Family-inclusive meetings show employees that their time away from home is valued. A provider specializing in child care for conventions offers advice for a kid-friendly event.
14 Tips for Hosting Kids
- Know Your Demographic
Most companies will offer an on-site program for children six months to 12 years old. But if older kids will also be attending, an on-site teen lounge or youth tour program might be a good idea as well.
- Get Them Involved
Although the children will usually have their own program on-site, you might want to include them in a special family night or as “entertainment” for your opening session. Consider structuring some parts of the program so that they are conducive to family participation.
- Convenience Counts
Convenience for parents is why you are doing this, so when you schedule the event, allow enough time for parents to get to and from the children's program.
- When Hunger Strikes
Program providers may offer snacks, but you should also look into arranging meals for children, even if it is at an extra charge to the parents. Remember to ask for less food than you have children. For example, order a buffet for 20 if you are expecting 35 kids. They never eat that much unless they are teenagers.
- Hire Professionals
Your life will be easier if you go with a pro. Ask your CVB or a member of the Association of Destination Management Executives for leads, or Google “convention child care.” Professionals can do a lot for you, such as arranging food service; providing activity planning, supplies, and staff; providing all forms and paperwork; and managing child-care registration. If you meet in a different city every year, consider hiring a national child-care provider. Just be sure to check references, especially with current clients who have held events similar to yours.
- Protect Yourself
Make sure that the provider you hire has trained employees, workers compensation insurance, and liability insurance. Understand the safety features that the provider offers, including how they set up the room, the toys and supplies they use, and how they double-check parent/child identities and secure the child-care space.
- Be a Good Partner
Once you hire your vendor, provide what they need. This usually includes a TV/DVD player, mini-refrigerator for lunches, and a hotel room for the on-site manager.
- Set Policies Ahead of Time
What is your sick child policy? What about refunds? Do you charge differently for infants than for older children? What about a discount for siblings? With your provider, decide on your policies before you, or they, send out the first registration form.
- Secure Proper and Ample Space
A rule of thumb is 50 square feet per child. So a 12-child program requires a 600-square-foot room. Plenty of space helps to prevent accidents and allows for a few more children to be added at the last minute. Look for space with windows and an in-room restroom, if possible. Secure separate but adjacent space for different age groups.
- Require Pre-Registration, But Be Flexible
By having attendees pre-register their children, your provider can charge you more accurately and nail down a space requirement. But don't forget to plan for some last-minute decisions to bring the kids.
- Promote It
Every chance you get, sing it from the rafters. Photos, graphics, and a little humor help to catch the eyes of soon-to-be grateful families. Your provider should have promotional copy, a logo, and photos to share.
- Communicate With Your Provider and the Venue
Make sure that you know exactly what the provider is coordinating for you. Ask to be copied on correspondence with the hotel, services, or entertainment being arranged.
- Be Available During the Program
Keep in touch with the on-site program manager. Have direct, efficient ways to reach each other. A good program can virtually run itself, but your visits and kind words go a long way with busy managers who have a lot of responsibility on their hands.
- Advise Your Provider of Changes Well in Advance
If the tour bus will be late coming back, or the hours of the banquet have been extended, tell your provider as soon as possible.
Download a podcast from NPR's Marketplace about bringing kids to conferences, featuring Corporate Meetings & Incentives Editor Barbara Scofidio, at http://meetingsnet.com/podcast/.
Source: Christine Tempesta, president, KiddieCorp, San Diego, www.kiddiecorp.com