Each year, meeting professionals are surveyed for their predictions on meeting industry trends. It’s an important topic in our fast-changing world, and one we need to embrace in our quest to remain relevant to our stakeholders. As a smaller destination known more as the Real.Fun.Beach., Visit Panama City Beach (PCB) is fast becoming a familiar option for meetings and conventions. Our approach is simple: Provide an obliging service culture with the expertise and resources of a city that hosts over 11 million visitors annually.
Unexpected experiences in nontraditional settings are increasingly the expectation for meetings. Attendees want to leave a conference having learned something new in a setting that fosters a conversation between the audience and speaker and among themselves. Transforming indoor meeting spaces and taking advantage of the destination’s outdoor features set the tone for experiential learning.
Consider a departure from the typical classroom- and theater-style set to a more casual, interactive environment that uses comfortable furniture in out-of-the-ordinary locations. In PCB, there are many intriguing places to try something new.
Consider hosting a breakout or team-building activity aboard a charter boat headed for Shell Island or a competitive fishing charter, where the catch is cleaned and prepped for dinner at one of our “hook and cook restaurants.” Or meet outside near the pool or in an amphitheater at Conservation Park.
Try transforming indoor meeting spaces with a center stage that’s set using couches and chairs or high-top tables placed in small group pods. Utilize monitors throughout for better visibility.
Kick off or end the conference on a high note with a reception at one of our outdoor festivals. There’s something new each month.
A top priority with planners, food that is outstanding in preparation and presentation — then served in an exciting location — makes for a memory.
Take advantage of just-caught seafood from the Gulf — it’s special. Though Panama City Beach is most famous for seafood, it has a unique position as a link between the Gulf Coast and American South, making it an ideal location for barbecue, Cajun cuisine, and traditional American food. Our local food and entertainment scene is diverse and plentiful for after-hours fun.
For hotel and resort events, a popular setup provides stations, which allows attendees to move around, rather than be stationary at a banquet table. Consider an oyster-shucking station, bring in food trucks, or host a contest to name a beachy cocktail after your group. Our resort chefs are excellent at customizing menus, including offering healthy alternatives and managing dietary needs.
Collaboration Through Social Media
A Successful Meetings survey recently stated 61% of planners report that the use of social media at events is on the rise. They also listed the biggest challenges in integrating social media into events, and 59% of planners say that getting the attendees to use social media as part of the event experience was their top challenge, while 35% of planners said they have no social media strategy in place.
Here are some ideas that give you a place to grow your social media participation at events: Establish goals for a social media presence at meetings; use your company’s favored platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram; and monitor what your attendees are saying. Build engaging content through themes, highlight speakers or host an event-specific chat, and show off conference swag or prizes. Remote attendees will be kept in the loop with a relevant social media plan.
In particular, Visit PCB utilizes local social media influencers, who will highlight the destination to attendees pre- and post-event, with the goal of building attendance and getting the conversations started.
Make It All About Them
The attendee experience is personal. Meetings & Conventions’ article “Top Trends for 2018” by Allen Sheinman states, “Planners are looking to hotels and resorts to create environments that empower attendees to be introspective (and) inspire engagement, openness, honesty, transparency, and epiphanies that are mutually beneficial to the attendee and their organization.” With Panama City Beach’s average of 320 days of sunshine per year, 70-degree average water temperature, and 74-degree air temperature, there are plenty of opportunities to shake things up for Real.Fun.Meetings!
REAL! Attendees Will Have an Easy Trip Getting Here
Highway 79 is the most direct driving route into Panama City Beach, with Highways 231, 331, and 77 all connecting to U.S. Route 98. Each of the north/south highways easily accesses Interstate 10.
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) is currently served by American, Delta, Southwest, and United and is conveniently located within a 15- to 30-minute drive from the area’s beaches. ECP offers 10 nonstop flights and many one-stop options connecting visitors to the rest of the world. Taxis, shuttles, rentals and network/ride-sharing companies are available. For additional information, visit iflybeaches.com.
FUN! Experience Our Special Brand of Southern Hospitality
It’s combined with the expertise and resources of a city that hosts nearly 11 million visitors annually. And of course, there’s the lure of the beach.
The area is primed for also free-time entertainment of all kinds: Dine on just-caught seafood from the Gulf in oyster bars, beach-side eateries, or star-rated restaurants. Get outside! Take a charter boat cruise (where your catch can be prepared for you in local “hook and cook” eateries), parasail, dive, kayak, or walk the nature trails and beaches. Shop at Pier Park, a large outdoor retail, restaurant, and entertainment area, or hit the Coastal Design Emporium Trail — called Décor by the Shore — to visit 11 of the beach’s shabby-chic and coastal furnishings stores.
MEETINGS and Accommodations Will Be All About You!
Panama City Beach offers excellent value for meetings and conventions. Expect an obliging service culture and a top-notch resort at a highly competitive cost. And with the size and scope of the GA Conference functions, they will have the majority of the resort for this conference.