If your company has an annual event, you should be thinking about location.
Five things to look for in your convention location (and why)
Distributor loyalty is key to success for direct selling companies, but is a growing challenge in the today’s economy. Our industry carries an advantage in that the driven, entrepreneurial people who are drawn to direct selling careers are more impassioned than the average Uber driver or Instacart shopper.
You have no better opportunity to stir the excitement and passion of your entrepreneurial sales force than at your annual convention.
This is why direct selling companies put more than a fair share of time and resources into planning and executing their annual conventions – and why making it accessible to your salesforce is of utmost importance.
Location is Key to a Great Annual Event
We asked two top direct selling companies to weigh in on what makes an annual event a great experience for both their staff and their attendees, and location is a prime consideration.
Jason Sigala, director of events for Avon, looks for a city that is geographically central to their selling base, and one that is “safe and compact” with plenty of amenities “centrally located to the convention center, arena and area hotels.”
Sara West, public relations manager of Thirty-One Gifts, says their company looks for a city that is “friendly, safe and easy to get around” and, like Sigala, they look for “an array of fantastic restaurants, unique shops and top-notch entertainment for our attendees to enjoy during their free time.”
Both groups, and a handful of other direct selling companies, have recently turned to Columbus – Ohio’s capital city – for their annual conventions.
Centrally located Columbus is the Midwest’s powerhouse of progress and is a top attractor of millennials, tech workers and startup investment. It’s the largest Midwest city outside of Chicago and ranks No. 1 for growth in terms of population, jobs and GDP. Columbus surpassed San Francisco in size last year to become the 14th-largest U.S. city. Both The New York Times and Food & Wine have cited Columbus’ atmosphere of forward-looking effervescence when naming the city
to their lists of top destinations to visit.
If your direct selling company is envisioning what makes a successful annual convention, here are five reasons you may want to consider an under-the-radar city like Columbus.
1. Geographically Accessible
More than half of the United States’ population lives within a day’s drive or hour flight of Columbus. Situated at the crossroads of I70, a major east-west artery, and I71, a prime north-south interstate, the city is easy to access by highway. If you have concentrations of sellers in the Midwest or in the east, they’ll appreciate having the option to drive or fly.
If attendees choose to fly, the city’s airport is just eight miles, or 10 minutes, from its downtown in an Uber or taxi. For attendees who are on a budget or prefer greener methods of travel, the AirConnect express bus circulates between the airport, convention center and downtown hotels approximately every 20 minutes and costs only $2.75.
2. Easy to Get Around
Once you’ve checked into your hotel in Columbus, there’s no need for a car. The convention center, arena and host hotels are situated in the middle of several distinct arts and entertainment districts that offer endless options for dining and fun. For attendees who would rather ride than explore on foot, the CBUS Circulator makes multiple stops in several districts, runs from morning until night – and is completely free.
3. Meeting Infrastructure
For direct selling groups, the convention center and other meeting facilities should be in a compact footprint so the flow from general sessions to breakouts is seamless. In Columbus, you’ll find the 21,000-seat Nationwide Arena two blocks – or a five-minute walk – from the Greater Columbus Convention Center. This proximity is cited as a top feature for direct selling groups that have full-group general sessions in addition to their product expo and breakout sessions.
On its own, the convention center offers 1.8 million sq. ft. of space, with 373,000 contiguous sq. ft. of flexible exhibit space, 75 breakout rooms and 3 ballrooms, so it’s easy to manage your expo and all your breakouts under one roof, creating an easy arrangement for your attendees to navigate.
When your attendees are paying their own way, options for hotels in all price ranges is a must. With more than 5,000 hotel rooms in Columbus’ downtown, ranging from limited service to luxury and including popular brands and unique boutique hotels, there’s something for everyone.
Additionally, nightlife and entertainment hot spots where teams can gather should be abundant. In no other city than Columbus will you find as long of a walkable stretch of dining, shopping and entertainment.
If a city checks off all the boxes on the list, but attendees don’t feel safe, then nothing else matters. This is particularly important for direct selling groups, as 70-75% of our sales forces are female.
According to J.D. Power’s 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction Study, Columbus was rated “Highest in Visitor Satisfaction in the Midwest*.” The city ranked highest in safety/security in the Midwest region by a substantial margin. Marriott also named Columbus a top destination for female solo travelers, thanks in part to the myriad dining, shopping, entertainment and fitness options for people can safely explore.
See for Yourself
Columbus is a city that seems ready-made to host direct selling groups. Don’t take our word for it though; Experience Columbus is hosting two all-expenses-paid, meeting planner networking trips to Columbus on April 30-May 1 and June 4-5. Find out more and learn if you qualify for the free networking trip: www.experiencecolumbus.com/directsell
*Columbus, OH received the highest numerical score among 8 cities in the Midwest in the J.D. Power 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction Study, based on 26,124 total responses, measuring the experiences and perceptions of travelers who visited a top 50 U.S. destination, surveyed February-July 2016. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.