A big splash! Immerse your participants

Find more photos at the bottom of the post.

In a world that turns ever faster and sets increasingly higher expectations to how we manage our time, conferences seem to be taking a stronger foothold in obtaining and exchanging information within our network. Finding that perfect venue for a three-day conference has never been as challenging. The delegates want somewhere they haven’t been yet. The planners are looking for one point of contact. The management is looking for a lower cost.  But, where in the land would you find a venue that fits the bill? Have you tried to look beyond the land based venues and out to sea?

We’ve discussed how to use experience design to create your conference to give the participants the best possible setting to meet their expectations.  A cruise ship has all the prerequisites for being the best setting for a conference. Read on and follow me on a tour around a cruise ship as I will explain how this venue will be just right for you and your participants.

Breaking up the monotony

If you’ve been on a cruise, you’re already familiar with the concept.  If you’re new to cruises you will find an environment that is tailored to handling all the logistics of your event. From the moment you board, your participants will be immersed in a setting that is there to support your meeting objective and the topic of your conference. There are numerous cruise lines and cruise ships, so there will always be one that is just right for your group – whether you have a small group or you charter the whole ship. Of course, chartering the whole ship lets you determine the composition of passengers. No matter, the ship is designed to accommodate a large and diverse complement of passengers and you will always be able to have an area that will be your own.

Some cruise ships have regular meeting rooms as you find them on land, replete with all the latest AV-equipment, screens and a conference set-up to suit your needs. But, as you already know, the room must complement your objective and the topic for the session, so perhaps you should have the session in a lounge, in the karaoke bar or in a secluded area of the pool deck rather than “just” in the conference room. Albeit it takes a bit of planning to find the right venue for each session, moving your participants around the ship will give them a chance to network as well as break up any monotony that could come from staying in the same room the entire day.

Reflecting on the day’s learnings

Cruises are known for the food – and there’s enough food to go around. Contrary to most land based conference venues, on the cruise ship you will not have to pay extra for catering your meetings. Well, actually why just limit the participants’ choice to your choice of croissants when the ship has so many options to choose from – or direct the group to a dining venue that supports the topic of the day. Set aside a bit more time for the breaks and allow your group to network while they roam the ship to find the food of their choice. Come dinner time, on a cruise ship you can easily arrange a true round robin by using the ship’s many restaurants and no transportation is required! Even just dining in the main dining room every night will be different as the menu changes on a daily basis – and best of all is that the kitchen is already geared perfectly to cater to a large variety of dietary restrictions and requests.

But conferences aren’t just about the plenary and the food – getting to network always collect high scores with the participants. Being “trapped” (it will be nothing like it!) on a ship with your fellow participants will afford each and everyone excellent options for networking. Add to it that most cruise ships have a wide selection of activities that can easily be utilized for team building. Let your participants go off the wall at the rock climbing wall or get on par at the (miniature) golf course – while others compete on the running track or perhaps hang ten on the surf simulator.  At other times chilling with your new friends by the pool or in a quiet lounge may be just what sets the mood for reflecting on the day’s learnings.

Get your feet wet – and save

Last, but not least, the safety of your group is always your top priority, I know! All cruise lines and all cruise ships take the safety and security of their passengers very seriously and being such a closed community has always given cruises the lead in being a low crime environment. At every port, each and every person boarding or leaving the ship has to be recorded in the ships computers – and entering the ship you go through an airport-style metal detector, that way the crew always knows who is onboard and that they do not bring unsafe items. Does your land based hotel run such tight security procedures?

So, you see, all in all, a cruise is the perfect environment for your next conference. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet – it is will probably be about 25% cheaper than a comparable conference on land.  On the cruise ship, all your room rental and catering will be included in the base rate. Even entertainment, Broadway style shows, and daily concerts, are included in the cruise price – just work with your onboard group coordinator to include those offerings to fully immerse your participants into you subject matter and event objectives.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and book a cruise for your next conference.

See you at sea!

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