When it comes to booking a corporate event, whether it’s an annual conference for hundreds of attendees or a team-building activity for a dozen employees, New Jersey venues, ranging from hotels and conference centers to secluded B&Bs, are offering an array of options that cater to each company’s individual needs.
For many businesses, location is everything when it comes to planning meetings and conferences. Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch is just steps from the beach, and with four large conference rooms, it has become a popular choice for corporate events. The resort’s indoor meeting capacity consists of two rooms that can host 800 people, as well as two smaller rooms that can both accommodate 200. But according to Anna Reynolds, vice president of sales for Ocean Place, its outdoor facilities are the main draw for businesses, as companies often take advantage of the opportunity to plan events such as team-building exercises and informal corporate gatherings on the beach.
“Today it’s really about giving our clients an experience, and businesses love that our property is on the beach and they can plan events that allow people to enjoy our outdoor ambiance while still being able to take advantage of amenities like a full-service spa, fitness center, and indoor and outdoor pools,” Reynolds says. Ocean Place’s indoor/outdoor meeting space totals close to 100,000 square feet.
The National Conference Center at the Holiday Inn of East Windsor offers more than 13,000 total square feet of meeting space, which includes 12 meeting rooms that range in size from boardrooms with a capacity of eight attendees to ballrooms that can host more than 200 people. According to Andrea Maturo, catering sales director for the National Conference Center, one of the features that business clients appreciate the most is flexibility when it comes to customizing the available space at a venue. “Corporate clients want to be able to tailor a space to meet their needs, and here they can host a formal conference during the day in one of our meeting rooms, a lecture in our auditorium, and a semi-formal dinner in a ballroom,” she explains.
The state’s meeting and conference facilities are also taking their offerings a step further to design customized packages for their corporate clients, which Maturo says can include everything from hotel accommodations to meals to audiovisual (AV) equipment, all in one set per-person price. Most conference venues will also provide access to event coordinators who ensure that the event runs smoothly from start to finish.
“Food is also a major draw for us. We keep up with the trends in the meeting industry through our dining options,” Maturo adds. The venue designs customized snack breaks and meals for meetings and conferences, with themes ranging from chocolate lovers to heart-healthy options. “Business clients are happy to discover they can offer a simple breakfast buffet or grab-and-go options to a full southern barbecue buffet or a buffet with ballpark favorites like hot dogs,” she says.
The state’s meeting and conference facilities are also prepared to meet companies’ IT needs, and often come equipped with the support and technology that today’s businesses rely on; the National Conference Center and Ocean Place, for example, offer on-site AV equipment and support to eliminate the need for rentals and address any technological issues that may arise during the event.
In Sussex County, Crystal Springs Resort’s in-house team executes more than 500 conferences each year, and is equipped to provide IT, AV, catering and conference services to successfully execute corporate events. Crystal Springs is also able to accommodate the trend for both fine and unique dining options for corporate events; the resort boasts 10 dining venues, including Chef’s Garden, located in the middle of a one-acre organic working garden with an open-air kitchen and Restaurant Latour, one of the state’s most highly-acclaimed restaurants, as well as an expansive award-winning wine cellar. The resort also offers business clients more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and catering space, including ballrooms, breakout rooms, trade show, and conference spaces, in addition to a clubhouse and/or pavilion at its Black Bear and Ballyowen golf clubs.
“More and more corporate clients are seeking to enhance their events with experiences they can’t get when they stay in the city, and there’s a desire for these experiences to be authentic,” says Linda Alloco, regional sales director for Crystal Springs Resort. The resort offers a range of innovative team building activities, from Iron Chef competitions and blind wine tastings to foot golf and archery tag, and new for next year is “Inspiration Collection,” a curated collection of group experiences with common themes revolving around local agriculture, sustainability, nature and wellness. “While we’ve always had the advantage of the beautiful setting that serves as a backdrop to our resort, we’re now providing experiences that incorporate multiple elements of our local environment, whether it’s ingredients in the food we serve from local producers or our own gardens, a guided nature hike to forage botanicals that can be used in a mixology class, or goats from a local farm in one of our goat yoga sessions,” Alloco adds. “Sustainability and environmental responsibility are becoming more and more important to our corporate clients.”
For smaller meetings and more informal corporate events, the state has venues such as the Woolverton Inn, a 14-room bed-and-breakfast venue in Stockton that offers a more relaxed option for company gatherings. “We’re an alternative option for companies that want to get away from presentations and are looking for more interaction … employees can step outside and see the sheep and stretch their legs, or they can gather around the firepit and hang out in Adirondack chairs. It can be an inspiring setting to get the creative juices flowing,” says Mary Passalacqua, owner of the Woolverton Inn.
The inn was renovated to create a retreat for up to 10 guests, complete with a roundtable, and the facility boasts 10 acres of property with endless options for outdoor meeting spaces; companies can organize team-building exercises or enjoy time relaxing on the grounds. Companies needing a dozen guest rooms are offered the exclusive use of the property to eliminate distractions or concerns about confidential issues being overheard.
“Sometimes businesses realize they need to go off-site to help their people focus, and there’s a trend to unplug and take a break from multi-tasking. … We’re seeing companies asking employees to close their laptops or put their phones away to interact, plan and brainstorm together,” Passalacqua says.
Such activity can likewise be accomplished at the more urban Resorts Casino Hotel’s “The Resort Conference Center.” Opened in 2015 in Atlantic City, the center has more than 64,000 square feet of meeting and function space. Although the site features state-of-the-art technology installations allowing up to 1,000 people to “wirelessly connect laptops and personal media devices simultaneously, while sharing screens even with colleagues in remote locations,” the facility also has the ability to house some 10 visitors groups in 450 different guestrooms, even on certain peak nights (the overall Resorts Casino Hotel recently completed a $125- million renovation).
From the edges of Atlantic City to the Hudson River’s west bank, New Jersey’s hotels and conference centers continue to cater to endless iterations of their clients’ and employees’ needs and desires.
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