Distinctive Venues: Closer and More Meeting Friendly Than You Might Think

Team building. Leadership retreats. Corporate Trainings. What do these three have in common? They are on the rise in most corporate cultures and the demand for more creative, more innovative and a more productive outcome from these events is as well.  Finding an unforgettable venue can often be the key to developing relevant content, inspiring group activities and ultimately success. Luckily, Northeastern Florida has some of the best and very distinctive meeting spaces to WOW both corporate leadership and attendees. Our fabulous climate, accessible geographical locale and extremely diverse landscape caters to those looking for that little something special to foster productivity, encourage teamwork and ensure success.

meeting_room 947In the heart of Downtown Jacksonville is one of Jacksonville’s most distinctive meeting and event venues, 927 Events. With 5,000 square feet of spacious naturally lit meeting and event space, exposed brick walls and loft-style windows, this venue has two floors of unique décor including one-of-a-kind sculptures, custom motorcycles and other unforgettable memorabilia. Featuring a mix of urban and traditional influences, 927 Events can easily be customized for corporate team building, conferences, trainings, and leadership retreats. Their on-site chef and professional catering staff will work with you to create a custom menu to enhance your event and meet all culinary needs. There is also ample off-street parking for attendees. Ambiance, convenience and location make this venue an exceptional option when staying close to town.

Mikhail Baryshnikov Dance Studio that doubles as a Conference Room for large groupsJust 30 miles north of Jacksonville, nestled within the pristine woodlands along the banks of the St. Mary’s River and hidden amidst a secluded natural wildlife conservation center you will find White Oak Plantation. White Oak Plantation’s Conference and Retreat facilities offer a close, yet secluded getaway for creativity, brainstorming and strategic planning. The five meeting rooms with 9,000 square feet of private, semi-private and outdoor meeting space can accommodate informal meetings, executive conferences and training seminars for up to 100 guests and the on-site fully equipped culinary department is sure to please all pallets while providing a variety of menu options.  Their staff’s experience with world leaders as guests make White Oak Plantation an ideal option for executive retreats and strategic planning.  Special VIP services are available as well as a vast array of activities for all.  The natural surroundings are sure to inspire and energize attendees and corporate leadership groups ensuring both a productive and successful meeting.

river room chairsAbout an hour southwest and on the edge of the St. John’s River, boasting 100 lush acres of tranquility accented with towering oak trees and plentiful gardens, is Marywood Retreat and Conference Center. With five conference rooms able to accommodate 10-180 people and a plethora of indoor and outdoor facilities, this serene oasis located minutes from Jacksonville and St. Augustine is an ideal environment away from the daily hustle and bustle for teambuilding and leadership retreats. Marywood’s idyllic setting offering several outdoor activities and nature trails is perfect for fostering camaraderie and teamwork; while its unique conference facilities allow for meetings and conferences in comfort with little distraction. Marywood’s onsite executive chef and dining facility is available to enhance any conference, meeting or event and overnight accommodations are also an option. Their experienced and dedicated event staff is ready to assist with any small or large corporate function and eager to share their peaceful and unique retreat and conference facility with your group.

golf event roomOn a different end of the spectrum is a more “destination” type venue, without the expense and logistical dilemma of getting to the destination. Just of I95 flanked by the world-famous Slammer and Squire golf course is the World Golf Hall of Fame.  Whether you are a golf enthusiast or simply a spectator, the World Golf Hall of Fame offers magnificent meeting space, traditional and interactive exhibits, breathtaking views and backdrops, on-site catering with custom menu options, and dedicated event staff eager accustomed to VIP concierge-style service. If your conference, teambuilding or retreat requires presentation space, adjacent to the World Golf Hall of Fame is the IMAX Theater, complete with state-of-the-art visual capabilities and seating for up to 300, the perfect venue for private screenings, presentations, and seminars. With over 9.000 square feet of decorated meeting space, the World Golf Hall of fame is an unforgettable and distinctive alternative to the usual corporate meeting venue.

rsz_roadcourse_srlpicks-1For those with a more adventurous spirit, The Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park (The FIRM) west of Green Cove Springs offers a unique alternative to traditional team building activities. With over 400 acres of diverse and challenging terrain, six unique and reconfigurable paved and un-paved circuits for all types of vehicles and on-site classroom facilities, The FIRM provides flexibility, creativity and a fresh approach to a company’s team-building, service meeting or corporate training.

No matter the type of meeting: team building, leadership retreat or corporate training, keep in mind that the venue should be reflective of your focus. Northeastern Florida has so many distinctive venues that can easily accommodate all types of meetings and events in conjunction with fun, productive activities. Think about the meeting goals, agenda and most importantly, the attendees. Once these are defined, venue needs will become clear. Then go ahead and book something a bit out of the ordinary like 927 Events, White Oak Plantation, Marywood, World Golf Hall of Fame or The FIRM.


By: Mariela Murphy

Mariela MurphyMariela Murphy is a bilingual independent strategic events consultant with extensive knowledge and experience in the logistical aspects of strategic corporate event planning, marketing and communications. Ms. Murphy works with clients to coordinate and successfully implement executive, incentive and customer programs ranging in scope, size and venue.  Ms. Murphy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles, is a Certified Paralegal and a member of the North Florida Chapter of Meeting Planners International.



Essential Tips to Planning Effective Teambuilding, Leadership Retreats and Training Events

Every company has its reasons for why teambuilding, leadership retreats and training events are necessary to foster engagement, creativity and eventual success. Although the reasoning behind meetings differs from company to company, what remains the same is the expected outcome: effectiveness, increased productivity, time well spent. Here are some essential tips to planning effective teambuilding, leadership retreats and training events:

  • Keep a clear and concise focus. What is the purpose of the meeting? If it’s teambuilding, allow for a room set-up that lends itself to moving things around; if the objective is strategic planning, make sure the environment is conducive to this activity.
  • Consider the attendees. Who is coming? Are they from different departments? Create a situation where executives and junior level attendees are mixed together and have to interact. This makes individuals invested in the meeting as they feel they are being heard and have an active role.
  • Understand and be realistic about the technology needs. Teambuilding, retreats and trainings are the perfect arena for hybrid meetings. Make sure you are aware of the venue’s internet and bandwidth capabilities as well as how presentations will be presented. It is important to be very clear with technical needs to avoid a complete meeting breakdown.
  • Know how many attendees are expected. The number of attendees can greatly change space needs, room set-up and ultimately, the agenda and content. A retreat for 10-12 individuals is vastly different than one for 30-40. Be sure you are clear as to the number of attendees to ensure the focus of the meeting remains intact.
  • Allow for Breathing Room. Make sure there’s time for mingling and communication. No one wants to sit through hours and hours of presentations and trainings. The way to foster camaraderie and teamwork and of course success, is to allow attendees to get to know another and build relationships. Free form communication and fun impromptu activities can greatly enhance moral and productivity.
  • Follow-up with your attendees. Never underestimate the power of a good end of event evaluation. This ensures that your attendees know you are dedicated and standing behind everything the event was focused on and makes them feel that they are a valued and important part of the company.


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