An Event Planner Perspective: Holding an Annual Event in Council Bluffs

May 17, 2019

Bethany Crile, Des Moines-based communications and conference coordinator with Iowa League of Cities, describes the organization's annual conference and exhibit held in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Meetings Today (MT): Briefly state what your job entails.

Bethany Crile (BC): I wear many hats, which is pretty typical in the nonprofit world. On the conference side, I work with our member committee on site selection. I guide our team through the planning process, taking the lead on keynote speaker selection and all the communications/marketing aspects of the event.

MT: What type of meeting did you hold in Council Bluffs?

BC: The League held our annual conference and exhibit in Council Bluffs in September 2018. It was a three-day educational/training event with an exhibit hall on the first day and a half.

MT: Who helped in executing your event?

BC: As an association for the cities of Iowa, we always work closely with our host city’s staff to ensure each event has some local flavor.

In Council Bluffs this included working with the CVB, who was very helpful in identifying locations for evening receptions and meetings outside the convention center.

We also worked with the mayor’s office to plan mobile workshops that took attendees into the community to check out some of the city’s recent projects, including a sneak peek of the new police department.  

MT: What did your attendees seem to enjoy the most about Council Bluffs?

BC: There are lots of sleeping rooms within walking distance of the Mid-America Center, and free parking. Our event brings in people from all over the state, and not having to drive in an unfamiliar city is a great perk for them. And from a programming standpoint, they really enjoyed the mobile workshops and the President’s Reception we held at the new Pavilion at River’s Edge Park. That reception received awesome comments in the post-event survey.

MT: Did your group have any fun evening events?

BC: The President’s Reception was held the second evening of our conference. We worked with the city and CVB to plan the event at River’s Edge Pavilion, a wonderful city facility with amazing views of the Missouri River and the Omaha skyline.

We were able to use the convention center as the caterer; one less contact always helps. We had live music and obtained an in-kind sponsorship for fireworks.

Though we have one of these receptions each year, the combination of entertainment and location made the Council Bluffs event one that’s hard to forget.

MT: Are there any group-friendly experiences you would recommend?

BC: Of course, Council Bluffs has plenty of casinos, with all the amenities and entertainment that go with them. But the city also has some great public art, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum and the historic Squirrel Cage Jail. We also had a bike tour through Lake Manawa State Park, and held a non-competitive 5K run/walk on the trails along the Missouri River.

MT: Would you recommend Council Bluffs to other meeting planners?

BC: Yes! In addition to the convention center, Council Bluffs also has lots of spaces for smaller meetings. The CVB is a great resource, and I always recommend starting there.

[Read This Next: Omaha and Council Bluffs Offer After-Hours Fun for Groups]

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About the author
Carolyn Blackburn