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54 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 65Meetings on the Waterdelegates and their partners. "The advantages are that very often, it means that the chosen venue has an amazing backdrop - and the water provides a natural space to think clearly. Activities typically can include hospitality in the form of a 'wine and dine' lake cruise with a band, to more purposeful 'on the water' bonding activities, such as canoeing, sailing, windsurfing or raft building."Special considerationsMeetings on water can, however, contain some hidden 'iceberg' challenges for planners to navigate. If a PCO is accustomed to arriving at a hotel a day before the group, he or she will only get access to a ship a couple of hours before the delegates. This means you really have to be ready to hit the deck running.Use of major public rooms on large liners is not always possible to reserve, so plenty of pre-event coordination with the cruise line's shore-side headquarters, who in turn brief the ship's staff, may be required. And be careful, because budget can easily disappear on shore excursions, spa treatments or additional onboard amenities.When shipping conference materials across international borders, allow extra time for freighting, local duty/taxes, and customs inspections.Planners would be wise to review their company's insurance/risk management policies and be prepared to deal with emergencies at sea. Case study International event management agency Grass Roots worked with one regular business communications systems client to provide an annual conference at sea for 150 customers, 250 business partners and 50 members of the press. Delegates from 45 countries went aboard the MSC Rhapsody to discuss strategy and the latest products via an interactive product fair. They flew into Milan and sailed from Genoa to Corsica and back with the conference lasting two full days and two half days. This ship was not up to a typical five-star standard, so the agency undertook some embellishments to make rooms and facilities appropriate to the audience.Getting the live technology demonstrations right on board proved a challenge, but careful planning and plenty of testing overcame them.The seas were not calm and the ship was struck by lightning one night and a couple of delegates suffered briefly with sea sickness. On arriving in Corsica the ground programme of sight-seeing activities went ahead without a hitch.The delegates were a captive audience, as at points mobile phones had no signal. However, in this world of being 'always-on' and tweeting, this may not be appropriate for all.Meet by the lake Lake Bled in Slovenia hosted the World Rowing Championships 2011 and has several hotels overlooking the lake, including Vila Bled, where former Yugoslav leader Tito was fond of meeting.Bled is a 35 km drive from Ljubljana airport and has just celebrated its 1,000th anniversary. "Bled is the host of the annual Bled Strategic Forum, similar to the Davos Forum, and is also about to open a convention bureau," reports Miha Kovacic, head of the Slovenia Convention Bureau. Sea fortIf you really want to keep your delegates captive at sea, Amazing Retreats' five-star Victorian Spitbank Fort may be the answer. Spitbank Fort has 18 rooms and function space for 50. It sits a mile offshore from Portsmouth Harbour in the UK and is one of the most unusual military buildings ever constructed. This Grade II listed monument was built in 1878 and opens November 2011.There are sun decks, sauna, fire pit, wine cellar and cigar room.Some of the world's largest and most successful convention centres, such as Vancouver CC and Hong Kong CEC, offer delegates sweeping vistas of sea. Meeting by the water or on the water can surely be inspiring. Below: The beauty of a Lakeland idyll can transfer to delegate moodThe water provides a natural space to think and bond steve carruthers, lake district hotels