Planning a Successful Drive-to Meeting

Given the right market, drive-to meetings can be a cost-effective and successful alternative to the traditional “fly-to” conference.  Here are some benefits of having delegates hit the roads rather than the skies to get to their meetings.

Convenience.  Some groups may need to stay closer to home.  For example, physicians often need to be able to get back home quickly if needed.  Other groups just prefer to be closer to home.   Cheryl Gelbman, president of meeting planning service Impart, says that if a group has a large number of golfers, a drive-to destination should be considered.  “The cost of transporting clubs on an airline or renting them is a nuisance to many golfers and some would just prefer to drive to avoid the cost and hassle.”

Saving money.  Groups with tight budgets find that arranging a meeting within a couple hours of the company headquarters cuts down on not only travel costs, but hotel costs as well, as many delegates often drive home at night.

A Family Affair.  An increasing number of meeting attendees are bringing their family and pets along.  A drive-to meeting makes doing so even more attractive, as those families tend to want to explore the area before, during or after the conference.  Having their own car makes that more convenient.  Choosing a central destination with family-friendly attractions and a variety of hotel accommodations to choose from can help make your drive-to meeting successful.

Higher attendance.  Given the right groups, the right conference and the right destination, drive-to meetings can generate higher attendance than meetings planned in far-away, less convenient locations due to the reasons stated above.

These items, if overlooked, can take away from your attendees’ experience.

Traffic.  According to Robin North, vice president of business development for the Macon-Bibb County CVB, “A great drive-to function starts with planning with the drivers in mind.”  For instance, selecting a first-tier city such as New York City or Los Angeles can add stress to the delegates, especially if meeting start times coincide with already heavy rush-hour traffic.  Conference start and end times are also important to consider, as delegates will most likely be driving in over a period of time and often want to get on the road sooner, rather than later in the day when the conference is over.

Parking.  Parking should be on the meeting planner radar.  Paying attention to where your delegates will park and how much it will cost them is important.  Frank LoBosco of Glazier Football Coaching Clinics recently planned an event with an expected 2,000 attendees and said that without careful planning, parking can be a huge challenge.  “At venues with limited parking spaces we need to be creative.  Sometimes the hotel staff parks off-site and uses a shuttle, or sometimes an overflow lot is set up with a shuttle for attendees.  Arranging and preparing for parking alternatives is a must.

Poor planning of your drive-to meeting can result in lower attendance and make for an unsuccessful conference.   Taking into account your location, travel route and experience, as well as the needs of your delegates, will help ensure that your conference enjoys a healthy attendance.