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Complete Meeting Packages Venues

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If you had cancer, or diabetes, or were pregnant, you wouldn't go to a general
practitioner. You'd go to a specialist who is best equipped to attend to your special
needs. Why then would you hold a business meeting in a hotel when you could go to a
meetings specialist? Conference Centres are the specialists of the meetings industry.
Unlike a hotel, the conference centre's core business is meetings--planning them,
hosting them, and servicing them.

"The difference between a conference centre and a hotel or resort is a matter of
focus," says Tom Bolman, Executive Vice President of the International Association
of Conference Centers (IACC). "In a hotel, everything revolves around the guest
room. In a conference center, everything revolves around the conference room."

Conference centers specialize in small to mid-sized meetings, accommodating an
average of 25-75 attendees. All the facility's resources are geared to this market. What
does it mean to a meeting planner to go to a meetings specialist? Just look at the
features offered at a typical conference center that you would never find at a hotel.

One Stop Shopping

A conference centre can accommodate all your meeting needs through a single point
of contact, the Conference Planner. A Conference Planner works with each group to
coordinate all the resources necessary to meet their unique needs. Everything,
including conference rooms, syndicate rooms, guest rooms, food and beverage, A/V
equipment, and technology services are ordered and handled through the Conference
Planner. "The Conference Planner works as a partner with the meeting planner to
achieve the goals of the meeting," explains Bolman.

Complete Meeting Packages

Conference centers offer a complete meeting package, or CMP. The CMP provides for
all necessary space, resources, materials, and services with a single per-person fee.
There are no additional costs, no matter what the group requires. "If you need an
additional room or an extra flip chart, hoteliers will use this as an opportunity to
increase their profitability," says Tim Chuddley, CEO of The Sundial Group and
Chairman of the IACC's UK Chapter. "At a conference centre, it's all part of the
complete meeting package. We are here to serve you, not nickel and dime you to
death."

Specialized Facilities and Services

All of a conference center's facilities and services are designed with meetings in mind.
In the conference room, you will find ergonomic seating and tables, glare-reducing
lighting, ample wall space, and audio controls. Guests rooms are separated from the
meeting space to provide a quiet atmosphere for relaxing or working after meeting
sessions have ended. You will find plenty of workspace and Internet access, without a
log-on fee, in every room. Food and beverage service is offered continuously during
meeting sessions and meals are planned around the meeting schedule, not the
kitchen's. There will always be a technician on site to troubleshoot the A/V and
technology equipment and immediately resolve any problems that arise.

Flexibility

A conference center can accommodate a wide variety of meeting needs that would not
be possible at another type of venue. Many centers host only one group at a time, so
the staff's sole focus is on your event, and the facility can be transformed to meet
unusual requirements. Want to build an obstacle course on the grounds for a
teambuilding event or provide private rooms for counseling and therapy for a conflict
management session? Do you need a secure environment to discuss confidential
information or require frequent outdoor breaks? Most conference centers are happy to
accommodate these types of requests.

Diversity

"A lot of people think of a conference center as being a very sterile environment,"
says Tom Bolman, "In reality, conference centers provide diverse and unique settings
and locations."

Bolman points to IACC members that include a historic estate, a ranch, a corporate
training center and a restored theatre to illustrate his point. Many conference center
venues have very unique facilities and grounds. They attract specific types of events
that can take advantage of the built in ambiance and atmosphere.

Top Quality

"When you say conference center, some people expect dorm-style housing and
cafeteria food," explains Tim Chuddley, "But most conference center facilities have
accommodations and food rivaling the best executive hotels."

In fact, the IACC has established 30 quality standards, known as the universal criteria,
to which venues must conform in order to join and maintain membership in the
organization.

Bolman cautions meeting planners looking for top-quality venues. "There is nothing
that governs the use of the term conference center. Anyone can call their venue a
conference center, and not have the features we're describing. To find a true
conference center, look for quality certifications or associations, such as the IACC,
that demand adherence to standards of quality.
"Really, conference centers provide the best of both worlds," Chuddley concludes. "A
unique meeting environment with specialized service, at the high-quality associated
with a hotel."

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