how to (graciously) end an event

view from Newseum Terrace | credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum

If you had a view like the one above, which is the view of the US Capitol from the Newseum terrace in Washington DC, where I had at an event Tuesday night, you would have a hard time getting your guests to leave, too.

Having to kick guests out of an event at the end of the night is a good problem to have, right? That means that they are probably enjoying themselves and your event (by some metrics) was a success. But it seems to be something that planners have some unease around.  Here are some of my suggestions, but my golden rule is that whichever method you choose, have a smile on your face.

Note: these suggestions are meant to clear guests from a space at the end of an event, not because they are misbehaving, causing trouble, don’t belong, crashing, or any other reason. That’s another topic entirely.

Close the bar

This often works like a charm. Close the bar and the room clears. Although, if you have something that guests may value even more than the bar (such as the view from the Newseum terrace) this may not work.

End the entertainment

If you have a band or a DJ, once they stop playing, it’s a pretty clear sign that the event is over. You can even enlist them to help by announcing the last song of the evening.

Host an after party

If you think your attendees are going to want to keep, ahem, networking beyond the timeframe you are willing to keep paying for drinks, think about hosting an after party at a nearby bar. You can find an additional sponsor to cover the tab or you can have guests be on their own. If you’ve been paying the tab for a few hours, most guests won’t mind paying for one more drink on their own dime.

Have a parting gift

Lure guests to the doors with a parting gift!

Ask politely

If all else fails (and this is what I had to do on Tuesday night), just ask politely. We had closed the bar 40 minutes prior but a sizable group was still going strong on the terrace, taking in the view and the (unseasonably) perfect weather. I went around to each group of guests, apologetic smile on my face, and said, “I’m so sorry to cut the evening short, but we promised the venue we would be out of here by now. Thank you SO much for coming.” Almost all of the guests started meandering toward the door and the few stragglers got a bit of a nudge from me until everyone was gone.

What NOT to do

Personally, I hate flickering the lights – I know it’s standard practice but I hate it. It just seems to passive aggressive to me!

I hate shouting announcements. Making a goodbye announcement into a microphone isn’t a bad idea, but if you don’t have a mic, don’t shout!

I also hate having the venue and vendors start taking everything down while guests are still in the space. I know this is often unavoidable, but I try to always overestimate how long my event will run. I’d rather end early and have the staff be able to go home early, than keep them waiting because of a bunch of slowpokes. Things worked out well at the Newseum because everyone who was left was on the terrace and the Newseum staff was able to break down the meeting rooms while we were outside.

Do you have any suggestions of your own? Please share!

Photo via the Newseum and Knight Conference Center. Credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum.

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renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

If you’re looking to host a large meeting in Oklahoma City, your largest option is the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel. The hotel has 311sleeping rooms and a few smaller meeting rooms (boardroom sized), but it is connected to the convention center, which has 68,000 square feet of meeting space. The convention center’s meeting space is managed by the Renaissance (the arena and exhibit hall is managed by a different company).

The hotel

The hotel has a large, open atrium style lobby with a lovely water feature and glass elevators on either side. The “front desk” is really four different individual desks with a single clerk, I suppose to make check in feel more intimate.  There is a restaurant and a lounge off of the lobby.

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

The sleeping rooms looked nice and relatively recently renovated (we didn’t stay – we had stayed at the Skirvin Hilton a block away). The linens have recently been updated and I thought they looked nice. The rooms seemed a bit smaller but perfectly fine for a business traveler.

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

The king suites were very nice with a separate bedroom. I was amazed that there were 88 in the whole hotel, a significant percentage of the inventory.

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

There are a small number of boardrooms and small meeting rooms that seemed nice but nothing special.

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

Overall the hotel just seemed to be having an identity crisis. It was nice enough, but it didn’t wow me. The lobby was nice, but that coupled with the decor and the carpet, seemed more appropriate for a beachside hotel somewhere tropical (I’m not sure if you know where Oklahoma City is, but it’s about as far from either ocean as you can be!). Even the spa seemed out of place with the loud salsa-like music being played outside its doors.

The convention center

The convention center is accessed via a walkway from the hotel. It’s a basic convention center with a tiny bit of western flair to let your know you’re in Oklahoma City, like these details:

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

It felt very dark, which was a stark contrast from the last convention center I visited in Denver.

The breakout rooms I was looking at for our meeting were what you would expect at any convention center – nothing particularly good or bad about them.

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

renaissance oklahoma city convention center hotel | amanda jayne events blog

Overall I was nonplussed. I’d love to see a little more character in the convention center, but the space was certainly functional.

Have you been to either the Renaissance or the convention center? What were your thoughts?

the attic at disney’s boardwalk inn

The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour some of the event space at Disney World. As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, I’m intrigued by Disney from a purely hospitality standpoint (intrigued sounds better than obsessed, right?). While most people think of the theme parks as the most exciting place to hold an event, the bulk of available space within Disney World is actually in its resort hotels, which have tons of fun details that enhance the environment.

Epcot is my favorite Disney park, and I was excited to see some different options for hosting an event within Epcot. But right outside of Epcot are the Epcot area resorts and there are a few different event spaces, including my favorite: The Attic at the Boardwalk Inn.

The Epcot Area resorts include the BoardWalk Inn and the Beach and Yacht Club Resorts, plus the Dolphin and the Swan (which are owned by Starwood, not Disney, so they don’t have all of the same on-site benefits as Disney owned resorts). All of these resorts are located within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios (which I still call MGM). So these resorts would be my first choice of accommodations were money no object since they are all in the “deluxe” category – the rack rate for a standard room at the BoardWalk Inn is $405/night.

The deluxe resorts are the most themed of the Disney hotels, and Disney takes the little details very seriously. The theme of the BoardWalk Inn is turn-of-the-century Atlantic City. There is an actual boardwalk and the resort is on Crescent Lake. The boardwalk itself has carnival games and entertainers which add to the charm.

The BoardWalk Inn has a conference center with 20,000 square feet of meeting space on one level, including the 10,000 square foot Promenade Ballroom. The decor is very whimsical, which may not be appropriate for your meeting, but is a breath of fresh air compared to most ballrooms.

Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

The space that I really loved though was The Attic. The Attic is in the main hotel building. It is a bit challenging to get there, it is quite a hike from the elevator which might be a deal breaker if your guests were older or not as mobile. But once you arrive, you find a small little room filled with charm. The room itself is small, maximum capacity is 50 guests, but there is an adjacent covered porch which gives you some room to spread out if the heat isn’t too overbearing (which can be a problem in Orlando).  The Attic has views of Crescent Lake, the boardwalk and Epcot.

The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

Wouldn’t you love to watch the Epcot fireworks from here?

The existing furniture on the patio is wicker, indoors it’s covered upholstered chairs. There’s an indoor bar that can be used for your event. The rooms are filled with antiques that fit the turn-of-the-century theme, such as carousel horses.

The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Inn | amanda jayne events blog

The pros of the space are its charm and the Disney details. The cons are that it’s out of the way and difficult to find (I would recommend using lots of signage if I were hosting an event). There’s also only one bathroom which isn’t too much of an issue since the capacity is so small, but still isn’t ideal.

I think this space would be perfect for a bridal or baby shower – it would be perfectly on theme and you wouldn’t have to add to the existing decor.  It would also be nice for a small, intimate wedding (remember, only 50 guests). Corporate events might be a good fit for the space, depending on how the guests took to the theme of the space. The proximity to Epcot is definitely a huge plus.

Check back later today for my post on event space at the Grand Floridian Resort.

hyatt regency denver at colorado convention center

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I recently spent a few days at the Hyatt Regency Denver as part of the PCMA Education Conference (which was a blast, by the way). The hotel is located next to the Colorado Convention Center, which was where the conference sessions were. It’s also well-situated in the downtown area, only a block away from a pedestrian mall with plenty of shops and restaurants, plus others nearby (I recommend Snarf’s for a quick bite, which was recommended to me by one of the hotel’s valets). The light rail is a block away, which takes you around the city.

The Hyatt is a huge hotel and does a lot of meeting and group business, owing to its proximity to the convention center. There are 30-something floors, necessitating two different elevator banks (think of it as the ‘local’ and the ‘express’).

I’m a Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum member (which is their middle tier, don’t get too jealous) and it’s always nice to be thanked for my loyalty. I didn’t make my reservation myself but asked for it to be tied to my account at check in, and the already-friendly front desk agent was even friendlier. The rooms do not come standard with refrigerators, but I asked for one and they said it would be no charge (normally $20 a day) because of my loyalty – which is nice.

The sleeping rooms…

I found my room to be very comfortable. There wasn’t anything particularly special (no TV in the bathroom!) but it met my needs. One feature that I liked was the large desk space, plus a roll-out additional table, which was perfect for eating my takeout lunch from Snarf’s. I also appreciated that the TV was on a swivel.

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The bathroom was small but adequate. I do love how Hyatt provides toothpaste in addition to shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

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My only complaints about the room were the lack of outlets – there were none (that I could find) near the desk. I ended up unplugging a floor lamp so I could charge my laptop and my phone at the same time. I really should just start traveling with a travel surge protector.

The meeting space…

I didn’t get as much perspective on the meeting space as I usually do since most of the sessions were are the nearby convention center, but I did get a peak at some of the spaces. There was a huge conference of high school athletic associations on property while I was there – meaning every other person  you ran into looked like a coach, no joke – but I did get a few peaks at the space.  I did like that the pre-function space was plentiful and open, and there were tons of floor to ceiling windows, which let in a lot of natural light. It’s also easy to find, as almost all of the meeting space is located on the third and fourth floors, which are accessible by an escalator from the lobby. It’s great that it’s so easy to find and you don’t have to walk for what feels like miles, but if your group is concerned with privacy, this might be a concern.

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The amenities…

The Hyatt features a 24 hour fitness center (which I actually tried out – twice!) that has plenty of cardio machines, weights, and space for yoga mats and exercise balls. There is also an indoor pool, right off of the fitness center. There’s a spa, which I unfortunately did not get to investigate.

Overall…

The Hyatt Denver is a very nice property in a great location. It feels like it’s geared toward business travelers, although I did see some families there. I found the service to be top-notch, although, the hotel was aware I was there for the PCMA conference, which is a giant group of meeting planners that I”m sure they want to impress. I would be back if I have a reason to visit Denver again.

Have you been to the Hyatt Regency Denver? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations hotels in the Denver area?

Check back later this week for my site report on the Colorado Convention Center!

hideous hotel carpets aren’t a big deal

I’m going to say something controversial: I’m not bothered by loud, vibrant hotel carpets. In fact, I rarely notice them, and I notice more than most people do in hotel meeting space.

At an event a few weeks ago, a fellow attendee commented that the carpet in the Peabody Hotel was really loud and reminded her of the carpets in Vegas convention centers. Well, I’ve never been to Vegas (I know!) but do you know what the Peabody’s carpet reminded me of? Every other hotel ballroom carpet. Maybe with a tiny bit of Florida flair.

What do you think?

So why isn’t it a big deal? First of all, if your meeting room is full of furniture you can bet that no one is going to notice. But even if the floor is visible, any room can be transformed with lighting and decor.  Look at this example:

Photo via  Superlative Events

Photo via Superlative Events

So brides and concerned planners, don’t fear the carpet! You can make it work (or you can hide it!). And I can almost guarantee that if the carpet is really that bad, the hotel staff is used to hearing about it and have some tricks to help you disguise it.

If you’re curious as to why  hotel carpets are so ugly, it’s generally because big, loud patterns hide stains and wear and tear. They also tend to create visual interest in long corridors and empty spaces. And as for the Vegas comparison – Vegas casinos apparently have some of the worst offenders, and it might just be on purpose to encourage gambling.

Complaining about ugly hotel carpets is a cottage industry – check out this Flickr site devoted to hideous carpets.

Do you hate on hideous carpets too or do you just roll with it like me? Do you have any photos of attractive hotel carpets to share?

site report – the hyatt regency orlando (formerly the peabody orlando)

 

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Editors note: This hotel became a Hyatt Regency in November 2013. This post was current when it was published and reflects the service and amenities as a Peabody Hotel, not a Hyatt Regency.

When you think of Orlando, you probably think of theme parks. Unless, of course, you are an events nerd like myself, than you might think of meetings and conventions. Orlando is one of the top convention cities in the US, with a huge convention centers, tons of hotel, plenty of flights in and out of the airport, and attractions nearby.

I recently got to stay at the Peabody Orlando for a conference hosted by Cvent. It was my first time staying at the iconic property and my first impressions were: this place is HUGE but it has a ton of character.

Location, location, location…

The Peabody is located next to (and I mean – right next to) the Orange County Convention Center. It’s about a 15-20 minute drive from the Orlando airport. It’s pretty close to Universal Studios and Sea World, Disney World is a bit farther away (about 20-25 minutes). The hotel sits in a row of hotels and there isn’t a ton to do within walking distance, if that’s important to you.

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Meeting space…

I’m a meetings and event nerd so I’m likely to snoop around the meeting space at whatever hotel I’m visiting – regardless of whether I’m there to plan or attend an event (my husband loves this feature of our family vacations!). The thing you need to know about the Peabody is that it’s BIG. HUGE. It almost seems silly that the hotel is adjacent to the convention center because you could easily host a small convention in the hotel’s own meeting space. The property boasts 300,000 square feet of meetings space (that’s a lot – to put in perspective, that’s almost six times bigger than the White House!).

The conference I was attending used mostly the Windermere ballrooms, which are at the very end of the conference space. It was a bit of a hike. My room was in the Mallard Tower and I clocked it at about 12 minutes to walk from my room to the Windermere Ballroom for sessions. Now I didn’t mind this personally (getting to walk so much makes me feel less guilty about skipping the fitness center for my entire stay), but if you are planning an event with lots of older guests or guests with mobility concerns, keep that in mind.

There are so many meeting rooms and venues in The Peabody that I feel like I barely scratched the surface. They offer plenty of flexible space. The rooms I was in were in good condition. Mostly standard ballrooms with airwalls galore, but Windermere had a unique tiled ceiling which added some flavor to the room.

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Service…

The service throughout the conference and my stay was top notch. Now, full disclosure: I was attending a conference for meeting planners and it’s not uncommon for hotels to pull out all the stops to impress meeting planners so we take our events to their facilities, and certainly The Peabody was aiming to impress. But even when I didn’t have the ginormous conference name badge on, the staff was kind, accommodating and incredibly friendly. The hotel is large and the staff is probably used to people getting lost. Every time I paused in the lobby or a hallway, I was greeted and asked if I needed help. I’m stubborn and refused that help, but it was offered all the same.

The F&B…

Food & Beverage for you non-event nerds (read: normal people). The food I experienced at the conference was good hotel food. Not blow your socks off but not bad for mass-produced food for a 500+ person conference. Some of the hors d’oeuvres at the opening reception were very good – mini beef wellingtons were excellent, and this is something that caterers sometimes mess up. The fritatta at a plated breakfast was a miss for me, it was unique but it didn’t have a ton of flavor. The coffee was pretty good. I’m not a coffee snob (my husband is though) but I do like my coffee to be pretty good and I drink it black. Good coffee is a must for conferences – you don’t want your attendees showing up late for sessions because they were in line at the Starbucks down the street because the hotel coffee is terrible!

The Ducks…

You can’t mention The Peabody and not mention the ducks. The ducks are the mascot for the hotel, ever since the 1930s when the GM of the original Peabody in Memphis brought live ducks to the fountain – full story here. Today you can see live ducks at the fountain during the day and they are paraded through the lobby each morning and evening (I’m pretty bummed I missed seeing this myself). But they use ducks everywhere – from duck artwork in the sleeping rooms to soap in the shape of a duck in the bathrooms, even butter in the shape of a duck on the dinner table (which led me to feel guilty about beheading the butter duck in order to butter my dinner roll which was very yummy). It’s tastefully done – ducks are everywhere in the decor, but it’s never garish or overdone. I think it gives The Peabody its charm and makes the hotel feel more special.

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Overall… 

Overall, I would come back to the Peabody if I had an event in Orlando. It’s a great location and a great property.  Small meetings might feel a little lost since there is so much meeting space, and the long walk to the ballrooms might be an issue depending on your guests’ demographic, but for medium and large sized groups it would be a great option over a big box hotel.

For more information on hosting meetings and events at The Peabody, click here.