Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August
Back to Basics
By John Potterton, CMP
USING DAY CONFERENCE CENTERS
Nonresidential facilities may be just the answer to some
Some call them day centers or learning centers. Others refer to
them as nonresidential conference centers. Whatever they are
called, these facilities have one thing in common: They are ideal
for small to mid-size meetings. With no overnight accommodations,
their service staffs focus all their attention on providing an
outstanding meeting experience. Because the centers are designed
solely as meeting environments, they are free of any
Nonresidential conference centers represent one of the
fastest-growing segments in the conference center industry.
According to the International Association of Conference Centers,
they make up 25 percent of the membership in IACC North America.
That's a significant increase from 10 percent 10 years ago.
THE RIGHT TIME
When does it make sense to use a nonresidential conference center?
"Many of these centers were built for and by companies frustrated
by the lack of dedicated, distraction-free meeting venues in their
communities," says Louise Silberman, managing director of Summit
Executive Centre, a nonresidential conference center in Chicago.
"[The centers] are best suited if the meeting is focused on
training, or where privacy is a priority a management meeting or
board of directors, for example."
Day centers also are perfect if the majority of attendees are
local and there is no need for a lot of sleeping rooms. Such
meetings are not a high priority for hotel sales departments, which
typically try to put heads in beds. The No. 1 priority of a day
center, on the other hand, is to put people in seats. Booking an
event in a facility where the meeting gets top billing makes good
By no means, however, should a day center automatically be ruled
out for a meeting of out-of-towners. Most of the centers are near
several hotels, and many have special arrangements with hotels for
preferred rates, shuttle services and recreation.
By using both hotels and day centers, planners get the best of
both worlds: attentive service in an ideal learning environment and
a good variety of overnight accommodations. Moreover, planners
receive two bills one for hotel charges and one for the day center
expenses which is particularly convenient when attendees are paying
for their hotel rooms and the organization is picking up the tab
for the meeting.
Planners whose lead times seem to be getting shorter and shorter
will find day centers often are available with little notice, as
most of their bookings are made within two months of an event. This
is good news when a destination has been sold out for months due to
a citywide convention.
"But be prepared," warns Ron Naples, a conference center
consultant and owner of Maple Mountain Hospitality Inc. in
Manchester Center, Vt. "When negotiating the plans for a short-term
meeting, it is important to come to the property with as much
information as possible. There is simply not enough time for change
after change, like there might be in a three- or four-month
THE BANQUET TABLE
Many day centers use off-premises caterers, so they might not be
able to handle last-minute requests for special meals. Therefore it
is important to ask attendees ahead of time if they have any
Also, be aware many day centers do not have a dedicated dining
room. Instead, creativity abounds, as lounges, breakout rooms and
spare conference rooms are enlisted for meal functions.
John Potterton, CMP, is director of business development
for Conference Center Concepts LLC, a Chicago-based conference
center management and consulting firm specializing in
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