California's Urban Hubs Offer Hands-On Attendee Experiences

September 19, 2018

Keeping attendees engaged in an era of digital distraction is no small challenge, but innovative California companies make it easy to include interactive experiences at meetings that yield personal growth as well as enjoyment.

Taste Sensations

The food-centric Bay Area is rich with opportunities for interaction that engages the taste buds. The Cheese School of San Francisco offers a cornucopia of events and workshops such as fondue-making and tastings that can take place at the meeting location or the school’s new headquarters in Ghirardelli Square.

“We can set up a tasting station where a cheesemonger can talk about the different cheeses and how to pair them wines or other foods,” said Blythe Riske, director of business development. “We can also focus on the story of local cheesemaking and how it ties in with California cuisine.”

Attendees can try their hand at sushi-making under the guidance of sushi master Kaz Matsune, owner of Breakthrough Sushi, who travels to meeting locations throughout the Bay Area. Along with demonstrations, attendees learn how to roll their own.

Good Sports

With locations in Orange County’s Santa Ana and Oakland’s Jack London Square, Esports Arena is a flexible venue where sophisticated production facilities are geared for video game competitions and other digital-focused entertainment and events.

“The new Esports Arena is a very creative off-site venue that is especially popular with tech groups,” said Rahnee Palma, vice president of sales and services for Visit Oakland. “You can easily set up a stage and design what you want—even the power sources are modular.”

Sky Meetings

Perched 70 stories above downtown Los Angeles, OUE Skyspace LA is an indoor/outdoor 3,400-square-foot observation deck atop the US Bank Tower, making it the loftiest event space west of the Mississippi. Interactive technology imparts information on the panorama of landmarks below and also features recorded stories from musicians, sports figures and other local icons.

Skyspace hosts a variety of creative event experiences on the observation deck, including sunset yoga sessions and helicopter rides paired with elegant catered dinners. Attendees who dare can also take a ride down the Skyslide, a 45-foot glass-enclosed slide suspended nearly 1,000 feet in the air.

Surf’s Up

Attendees can learn to shoot the curl or just engage in a fun day at the beach through the teambuilding programs offered by the San Diego Surfing School. Accommodating up to 50 people at an event, the surfing school provides a ratio of one instructor to three participants as well as canopies, chairs, hydration and surf equipment.

In the Spotlight

Techniques in improvisational theater are put to use in teaching leadership, collaboration and communication skills through Improv@Work, a division of BATS Improv, a San Francisco theatrical troupe. Improv@Work offers a wide range of improvisation exercises and training for groups at the location of their choice, according to director Ceci Walken.

“We can apply improv in a variety of ways, depending on what the client wants to accomplish,” she said. “A fun format is to do a workshop and then follow it up with a performance where the employees can join in. The idea is to give people tools they can use to connect with others.”

Attendees feel like rock stars during experiences created by Rock and Roll Teambuilding, which offers interactive workshops available at meeting locations throughout California. Led by Grammy-winning songwriter and former INXS lead singer Ciaran Gribbin, tuneful options include songwriting classes, the recording of an original song or posing as rock stars such as Madonna or Axl Rose.

This article is part of our 2018 Meetings Today California Destination Supplement.

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About the author
Maria Lenhart | Senior Editor