Revisiting DC: A Look at New Event Venues

Location, location, location. It's a mantra for real estate, but it also has a place in the event planning world. While people attend events for the content, the location also holds sway in decision-making process.

Sometimes it's a matter of commute/travel time to get to the location. Other times it's proximity to public transport or ease of parking. Maybe it's simply that a venue is new and people welcome any excuse to check it out.

For event planners, changing locations can provide a fresh perspective on the event content and how it runs. This is especially valuable for long-running events with a built-in audience. Holding the event in a different location forces organizers to rethink how breakouts are organized and what other activities could be woven into the traditional agenda.

We did some digging and found several venues in the DC region that are worth looking at for events in 2020.

  • Hilton Washington DC National Mall - A new location for Hilton, this hotel opened in the spring just in time to host the cherry blossom crowds. Its central location in L'Enfant Plaza makes it an easy option for local attendees to get to and provides great access to downtown tourist destinations for out of town visitors. The hotel features two ballrooms as well as multiple small meeting spaces among its 23,000 square feet of event space.
  • Conrad Washington, DC - Also a Hilton property, this upscale hotel opened in the spring and features 32,000 square feet of meeting space on the second and third floors. This allows for natural light to be a part of the event experience. The Conrad also has rooftop event space.
  • Moxy Washington, DC Downtown - Keeping with the 'bringing the outdoors in' theme, the new Moxy hotel on K Street features garage-style doors that bring the outdoors into the lobby. Located in an updated historic building, the hotel provides private space for small (30 person) meetings as well as many semi-private gathering areas.
  • The Atrium @ Bobby Van's Steakhouse - The well-known steakhouse recently undertook a renovation of the 12-story atrium area of their restaurant, creating space for private events (220 seated, 330 standing). The facility also renovated six boardrooms that accommodate from 24 to 65 guests each or hold as many as 150 guests when combined.
  • Topgolf National Harbor - A different option among the facilities at National Harbor, Top Golf opened this summer. It features several private event space options that can be combined with golf and food packages to add recreation and fun to any event.

Let us know what new spaces you've checked out and where you're looking forward to going!

Care and Feeding of Your Content

As we highlighted in the post, The Why and How of Federal Event Attendance, content is truly king. The topic is the driving force for getting people to register and attend an event. Knowing attendees are there to learn, how can event planners ensure attendees have a great experience and are able to digest and use the information presented? We've pulled together a quick tip list to think about when organizing your next event.

  • Can you see me now - check the lighting and sight lines to make sure the audience is able to clearly see the presenter as well as their slides. If possible, test the room set up at the same time of day that your event will be happening. In rooms with ambient light, shadows shift throughout the day. Additionally, it's important to check lighting for the presenters - they should have enough light on stage to be able to read their notes but not too much that they can't see/read the audience.
  • Mic check 1-2 - nothing is more aggravating than sound that is too quiet, too loud or has feedback. While there will almost always be audio glitches during an event, minimize issues by testing all microphones prior to each use and have AV support in the room should something happen during the talk.
  • The presentation is in the mail - attendees are there for the content so make it available after the event. Let attendees know you will email them access to the presentations so they do not have to worry about photographing slides to refer to later.
  • Spell check twice, distribute once - since slides are being disseminated, it is even more critical to spell check and proof every presentation. A typo that may get overlooked on the screen during an engaging presentation will stick out when people study the information closer on their own screens.
  • Reuse and recycle - don't let the learning stop at the event. Take the content presented and find ways to share it after the fact through blog posts, videos/video clips, podcasts, infographics, and more. Doing so will broaden the reach of your event and message beyond the in-person attendees.

Let us know your ideas for how to highlight your content before, during, and after your events. Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Why and How of Federal Event Attendance

Market Connections recently conducted a survey to understand how federal decisions makers view and use events as part of their professional development and daily work. The survey included input from technology decision-makers across defense and civilian agencies and aimed to find out how they make decisions about what events to attend and what they expect when they are there.

The survey found that the topic is the main driver for event attendance with 85% citing that as the key reason they decide whether to attend an event. Price and location also play a big role in the decision to attend an event or not. Interestingly, while the topic is important, who delivers that topic is not as critical. Keynote speakers did not rank high on the list of deciding factors. Similarly, while event planners may push the opportunity for networking, that is a "nice to have" for attendees rather than a reason to spend time and money attending an event.

With the topic being so key to attendance, the survey looked at what people are interested in learning about at events. Cybersecurity was the number one topic of interest in the survey. This mirrors what we see in terms of events on our site; cybersecurity typically has the most events listed year after year. The other topics in the top five were cloud services, digital government, AI/Machine Learning, and budget/cost control/fiscal management. Continue reading

Watching the Taxpayer DIME

One area getting bipartisan support in Congress is the oversight of federal spending on travel. Two recently introduced bills look to curb ethics violations in terms of travel spending.

It's been over seven years since Congress looked this closely at federal travel following the excessive costs associated with a GSA conference in Las Vegas. This renewed look is in response to the high profile travel scandals of senior administration officials including Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, former Veterans Affairs Department Secretary David Shulkin, and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Scott Pruitt.

The 2019 Taxpayers Don't Incur Meaningless Expenses (Taxpayers DIME) Act would require federal agencies to report to Congress each quarter on the travel of any senior official on government aircraft. Bill sponsor, Rep. Tom O'Halleran said, "We must hold our government leaders to the highest standards, and with so many high-profile ethics violations in the past years, it is clear we have failed to do that. No matter who controls Congress or the White House, we have to hold everyone accountable."

Another bill looks beyond senior officials, ensuring that all federal employees traveling are spending taxpayer dollars at facilities that have proven to have ethical practices. It specifically encourages employees to stay in hotels that have taken action to reduce human trafficking on their premises. To do this, GSA would create a list of hotels that have taken proven steps to train their workforce to recognize and report human trafficking.

So what does this mean for event planners and attendees?

When planning events, keep in mind that government attendees will have to abide by these rules and keep the locations easily accessible by commercial travel options. Look at policies of hotels and venues around how they educate staff on human trafficking (and other social issues) and choose those that have defined plans and programs in place. For attendees, it's more important than ever to fully investigate and vet travel plans and expenses to ensure that there are no violations, or even perceived violations, of ethical standards.

Let us know your thoughts on this pending legislation and how you ensure compliance with federal travel regulations. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Pay-As-You-Learn

You are likely familiar with the pay-as-you-go model of cloud computing. The idea is to charge for technology services much like utilities are billed. Users are billed for only the computing resources they use as opposed to paying a flat license fee to own and use the software or service. This model has proven to be more cost effective for organizations with inconsistent needs in terms of computing and storage power, allowing them to scale their use up or down as the work demands. Now, this same idea is making its way into the training and event space.

A survey of healthcare professionals found more than three-quarters of respondents would only participate in a meeting that could show a good return on their investment of time and money. Measuring that ROI can be tricky, but attendees across all industries tend to look to events that provide: Continue reading