You’re planning your company’s annual meeting, and your attendees’ families are invited to come. With so many different needs to cater to, how do you make the event a success for everyone?

First, kudos to your company for recognizing the value in family-friendly meetings. When employees can bring spouses and kids to a meeting, it goes from that event Mom or Dad has to go to one the family gets to go to. That’s a major difference, one that will pay off in attendance and employee loyalty.

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In fact, many planners are amazed by the impact on attendance of holding their event in a family-friendly venue. At Kalahari, we see attendance rates jump 20-25 percent when spouses and kids get to tag along. So your extra planning efforts will pay off.

Planning a successful family-friendly meeting is about much more than just lining up child care and adding chicken fingers to the menu, of course. The inclusion of families changes your meeting’s entire structure and adds many additional layers to the planning process. Here are some key areas of consideration you’ll need to tackle:

  • Entertainment. Ideally, your venue will offer plenty of on-site activities for kids and spouses. Off-site excursions can be a great option for older kids (the local CVB can help identify popular spots and negotiate discounts), but they generally don’t work for small children, and, in any case, no one wants to spend their entire trip being schlepped around. In addition to utilizing the on-site recreation, you’ll want to plan group activities that bring the families together. This will take some thought: toddlers and teens do not share many interests, so offer activities aimed at different age tiers. The venue’s planning staff should be well versed in generating creative entertainment ideas for your group.

 

  • Venue amenities. Ideally attendees with families should have access to suites or adjoining rooms; built-in kitchenettes are a big help. Also, find out what other major events will be happening while you’re there. A family-friendly meeting might not want to share a facility with a Harley convention, for example. Ask, too, about the venue’s layout. A well-designed family friendly facility is both easy to navigate yet keeps the kid-oriented amenities separate from the meeting space – nearby, but in what should feel like a separate world.

 

  • Dining. This is a big one. For many kids, vacation means lots of pizza, chicken fingers and ice cream. Needless to say, those items probably don’t top your attendees’ list of desired foods. Plan menus with a range of options, bearing in mind your attendees are probably hoping for sophisticated fare. Also, consider offering an earlier dinner start time for families, at least on a couple of nights. Hungry kids are cranky kids. Families will appreciate the chance to get them fed and to have their rowdy offspring chow down without their childless peers looking askance (and those childless peers will likely appreciate a couple of dinners sans kids.) Finally, try to let breakfast run later than usual. Kids on vacation don’t tend to be early risers.

 

  • Schedule. Build in sufficient transition time between meeting sessions to allow attendees to quickly check in on their families, and plan down times during the day so families can connect and enjoy the venue together (the hours before dinner are best for this, and also help make a smooth transition to meal time.)

Navigating these issues and more requires a venue with staff that is seasoned in combining work and family into one successful event. Lean on their expertise; they’ve seen probably every meeting snafu you could dream up, and will help you identify and resolve potential problem spots in everything from your menu to your agenda.

Including families in company meetings requires more planning, but it’s worth it.

When an employee knows that spouse and kids are having a blast nearby, there’s no need to duck out of a session to check in with the babysitter or Skype with children who miss them, no temptation to text with a family member through the keynote speech.

In short, family-friendly meetings can boost attendance, enhance employee morale and maximize productivity. That’s an ROI to trumpet.