Getting Meetings Down to A Science

March 23, 2012

By Lisa Lance

If you are a planner for a scientific or medical organization, you may prefer to hold an event at a facility with the same type of mission, or at one that has special accommodations for your group. And even if your group has no ties to the medical and scientific communities, facilities of this type offer high-tech amenities and flexibility that make them suitable for a wide range of meetings and events. This article will examine three facilities located on a scientific or medical campus in St. Louis.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a “mission to improve the human condition through plant science.” The facility has a variety of spaces available for events and often hosts corporate events, town hall meetings, seminars, symposiums and fundraisers.

Located on the lower level, the Auditorium can accommodate 300 people and works well for presentations, ceremonies and performances. Also on this level is the Commons, an open space with a waterfall. It can accommodate up to 100 for a seated event or up to 185 for a reception.

The Upper Atrium on the first floor has soaring ceilings and a contemporary feel, and can accommodate up to 250 people for a seated, served event, or up to 350 for a cocktail reception. The adjacent Miller Terrace is an outdoor space that is also available in warmer weather and can be tented. A large, grassy space in the center provides a focal point for entertainment.

The Board Room on the third floor features a wet bar and is available for groups of up to 30 people.

“The venue itself is designed for collaboration,” said Tam McGuire, the Danforth Center’s manager of special events. “It’s open and airy and allows scientists to talk.” In addition to the spaces mentioned above, the center can also host cocktail receptions in the greenhouses located on the property. “From a planner standpoint, it’s designed as an open palette so it can meet their needs.”

Mark Gorski, business development officer at the Bio-Research & Development Growth (BRDG) has his office at the Danforth Center. he said his organization held its 2009, 2010 and 2011 Ag Innovation Showcase events there. Each event had between 180 and 260 attendees, and the groups used all available event space.

“Essentially, we took over the Danforth Center for about 48 hours,” he said. “It required real cooperation and understanding from the 220 employees of the Danforth Center while we were there.” He added the groups required technical and logistical support over many months of planning, which included numerous keynote speakers, panel discussions and nearly 20 individual company presentations.

McGuire stressed the staff’s flexibility and ability to deal with last-minute changes as a differentiator of the facility. “We are used to working with scientists and used to last-minute changes,” she said.

The venue uses Butler’s Pantry as its exclusive caterer. “We picked Butler’s Pantry because their mission is in step with ours,” said McGuire. While planners typically work directly with a representative from the catering company on menus, McGuire noted that they work together to ensure the success of each event.

Richard Nix Jr., president of Butler’s Pantry, said the business has catered a wide variety of events at The Danforth Center, from small luncheons of 10-12 people to large galas of 400 or more.

“The objective of the Danforth mission is to feed the world,” said Nix, “and we do try to highlight some of the products they’re working on.” Butler’s Pantry often incorporates the cassava plant into event menus. This staple crop of sub-Saharan Africa, which a team at Danforth is working to improve, is similar to the sweet potato.

“The menus stress the importance of being green and being renewable and feeding people efficiently,” he said. “We try to incorporate as many smart products as possible.”

Jenny Barfield, administrative coordinator at Hope Center for Neurological Disorders at the Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, said her organization held its annual Hope Center Retreat at the Danforth Center in March of this year. About 120 people attended. “This facility was chosen because it really fit all of our needs,” she said, noting the group needed A/V options, an auditorium and atrium space. “And also because it comprises research scientists just like our center. Tours of the facility and labs were offered to our faculty during the retreat and they were very interesting.”

The Eric P. Newman Education Center (EPNEC), located on the campus of Washington University Medical Center, is a member of the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) and offers a diverse range of event spaces.

The Auditorium can accommodate 450 people in senate-style seating and includes a dedicated A/V technician during each event.

Two seminar rooms can seat 45 or 95 people in senate-style seats, and both feature hard-surface writing tables and ceiling-mounted data/video projectors and screens.

Great Rooms, which can be used separately or combined for a larger event, offer several options. Great Room A can seat 32 people for a classroom set-up, 60 theater-style, 48 for a banquet, 80 for a reception, 24 in a closed U or 20 in a U-shape. Great Room B can seat 84 people in a classroom set-up, 160 for theater seating, 148 for a banquet, 300 for a reception, 48 for a closed U or 38 for a U-shape. When combined, these two rooms can accommodate 124 people classroom-style, 300 for theater seating, 200 for a banquet or 400 for a reception.

The facility’s Atrium Lobby can be used as pre-function space for registration or as a catering or vendor location. This space can hold 500 people for a reception.

EPNEC offers a Board Room with 16 chairs, as well as other spaces, from 390 to 890 square feet, which can accommodate a range of meetings from 12 to 40 people in a classroom set-up, 20 to 48 theater-style, 16 to 40 for a banquet, 12 to 32 in a closed U or 10 to 28 in a Ushape arrangement.

EPNEC uses Ces and Judy’s Catering as its exclusive caterer. The EPNEC package menu includes continental breakfast, a variety of mid-morning and afternoon break options (including themes such as Ballpark, Energy and Afternoon Tea), hot luncheon buffets and themed buffets (including South of the Border, Barbecue, Asian and Ballpark themes). Jamie Ryan, MA, PHR, director of EPNEC, said groups are not required to have a medical or scientific purpose to reserve space, and the facility hosts corporate, nonprofit, social and association events. It also holds events for training purposes for nurses, doctors and medical professionals, she added, and it has the equipment and ability to broadcast from hospital operating rooms into the facility.

“We hold many meetings that are research symposiums for scholars to share their research with the medical and academic community,” Ryan said. “It is also a great location for companies to showcase medical equipment and new technology to the medical community.”

EPNEC offers a dedicated conference service coordinator and has an A/V specialist on staff.

Located in Chesterfield, Logan College of Chiropractic built its William D. Purser, DC Center five years ago to improve public awareness of the college. Since then, the campus has hosted events from gala fund raisers to seminars and expositions, to awards shows, to dance recitals. What makes the venue special? “Hands down it’s that we’re so versatile,” said Purser Center event planner Emily Ratliff.

The Purser Center has a 10,000-squarefoot lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows. It can accommodate 500 people for a banquet, 400 for a reception, 900 for a cocktail party or 36 exhibit booths. The Walters Auditorium consists of one large assembly space with 900 seats and two smaller spaces with 288 seats each. They can be rented separately or combined.

The venue has two lecture halls with retractable, tiered seating for 162. It can also seat 175 people for a banquet, 250 for a cocktail reception or 12 exhibit booths. A separate catering room, VIP lounge, queuing room and audio-visual control room are also available.

In addition, Logan College offers an outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate up to 900 people.

The anatomy lab on campus can be rented to hold a seminar or demonstration of surgery techniques. The space is a tiered lecture hall that holds 90 people, and availability is dependent on class schedules.

Groups that have held events at Logan include The Biocranial Institute, the St. Louis Institute of Integrative Medicine and Crane Clinic Sports Medicine. Ratliff said the St. Louis Business Journal also held its Health Care Heroes Awards ceremony there last year.

An additional benefit of holding an event at a medical or scientific facility is the opportunity for tours, and Ratliff said 2,000 people tour the anatomy lab at Logan each year.

The Danforth Center also welcomes the opportunity to give tours of the facility, and McGuire said the type of tour is customized to each type of group. For example, if a group from Washington University is doing a scientific symposium on the site, some Danforth scientists could participate. But if a school group attends an event at the center, the community outreach team would be involved instead.

“A really important point is when we have events here, sometimes we’re just a venue, and sometimes people want to learn about us,” said McGuire. MM&E

(Lisa Lance is a contributor from Towson, Md.)

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