideal space for small groups, says Christine Devine, a representative of Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach in Miami Beach, Fla., which is nearing the completion of a $280 million renovation. "With its oceanfront locale and lush surround- ing greenery, the pool deck lends itself not only to a lazy day lolling but also to hosting outdoor fetes complete with signature poolside ameni- ties and nostalgic rolling drink carts." Devine also suggests keeping with the poolside theme and offering games such as ping pong, petanque ("pay-tonk" - an outdoor ball game) and frescobol (paddle ball). ➤ Buffets can be smart solutions for small groups, says Cricket Wagner, director of sales for the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center in St. Pete Beach, Fla. "We have a menu that lets smaller groups under 50 have the same buffet choices as larger groups at a reasonable price." Add interest to smaller buffet lines by using pops of color, flowers and varying heights to the food dishes. Even with less attendees, allow space for your buffet so attendees can maneuver around to plate their dishes. At the same time, Wagner says, "have the right size room; a room with too much square footage can make your attendees feel unwelcome. Create a space for each attendee. Allow for plenty of legroom and table area with no one get- ting stuck with the table leg. A view with natural lighting enhances any size group." ➤ Interactive seating arrangements are especially ideal for small groups, says Sky Wheeler, sales and operations manager for the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau in Central Florida. "It's fantastic anytime smaller groups can sit in rounds while remaining engaged with a presenter. We often see a lot of collaboration come out of this environment. Anytime we can get a group in a non- traditional space, we find that they are really engaged and less likely to get stuck in a 'meeting trance' that can sometimes happen in larger, less intimate venues." ➤ "Microphones are rarely necessary for small meeting rooms, and are not recommended," says Carol Abbott of the Mesquite CVB in Texas, noting that not using a mic opens attendees up for group discussions by taking away he formality of a meeting, and saves the group the cost of the mic. ➤ "We find that banquet-style seating offers guests a comfortable experience for casual as well as formal engagements," says Emily Gonzalez, director of marketing and public relations, Kaiser Realty by Wyndham Vacation Rentals in Gulf Shores, Ala., which rests along the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico. "And it allows for both seated meal functions as well as buffet style functions. Casual meetings work best with limited distractions, but fun artwork, photos of employees and families help to boost morale and keep the participants engaged throughout the event. Breakout sessions with teambuilding games help make meetings fun and employee testimonials and/or toasts can go a long way toward making people or family members feel valued and adored." ➤ Michelle Phillips, marketing manager, for Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan, Fla., advises, "Make it convenient for your guests to be on the road, and yet, stay in touch with the information, technology and expertise they need. Our in-house audio/visual department is available to provide a technical direction and support on a moment's notice." ➤ Find a destination that rolls out the red carpet for small groups, says Stacie Pierce, TMP, CTTP, Director of Marketing for the Rutherford County (Tenn.) CVB. With small- town charm cities a short drive from Nashville, Rutherford County gives small groups that "big fish in a small pond" attention. Pierce shared these smart planning ideas. " We recommend that groups split their off-site tours into small groups in order to enhance the overall tour experience. We also strongly suggest submitting the guaranteed number of attendees to the host hotel prior to the cut-off. This allows hotel staff time to change the meeting room for the function that will best accommodate the number of attendees." ➤ Classroom-style seating works nicely for small groups, says Suzanne Parker, director of sales for the Holiday Inn Express Orange Beach, Ala., explaining that the set up gives attendees a table to utilize and allows everyone to clearly see and hear the presenter. "I also like to set up rooms in boardroom and U-shape styles, depending on the number of people in the group. Presentations should be more relaxed and require group participation." ■ I D E A S F O R S M A L L G R O U P S Don't Be Too Formal, #PoolParty Don't Skimp On A/V & WiFi, #TechJunkie Don't Succumb To The Trance, #CircleAround Don't Plate Every Meal, #BuffetLine Don't Discount Classroom Style, #PayAttentionPlease Don't Be A Beach Bummer, #LaidBack Don't Be Ignored, #WalkTheRedCarpet Don't Turn On The Mics, #FreeSpeech