New Hosted-Buyer Event Addresses Growing Appeal of Small and Boutique Meetings

One of the newest options on Northstar's calendar, this event, which focuses on groups of 100 people or fewer, will be held twice in 2023.

The inaugural Small and Boutique Meetings connected planners and suppliers in this key niche market. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

Last year, Northstar Meetings Group's inaugural Small and Boutique Meetings event brought together suppliers and planners looking to elevate their gatherings for groups of under 100 people. This year, the event will be held twice: in July in Franklin, Tenn., and in November in Tucson, Ariz.

"As a destination home to many intimate and charming meeting spaces, we were thrilled to participate in the inaugural Small and Boutique Meetings event last year," said Maureen Thornton, president and CEO of Visit Franklin. "As host city for the July 2023 event, we are excited to welcome planners and fellow suppliers to Franklin to experience our unique and memorable spaces for themselves."

The first time this hosted-buyer event was held was last July at the Westin Poinsett in Greenville, S.C. The meeting, which was sold out on the supplier side, emphasized the increasing demand for smaller events and meeting spaces.

"It was nice talking to vendors who weren’t showing me their 10,000-square-foot ballroom for a group of 30," said Drew Hirsty, director of marketing at Penn Global Marketing.

Suppliers are eager to meet this market’s demands. In fact, 221 boutique hotels were nominated for the 2022 Stella Awards, a dramatic increase over prior years. Winners of the annual awards program, which celebrates excellence across all segments of the meetings industry, were announced in November.

Last year's event included free time to explore Greenville, with activities sponsored by Experience Columbia, S.C., with options such as a bike ride through Falls Park, a spirits tasting at a local distillery and a tour of three breweries. 

Additional sponsors of Small and Boutique Meetings included host property Westin Poinsett; Visit Greenville, S.C., which sponsored all dinner receptions and breakfasts; Essential Bodywear, the gifting and merchandise sponsor; Daytona Beach Area CVB, the registration sponsor; and OneSpartanburg, which hosted several planners on a post-event FAM trip.

"The Westin was incredible, the agenda was wonderful, the Embassy Suites was great, and you put together some of the best vendors I can say I have seen for many years," said Laurie Malcolm, national meeting and events coordinator for Stanley Steemer. "This was my first Northstar event and I truly hope I have many others."

Following are more highlights of Small and Boutique Meetings. Visit our extensive roster of upcoming events for more information or to register your interest as a hosted buyer or supplier.

Day One

The Westin Poinsett in Greenville, S.C., played host to the gathering.

Essential Bodywear welcomed attendees with a gifting experience.

The opening reception was sponsored by Visit Greenville, S.C.

Day Two

Stinson Ferguson, a litigation attorney in Spartanburg, S.C., spoke about the importance of work-life balance and setting boundaries.

A bike ride through Falls Park was one of the activities enjoyed by the group.

Other attendees went on a tour of three local breweries.

A rooftop reception rounded out day two.

Day Three

Patricia Byrd from One Spartanburg shared insights and a video about her destination.

Meeting planners met with suppliers during one-one-one appointments. Here, Tyler Runyon of the ATL Airport District CVB (left), talks with Elizabeth Letson of the Liberty Fund about her programs.

The farewell lunch, sponsored by Visit Greenville, S.C., consisted of Southern comfort food, such as fried chicken and macaroni and cheese.