The karaoke machine was the ultimate icebreaker for Citibank's U.S. Consumer Bank division. During a recent teambuilding meeting at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, Va., “We had the California folks singing ‘New York, New York’ and the New York folks singing ‘Hotel California,’” recalls New York-based Craig Chanti, product manager for the 450-branch division.

The meeting brought together Citibank's relationship managers and sales force for teambuilding, product launches, and strategy clarification. “Over the course of a year, with the company spread out over many states, something might happen in Los Angeles where the team veers off center, then the team in Rochester might go off in a different direction,” Chanti says. “These meetings help people get back to center, and reacquaint themselves with our goals and strategy.”

For Chanti, the biggest appeal of a conference center is the collegial environment. Citibank attendees hail from many places and often don't know fellow attendees. “We want people to bond and build relationships,” he says.

Chanti also cites the comfort factor of conference centers. “Conference centers have more windows and light [than most hotels], and you can spread out and feel more comfortable.” He also likes the all-inclusive nature of CMP plans, which simplifies budgeting, and the fact that conference centers usually have on-site media help.