Meeting planners are always looking for new ways to create an environment that fosters lasting impressions. At our property, the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, I've noticed an uptick of meeting planners bringing their groups outdoors to enjoy nature, and have seen how this can help the overall success of an event. By encouraging attendees to get out of the traditional boardroom, meeting planners can find easy and fun ways to engage their group and create a setting that builds lasting connections among your attendees.
I recommend that meeting planners consider the following when planning an outdoor event.
Use Nature to Help Meet your Goals
First off, planners should outline the goals of their event, and understand how incorporating outdoor elements can help to achieve the desired result. For example, if planners would like their group to network, a casual and relaxing outdoor setting may help their attendees to be more comfortable with connecting and encourage meaningful conversations.
Also, planners should not be hesitant to change it up a bit and consider moving traditional elements of their meeting agenda outdoors. For example, instead of a projection slideshow presentation, I've seen planners host creative and fun flip chart sessions outside in which the attendees have been fully engaged and more interactive than in a traditional ballroom or boardroom setting. We've even held trade shows outdoors to add a new element to exhibits. Sometimes a small change in setting is all it takes for planners to make a big difference for their event.
Reset Your Mind and Re-energize
As we live in the day and age of fast-paced work environments, instant downloads, and hundreds of emails, planners can get attendees outdoors in order to help them get away from technology and tap into a different part of their brains and decompress. Even if you have a content-heavy program, planners can incorporate outdoor breaks that allow guests to enjoy the fresh air, give their minds a moment to process all of the information they've learned, and allow them to "reset" before their next set of sessions for the day.
For example, at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, we've seen the value in outdoor breaks and are currently in the process of rolling out "Leave Your Phone Breaks" for groups. The program encourages attendees to leave their phone behind or turn it off, and we provide them with a five-, 10-, or 15-minute walk map that takes them through the resort's trails to explore the natural beauty of the area.
When planners incorporate the outdoors into their events, they are choosing to infuse "light space," which refers to anything with a natural setting, from fresh air and sunlight to trees and running water. These types of spaces are perfect for groups to spur creativity and reenergize, helping to increase the success of the event.
Things to Consider
For planners who are hosting full outdoor sessions, it is important to keep a couple things in mind to ensure a successful event. For example, I encourage that planners consider a pavilion type set-up, which provides overhead shade or extended covering that protects from the sun and is adaptable based on weather changes. I also suggest that planners utilize a casual dress code that is suitable and comfortable for being outside -- there is no need to be in a suit for an outdoor function.
Although several types of meeting sessions can be hosted outdoors, I've noticed that roundtable discussions that open up dialogue to attendees and encourage "outside" of the box thinking typically work best, rather than closed, content-driven sessions.
Utilize Your Venue
I recommend that planners look for destinations that provide an abundance of outdoor space. As most resorts are designed to incorporate a natural landscape, they are typically ideal venues for outdoor meetings that encourage creative learning. A resort's outdoor spaces are usually among its best assets, and as an added bonus, it's typically beneficial for planners to utilize those areas.
Ryan Galvin is the director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa. He has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 16 years, and has more than 13 years' experience planning meeting experiences for groups. Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa is located on more than 400 acres of Texas Wilderness where meeting attendees can find hiking trails, quite spaces, the music of nature, the banks of the Colorado River, and even the resort's Longhorns "T-Bone and Ribeye," all of which can be utilized by groups.