Tag Archives: national conference center

Selecting the Right Venue for your Meeting

The most important step before selecting a location or venue is to understand the overall goals, objectives and outcomes desired at the end of your conference.  Is the purpose to incentivize or reward?  Is the goal to strategize and plan? Or, is the goal to educate and train?  The answer to these questions may assist your organization to select the right type of venue and location.  Though budget is always a factor; the desired outcomes should be the first consideration.

Cities and resort destinations are often the first locations considered for sales launches and incentive trips.  These destinations are convenient to attractions, dining and shopping.  If building a cohesive sales team is important to your organization, then perhaps other destinations and venue types should be explored.  Conference centers are often overlooked because they do not provide a traditional hotel experience.

Most conference centers are dedicated only to meetings.  Your attendees are not competing for attention with other leisure travelers and non-meeting guests.  If your conference center is a member of   IACC, the International Association for Conference Centers, then that conference center has implemented a set of benchmarks within their venue to reflect the highest standards, facilities, technology, and are modeled with strong corporate social responsibility in mind.  Conference centers simplify the buying process through offering a CMP, or Complete Meeting Package, to encompass meals, breaks, meeting room rentals, basic a/v and internet.  Many items such as executive board chairs often come standard.  Less add-on fees and fewer hidden charges are assessed.

Conference Centers provide an environment for learning, networking, and team building.  The open spaces and wide variety of meeting and event space provide near limitless opportunities for you to create a meeting that achieves your objectives while creating a memorable and meaningful program for your attendees.

Content courtesy of The National Conference Center  

Behind the Scenes with The National Conference Center

In only 18 months, one of America’s largest conference centers is emerging with a striking new design, revamped services and facilities and a fresh new branding strategy. The multimillion dollar project has transformed the 65-acre campus and its six connected buildings into a warm, functional and cohesive complex, elevated by a brilliant and inspiring design.

“We are extremely proud that this challenging task was accomplished so quickly,” says Geoff Lawson, general manager of The National Conference Center and West Belmont Place. “It is certainly a record in the conference center industry.”

With Management oversight provided by LaKota Hotels & Resorts, The National Conference Center is one of the largest meeting, training and event centers in the nation and the largest on the East Coast.  The property is located on a 65-acre campus just outside Washington, DC, in Leesburg, Virginia, just 12 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport.

“The National” provides 1.3 million interior square feet in six connected buildings. It houses 917 guestrooms, and over 265,000 square feet of meeting and group function space. Supporting outlets include a 900-seat Dining Room, the 200-seat Black Olive Bar & Grill and other new guest-centric outlets creating a warm and engaging atmosphere. Learn more.

Bigger & Better Conventions

national conference center

Just 35 miles from DC, The National Conference Center delivers warm hospitality within a dedicated conference environment devoted to learning and development. Productivity is supported by sophisticated technology, including powerful Internet connectivity, as well as Certified Meeting Professionals that take care of every detail so you and your team can focus on achieving goals.

Accommodations | All 917 guestrooms—including 78 suites—boast high-end amenities, including flat screen HDTVs, free Wi-Fi, a spacious desk with ergonomic chair plus pillow-top bedding. Camaraderie and teamwork are enhanced by living rooms nestled within each cluster of 18 guestrooms. Groups can even experience a private “conference center within a conference center,” thanks to pods encompassing 150 guestrooms with direct access to the meeting rooms accommodating that program.
Dining & Recreation | The National’s recent multi-million dollar renovation included numerous facility-wide upgrades. A redesigned dining room smartly serves 880 guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Private dining—indoors and out—shines a spotlight on Chief Wine Officer Mary Watson, Executive Chef Chris Ferrier and his culinary team. A new yoga/dance studio offers 72 virtual fitness classes on-demand. Built in 2014, The National Challenge Course features high and low ropes elements and a climbing wall, representing one of the DC-area’s most impressive team-building opportunities.

Your group can enjoy all of these amenities and more, situated on a scenic 65-acre campus in DC’s stunning Wine Country. Learn more about The National today at conferencecenter.com or 877.363.3104.

National Conference Center Celebrates Turnaround Success

Anyone driving by The National Conference Center or West Belmont Place, knows there’s a lot going on at the property. The National and West Belmont Place represent the largest open market meeting, training and event center in the nation, located within close proximity to Washington Dulles International Airport and just outside of Washington, D.C. Purchased out of bankruptcy just over a year ago, the property has undergone significant changes and improvements which have resulted in a dramatic uplift in business.


Last year, LaKota Hotels & Resorts was retained by the new ownership to reorganize and re-energize the operation. LaKota brought in new onsite leadership and worked with them to reorganize the sales and marketing team, develop a capital improvement plan and infuse and reinforce a “whatever it takes” attitude. The result was one of the fastest and most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the conference center industry.

Earlier this summer, The National hosted a reception to celebrate their turnaround success.

The National's Turnaround Reception

The National’s Turnaround Reception

In 2013, prior to new ownership, The National was at a financial low with a downswing that continued into 2014 when the property was purchased and the new management team brought in. The team managed to completely reverse the downward direction during the remaining seven months of 2014, actually increasing revenue 34% over the prior year. In 2015, the team accelerated the trend with 2015 revenues forecasted (conservatively) to increase another 73% over 2014, which is a 140% increase over 2013. Occupancy in 2015 has increased by 130%. Usage from all group market segments is up double to triple digit percentages at The National and West Belmont Place including corporate, association, government, military, religious, fraternal, weddings, social functions and events. So far this year, more than $5 million in additional group business had to be turned away due to advance group commitments.

The key players of the new executive leadership team include Vice President and General Manager Geoff Lawson, a proven hospitality executive with years of conference center experience, numerous turnarounds and a former president of the International Association of Conference Centers; Chief Marketing Officer Chuck Ocheltree, a conference center sales and marketing icon with a number of turnaround successes in his career; Kahilua Herlihy, chief financial officer with years of experience as an accounting and finance executive in the D.C. hotel market; Allan Reynolds, director of food and beverage, with exceptional culinary experience in revamping conference center food and beverage operations; Chris Ferrier, executive chef who brings large 4- star hotel and catering experience and a passion for exciting, locally-sourced and innovative food; and Kellie Mueller, an exceptional leader in conference planning who returned to The National as director of conference services.

This new team set about to shake up the former operation and set it on a new path by investing in top sales talent, repositioning the property in the marketplace, and initiating capital improvement and renovation plans. “The dramatic turnaround at The National is a true testament to the ability and attitude of the onsite team, which is by far the strongest leadership, sales, and service group of folks I have had the pleasure of working with in this industry,” stated Sam Haigh, LaKota president and chief operating officer.

Capital improvements include renovations internally and externally with new dining and gathering areas, lobby improvements, a renovated fitness center and outdoor gathering areas such as patios and fire pits, taking advantage of the property’s large campus setting. With the physical improvements and service changes, dining at The National is an entirely new experience, as is relaxing and enjoying the evening entertainment in The Bar.

“The best way to tell we’re on the right track is the tremendous volume of business we’re seeing as well as the very high marks and exceptionally positive feedback from our clients,” stated Geoff Lawson, The National vice president and general manager. The property will continue with additional renovations as part of the ongoing capital improvement plan, so that clients will experience new enhancements with each return visit.

Springtime Expo Part 2

The Expo Hall at last week’s Springtime Expo was packed with excitement from the moment I descended the escalators and had my first peek.

show floor

A view of the expo hall at the beginning of the Springtime Expo

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you – yes, that is a  massage station on the right hand side! By the end of the day, there was quite a line of attendees and exhibitors looking forward to a few moments of pampering.

The ConventionPlanit Booth was full of excitement, with many of our staff popping in and out throughout the day.

Me, Regional Director of Sales Carolyn Pemberton & Co-Founder Katherine Markham, CHME

Me, Regional Director of Sales Carolyn Pemberton & Co-Founder Katherine Markham, CHME

Later in the day, I left the booth intent on discovering the most unique booth displays and visiting with our member facilities, destinations and service providers, who did not disappoint with their displays!

Team San Jose's Charging Station

Team San Jose’s Charging Station

Team San Jose‘s booth was as welcome as an oasis in a desert. They were clever enough to include a cell phone charging station, complete with bottles of water and fresh flowers! Needless to say, their booth was quite popular.

The National Conference Center at the Springtime Expo

The National Conference Center at the Springtime Expo

The National Conference Center‘s booth staff was as friendly and welcoming as can be – and we couldn’t help but appreciate their great coordinated outfits! Located in Leesburg, Virginia, the venue boasts a 265,000 square foot live and learn facility, a challenging ropes course, team games and more, only a short distance from Washington, DC.

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree by Hilton

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree by Hilton

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree by Hilton had much to celebrate in their booth. The hotel is the recent recipient of several Best of Las Vegas awards, including Best Hotel Rooms, Best Hotel Room Value, Best Hotel Suites, and many more!

ALHI's Luxury Lane

ALHI’s Luxury Lane

Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) had the most inviting looking sitting area with custom pillows. The perfect spot to take a load off before journeying down the Luxury Lane of ALHI properties present at the show. ps – learn about their latest Caribbean luxury properties in our recent article!

Rachelina Bonacci, Chief Executive Officer & Amanda Hof, Partnership Promotions Manager for Howard County Tourism & Promotion

Howard County, Maryland was well represented at the show, and had the benefit of promoting a destination that is a short distance from Washington, DC, giving it great appeal for meeting consideration from the local attendees.

The show floor was full of exciting displays. There were 468 booths in total – no wonder the planners were worn out by the end of the day!

Pushing the envelope then…Propelling it even further today

National Conference Center

The National Conference Center

40 years ago, this DC-area facility was purpose-built as a superior learning environment. Today, The National is expanding upon this rich history so your experience is nothing short of exceptional.

A Look at the Big Picture

From intimate training sessions to the grandest conventions, The National delivers everything you need:

• A unique 1 million+ square-foot live-and-learn facility, encompassing versatile clusters of 250 meeting spaces with 917 guest rooms
• West Belmont Place, a premium 55,000 square-foot events center featuring Northern Virginia’s largest ballroom
• Worldwide accessibility with close proximity to Dulles International airport
• Unparalleled opportunities for team building around The National’s expansive facilities and across its scenic 65-acre campus
• An innovative food & beverage program including Farm-to-Fork Dining, Smart Breaks and an inspiring Chief Wine Officer
• Experienced ambassadors who personalize The National experience to satisfy your distinctive needs

Picture your group here! Speak with an ambassador at 877.363.3104 today. Learn more about  The National Conference Center.

The Story of Event Camp DC & Event Camp Vancouver: Distinct Global Experiences

Please enjoy the following guest post from our friend Sarah Vinning with the National Conference Center, who hosted Event Camp DC earlier this month!

Seven.  It’s the total number of Event Camp conferences that have been held in the past year.

The Event Camp series is a concept that first started with Jessica Levin, a meeting planner, and a few friends on Twitter who had the idea to host a bar camp for event professionals in New York City.  Its intention was to offer meeting and event professionals an opportunity to come together in an unstructured format without a pre-planned agenda and “just be,” as Levin describes it.

The main selling point behind every Event Camp is that each one is different in its own unique way.

Conference organizers make decisions such as venue selection, conference format, if there’s a virtual component and the content (unless the organizers follow the peer conference concept in which attendees determine what happens).

“I’ve been to one, they’re all the same,” is not applicable to these conferences.  Over the first weekend in November, there were two Event Camp conferences held over the same dates across the globe – Event Camp Vancouver and Event Camp East Coast (also referred to as Event Camp DC due to The National Conference Center’s proximity to the Nation’s Capital).

Event Camp East Coast was a genuine peer conference where the attendees reveal in a round table discussion their area of expertise, what they want to learn during the conference and how they hope to get there.  The purpose of a conference like this is to ensure attendees learn what they intended to get out of the conference.

On the first night of Event Camp East Coast, we wrote topics we were interested in learning based on our own interests and expertise.  Then, the conference committee established an agenda that was posted on GoogleDocs that night.  Sessions included improv for eventprofs, exploring why some events sell out and others don’t, online community management, hybrid events and the impact on attendance and face to face shyness epidemic – making events warming.

For Event Camp Vancouver, the conference ball-game was another story.  Their agenda was established prior to the conference and posted on their website, which can be an easier sell for someone when approaching their supervisor about attending.  It also helps them set personal expectations prior to arriving.

Vancouver had a virtual component like Event Camp Twin Cities did for attendees who couldn’t attend.  The pre-determined sessions at Event Camp Vancouver included the future of hybrid, what does fair trade mean and how do we find it in our sourcing, room for thought, think before you eat, defining yourself and your brand in the age of social media.

Throughout the entire conference, attendees played Get Your Green On, a gaming app based on sustainability that was initially built for GMIC’s 2011 conference; the app presents attendees with green challenges and they can earn as many points as possible by performing different acts of green.

The Room for Thought at Event Camp Vancouver, a green space designed for participants to have a place to reflect and rejuvenate. Photo provided courtesy of Greenscape Design & Decor.

The sessions in Vancouver and in D.C. had differences but prove for an interesting case study.

Session topics at Vancouver were pre-determined while those at D.C. were created on-site, yet there was clear overlap: brain-friendly food for meetings, where we’re going with hybrid and the future as well as improv.

With unique organizers for both Event Camps and unmatched conference formats, it’s fascinating to see perhaps we’re all influencing each other through social media in the #eventprofs community and as a result, we’re interested in similar topics within the industry.

To find out more about Event Camp conferences, visit EventCamp.org.

Thank you to Sarah for writing this post for us!  To contact Sarah with questions about these events or the National Conference Center, please call 703-724-6263  or email her at svining@conferencecenter.com.