When it comes to successfully executing a meeting where all or a significant portion of the attendees drive to the destination, planners face somewhat different challenges than with meetings where everyone is flying in. Questions of parking loom large, as do which type of circumstances best call for choosing a drive-to location.

Meetings Today spoke with several veteran planners about their recent experiences with drive-to meetings.

Healthcare Retreat in Naples, Fla.
While her Florida-based meeting planning company does a fair number of drive-to meetings, Renee Radabaugh, president of Paragon Events, finds that a retreat-style meeting held in a destination that is within two or three hours of where the attendees live yet offers a different environment is the ideal scenario.

This proved to be true for a retreat and educational meeting that took place last summer for a hospital group based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Held at a resort hotel in Naples, about a two-hour drive for most of the group, the three-day weekend meeting kicked off with a reception on Friday night.

“Most of the people were able to go to the office, leave a bit early and make it in time for the reception,” Radabaugh said. “We negotiated slightly better than average parking fees and also made sure there were plenty of family activities available. We had about 85 attendees, and about half of them brought along their kids.”

While the meeting could have been held in Fort Lauderdale, the fact that Naples was far enough away to require a hotel stay was also essential to the meeting’s success, she said.

“If we had held it too close to home, people would have gone back home at night, and we would have lost that shared experience and the networking aspect,” she said.

The fact that the meeting, which combined educational sessions in the morning with free time in the afternoon, was held when school was not in session and in a resort destination was also part of what made the program work, Radabaugh added. She has found similar success by holding drive-to meetings for Miami-based groups in the Florida Keys or for Los Angeles-based groups in Palm Springs.

“In these cases the meeting is convenient to home, but is also in a different environment where people can unwind and experience a contrast to where they live,” she said. “It might be a place they would want to visit on the weekend anyway. One thing you do need to be aware of is when to start the meeting. Make sure it is during a time when people won’t be fighting rush-hour traffic to get there.”

Radabaugh said she is experiencing a rise in the number of drive-to meetings, the result of some organizations opting to hold several regional meetings instead of or in addition to one annual event. In particular, she is finding that weekend drive-to meetings are especially popular with the healthcare industry and for board retreats.