For the folks setting up large meetings and conferences, Cleveland is their untapped hidden gem.
As business goes global, the world gets smaller — but the events get bigger. Setting up those events is not a job for the faint of heart.
No one knows that better than Alison Milgram, director of events for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), which boasts about 7,000 members worldwide. “When you are planning meetings for meetings professionals, every detail matters,” she says with a laugh. “As a professional management association, there are lots of things that we’re looking for in a city. Location, ease of access, what kind of space it offers and what it offers for people to do when we give them a little bit of downtime.”
Milgram recently helped organize PCMA’s annual Education Conference and found everything she needed — and more — in what many consider to be the “secret weapon” of events planning: Cleveland.
“Cleveland is that hidden gem of a city that not everybody knows about,” Milgram says. “It is a great town with incredible people and incredible hospitality.”
Beth Berkheimer, exposition and future sites director of the rubber division at American Chemical Society (ACS), is similarly high on Cleveland for large events, in part because she feels the support she gets from the city makes her job easier. “Planners, during onsite, typically get about four hours of sleep. In Cleveland I get a little bit more,” she says, noting that the ACS has held The International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland five out of the last nine years, and plans to return in 2019.
Never a dull moment
“The attendees want to get out, have fun, network, they want to bump into as many customers as they can,” says Berkheimer, noting all that Cleveland offers, from microbreweries, the Warehouse District, The Flats (where a 1,200-foot boardwalk along the Cuyahoga River is lined with bars and restaurants), to East 4th Street in the heart of downtown. “It’s all kinds of different chef-owned restaurants,” she says. “I hear stories all the time — we went to one of the restaurants and we ran into Michael Symon!’”
The full package
Cleveland is about more than a good time, though. “Cleveland has a great convention center with an incredible layout,” says Milgram. “One of the things that we loved so much was that we were all in one area, which provided just a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. There are lots of great hotels around that convention center, too.”
Berkheimer has similar sentiments. “We use nine different hotels. A lot of cities don’t have all the national major hotel chains, so that is something that I think is really important.” The city also sports a convenient public transit system connecting everything, including a free trolley system, buses and a light rail network that provides direct access from the airport to downtown. Combined with an extremely walkable downtown, getting around the city is a snap.
A true partner
Both Milgram and Berkheimer praise the cooperation and resources Cleveland offers planners. “The experience was very positive,” Milgram attests.
“We’re very small staff,” says Berkheimer. “Destination Cleveland, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, started off as a resource but it became a relationship, and then it became a true partnership. If I could take them with me everywhere I went my life would be much easier.”
A culinary mecca, the home of rock and roll, a rich cultural heritage — all in a city uniquely equipped to handle large-scale meetings and conferences. One thing’s for sure: This hidden gem for events planners won’t stay hidden for much longer.