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The National Conference Center Makes Recommendations for Holding Green Meetings

April 22nd, 2015 by

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Rehabilitated eagle being released at The National last fall. Story ran on CBS This Morning.

Celebrate Earth Day every day!

The National Conference Center, one of the largest meeting and training facilities in the nation located within close proximity to Washington Dulles International Airport and just outside of Washington, D.C., holds multiple green industry certifications and awards including Green Seal GS-33 Silver and Virginia Green Certified; Winner of the Loudoun County Green Business Challenge, among others. The conference center uses green practices throughout all areas and aspects—not easy to do when you’re regularly accommodating very large numbers of guests!

Meeting planners should thoughtfully consider green locations when booking meetings and training sessions. Here are some tips, implemented at The National Conference Center, to look for in keeping meetings green:

Go paperless
Meetings generate a lot of paper. Use paperless check in, send documents to meeting attendees electronically and avoid handouts. If you do use handouts, be sure to use recycled paper and/or recycle left over paper. Making USB drives available is an effective way to cut down on paper.

Provide electronic brochures and an informative website for your meeting
This will eliminate the need to mail or hand out costly brochures and will also cut down on paper.

Monitor transportation
Encourage employees to carpool if they’re driving to a meeting site and use shuttles to get to and from the airport and arrange flights and pick up times to minimum shuttle use. Use smaller buses or vans if your group is small and try to use buses with bio-diesel fuel whenever possible.

Make sure rooms have motion sensors
The smart sensors can tell when someone is not in the room and shut off air conditioning or heat. It means the room may be a little warm or cool upon the guests return but it’s a huge energy savings.

Encourage employees to reuse towels and sheets during your stay
People don’t typically wash their sheets and towels every day at home so why do this when you’re away? It not only wastes energy, it also wastes water.

Also make sure rooms use CFLs or LED lights
Many hotels now have policies to use compact fluorescent and light emitting diode bulbs. These reduce energy waste.

Use pitchers and bulk water dispensers
In lieu of bottled water, provide attendees with a reusable (BPA free) water bottle at the beginning of the meeting or training sessions and/or have water pitchers or bulk water dispensers available.

For dining, ask if the facility uses sustainable products
The National Conference Center sources many of its ingredients from area local farms and follows the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Program to ensure that seafood used is sustainable.

Minimize use of disposable products and use biodegradable items when necessary
This includes coffee cups, stirrers, plastic food cups, and take out containers.

The use of trays in the dining room
Even small things such as using trays in the dining room can be a waste of resources. Recently, The National Conference Center got rid of the use of trays in its dining room. This cuts down on water usage and energy as trays require washing and drying.

Recycle
Make sure the meeting site you choose recycles and has recycle containers in meeting rooms. Check not only on what they do with trash but with leftover food as well. Green properties such as The National have active programs for trash and food recycling.

“Because we’re on such a beautiful 65 acre campus, we’re reminded of the importance of protecting the environment daily,” said Geoff Lawson, vice president and general manager of The National Conference Center and West Belmont Place. “We are constantly adding to and retooling our environmental program.” The property has a fun and unique QR code tour with stops throughout the site and explanation on ways in which The National is protecting the environment.

Loudoun County Chamber to Host 30th Annual Valor Awards at West Belmont Place

April 10th, 2015 by

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The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce will host the 30th Annual Valor Awards at West Belmont Place (18980 Upper Belmont Pl., Leesburg, Va. 20176), an events center with the largest ballroom in Northern Virginia, on Friday, April 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Chamber will honor 21 local heroes from public safety personnel to ordinary citizens for their courageous, often lifesaving actions in 2014. And, because this is the 30th anniversary, current and past honorees will be acknowledged.

“We are always humbled to be sponsors of this outstanding event,” explained Geoff Lawson, vice president and general manager of The National Conference Center and West Belmont Place. “As a company that’s heavily invested in our community, we are thrilled to be part of this worthwhile salute to so many extraordinary individuals.”

A record number of eight Meritorious Civilian Awards will be handed out this year. In addition, Leesburg Police Sergeant Mark Davis and Officer Alex Hamilton will receive this year’s highest honors, the Bronze Medal of Valor, for their heroic actions to disarm a gunman who was threatening himself and the officer’s safety. Other stories of those being honored this year include the life saving co-workers of a researcher who suffered cardiac arrest at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The quick thinking co-workers saved the researcher’s life by performing first aid (CPR and the use of AED). The wife of a Loudoun County Fire Chief is being honored for saving her husband when he suffered a cardiac event. One of the most interesting honorees is an astute office manager for a financial advisory firm who provided invaluable help to police in assisting in locating an elderly client who had been kidnapped and was being extorted by her handyman.

Past award recipient’s stories are equally amazing and many of the past recipients will also be in attendance and will be recognized.

“It has been a privilege for the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce to honor our heroic first responders and citizens for their heroic actions and sacrifices to keep our community safe over the past 30 years,” stated Chamber President Tony Howard. “We are also grateful to our sponsor West Belmont Place for providing the perfect venue for bringing together the business community, local citizens and our heroic first responders.” The beautiful campus that West Belmont Place is situated on also provides the ideal location for attending first responders to park their vehicles including fire trucks and ambulances.

Cost to attend the event is $75 in advance for members, $110 in advance for non-members, $65 for first responders. There’s an additional fee of $10 at the door. For more information on tickets and sponsorships visit www.loudounchamber.org (click on “Events” and “Valor”).

Ten Reasons Why Environment is Important for Successful Training Meetings

April 1st, 2015 by

The National Conference Center is one of the nation’s largest training and meeting facilities. As experts on training meetings, The National suggests that anyone planning a training meeting should consider the following:

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Setting
Not only is the interior building layout important but so is the exterior. Training meetings can be intense and it’s important that your selected site has outdoor areas where attendees can get outside, stretch their legs, take in a park or natural landscaped areas and recharge.

Distraction-Free
Holding a meeting in an area where there are inside or outside temptations and distractions can be difficult in maintaining attendee focus and ensuring that attendees arrive at training sessions on time. Training facilities located near food courts, entertainment and shopping often provide distractions. When holding training meetings, it’s important that attendees are able to stay focused on learning and collaboration. Proper environment is essential to ensuring training success.

Brain Food
Studies have shown that eating properly keeps up energy, brainpower and focus. Pick a location that understands the value of healthy food and snacks. A white paper produced by The National Conference Center in 2011, The Science of Food for Thought: Enhancing Meetings Through Food (http://bit.ly/h6w0ZH), provides insight into the importance of reaching for fruit or nuts as a snack as opposed to sugary sweets. While sugar will lead to an eventual energy drop, healthy snacks will conversely refuel brainpower and provide attendees with greater focus and better thinking.

Top Technology
There’s nothing worse than holding a meeting and having an equipment failure. It distracts and detracts from the focus of the meeting. Make sure the training location has great AV people who are on-site, will check the equipment prior and be there to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Also, make sure that the meeting location provides good wi-fi in all of its rooms, including meeting rooms and not just the lobby. If attendees have to go to another location to check email, it will break everyone’s concentration. While you don’t want attendees to be constantly looking at their phones, it’s important that when email breaks are scheduled, your attendees don’t have to disperse all over the property to check on their email, text and phone messages.

Workout Facilities
Sitting through meetings all day makes many attendees feel cooped up and in need of physical activity. Having a workout facility is essential. Having outdoor areas where there are walking and running trails is a good bonus and provides attendees with good physical activity options.

On-site Business Center
Saving time is critical, especially when a document is suddenly needed or attendees need the use of a computer, copier or printer. Having to venture down the street or across town is not an efficient use of time or resources. It’s essential to have an on-site business center.

On-site Food
Food is an essential part of training meetings. As mentioned above, having healthy snack choices is vital to good brain function. Being able to provide good meals throughout the day is also important. Trainees often do not have the luxury of time to go off site and many organizations holding training meetings are looking at keeping employees together to expand collaboration, encourage networking and team building. Make sure the site you select has an executive chef that will meet with you and go over menus and special items. To make meals more interesting, you might want to ask that the chef and/or someone from his team will attend special meals and explain the ingredients in the dishes. As a fun meeting break, you might also consider holding an evening cooking class with the chef and/or a special wine tasting.

Encourage Attendees to Network
When training is over for the day, it’s great team building to encourage attendees to network. Hold a fun evening event that gets attendees engaged and networking. When weather permits, plan outdoor events that get attendees outside for a barbecue or special farm-to-table dinner. Or, turn a meeting room into a nightclub or casino. Dinners that are not sit-down and have food stations also encourage attendees to walk around and get to know one another.

Take Regular Breaks
Training attendees can only be expected to sit through so many hours of meetings before just sitting becomes tedious. Take regular phone/email breaks but also look at incorporating at least one outdoor walk or activity break. Even if everyone gets up and walks around indoors, it will increase blood flow and improve thinking. And everyone will return to the meeting ready to focus again.

Be Creative
Work with the on-site contact to make the meeting(s) memorable. Creative room set-ups; changes in venue; creative breaks, receptions, and meals can all add to the energy level and engagement of participants. Select a cost-effective site location and these add-ons will make for a memorable experience without a huge cost.

Six Top National Military Monuments You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (including a remarkable horse)

May 7th, 2014 by

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May is National Military Appreciation Month and The National Conference Center has compiled a list of some of the less known but worth visiting top national military monuments:

1. Sergeant Reckless monument, Triangle, VA—Located next to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, this statue commemorates the little mare who was a decorated soldier with two Purple Hearts and a Good Conduct medal. During the Korean War, this horse served in numerous combat actions, carrying supplies and ammunition, and was also used to evacuate wounded. Learning each supply route after only a couple of trips, she often traveled to deliver supplies to the troops on her own, without benefit of a handler. The highlight of her nine-month military career came in late March 1953 during fighting around Vegas Hill when, in a single day, she made 51 solo trips to resupply multiple front line units. She was wounded in combat twice, given the battlefield rank of corporal in 1953, and then a promotion to sergeant in 1954, several months after the war ended. To read more, visit www.sgtreckless.com.

2. Jefferson Davis Monument, Fairview, KY—Built from Kentucky limestone at the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, U.S. Secretary of War and later president of the confederacy, this monument is the tallest unreinforced concrete structure in the world. No steel was used to reinforce the concrete. As one pour was completed, large chunks of limestone were left projecting up to connect it to the next pour above. It is also the tallest concrete obelisk in the world; all of the taller obelisks are constructed with blocks of stone. It is the third tallest obelisk in the world. Guests can ride the 351-foot monument to the top for a bird’s eye view.

3. National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge, PA–The United States National Memorial Arch, located at the intersection of Outerline Drive and Gulph Road, was erected to commemorate the arrival of General George Washington and his Continental Army into Valley Forge. It was designed by Paul Philippe Cret, being a simplified version of the Triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome (A.D. 81) which marked the capture of Jerusalem by Emperor Titus in A.D. 70. In the classical tradition, the triumphal arch of one or three openings was erected to honor Generals or Emperors, so that this memorial arch with its single opening is classically proper as a national tribute to General Washington and the army he led.

4. The Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument—Indianapolis, Indiana. A 284 ft 6 in (86.72 m) neoclassical monument built on Monument Circle, a circular, brick-paved street that intersects Meridian and Market streets in the center of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The monument is the first in the United States to be dedicated to the common soldier. It is also the largest outdoor memorial and the largest of its kind in Indiana. It was designed by German architect Bruno Schmitz and built over a thirteen-year period, between 1888 and 1901. The monument’s original purpose was to honor Hoosiers who were veterans of the American Civil War; however, it is also a tribute to Indiana’s soldiers who served during the American Revolutionary War, territorial conflicts that partially led to the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish-American War. In the years since its public dedication on May 15, 1902, the monument has become an iconic symbol of Indianapolis, the state capital of Indiana. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 13, 1973.

5. The USS South Dakota Memorial—Sioux Falls, South Dakota. May seem like an unlikely place to commemorate a famous battleship. The USS South Dakota (BB-57) was launched June 7th, 1941 and commissioned March 20, 1942. The ship was part of a state-of-the-art class of heavily armed battleships. She served in the Pacific, present for nearly all of the major naval battles of the Pacific theater of war. The US Navy wanted to keep the enemy from gaining too much information about its top battleships, so the South Dakota was referred to in press releases as “Battleship X” until October of 1943. The most decorated warship of World War II, the South Dakota was decommissioned shortly after the war in 1947. The USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial features a concrete wall that mimics the actual size and shape of the battleship. Although the ship was sold for scrap in the 1960s, several pieces of its original equipment have been acquired for display. In addition, the museum on the site features pictures, models, and reading about the history of the battleship.

6. The great monument mix-up– Kingstree, SC and York, Maine both have Civil War monuments but with a mix-up. Around the 20th century, as veterans of the Civil War began dying off at a large rate, there was sudden activity to erect monuments to honor these veterans. On May 10, 1910, Kingstree, South Carolina unveiled their Confederate soldier statue next to the county courthouse. The statue was the result of the community raising significant funds to hire a noted Italian sculptor. However, there was a gasp of astonishment when the statue was unveiled and the crowd realized it was the image of a Union soldier. It turns out that the sculptor produced many statues for towns all across the country and he had accidentally switched the Kingstree statue with the one intended for a Union memorial in York, Maine. In York, the error was discovered before the unveiling but the frugal New Englanders didn’t want to pay for a second statue. At the time, neither town knew where their intended statue had gone and no one wanted to pay the cost of rectifying the situation. Today, both statues remain in place.

Honoring Superior Customer Service

March 18th, 2014 by

Recently, The National Conference Center family gathered to celebrate outstanding customer service and honor our very own Janice Fullerton, conference planning manager. As the highest honor an NCC employee can receive, recognized individuals help set the standards for others to follow. Referred to as the “planner extraordinaire” by her colleagues, Janice will go to great lengths to ensure all groups, from largest to smallest, are completely taken care of. Her inspiring story will be shared along with previous recipients and will be displayed at our property. Please join us in congratulating Janice on her well-deserved award!

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Soup-Tastic — Episode 7 “Gazpacho”

March 14th, 2014 by

Learn how to make a delicious chilled soup in just two minutes! In the final episode of our Winter Culinary Series “Soup-Tastic,” Executive Chef Mason shows how to make gazpacho! Thanks for tuning in with us this winter. We’ve had a blast although we’re ready for some warm weather! Catch us this Spring as we tackle Brunch Basics!

Gazpacho Recipe

2 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
6 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
20 ounces V8
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not over process!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and cilantro. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

2014 Chocolates Galore & More Recap

March 11th, 2014 by

Fabulous food, a silent auction, free-flowing champagne, music, dancing… all for a great cause! On February 21st, hundreds of guests celebrated the 27th Annual Chocolates Galore & More here at The National Conference Center. We had the pleasure of starting our day bright and early with Holly Morris from FOX 5 DC for a sneak peak of the evening’s festivities! Event attendees indulged in rich, luscious chocolates, exquisite desserts and mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres prepared by the area’s finest restaurants and caterers and showcased in a competition for Best Presentation and Best Taste (Critic’s Choice are determined by four local judges and People’s Choice are judged by event attendees.) Judges included Chef Daniel Thomas,  a former Capitol Hill chef, who has cooked for President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, United States Senators, and numerous foreign Heads of State; Chef Cynthia Anderson, chef/owner of Intimate Sentiments; Rebekah Pizana, food journalist and pastry chef and Lisa Broyhill, radio personality and TV producer. Proceeds from the event support the YMCA Loudoun County’s Caring For Community campaign, which provides essential scholarships and much-needed funds to local Loudoun County families who turn to the YMCA for help.

We were thrilled to once again, win the People’s Choice for Best Presentation (Dessert) for Executive Chef Mason’s #BitsandBliss! A devilishly delicious dark chocolate mousse bedazzled with rich brownie bits and drizzled with silky caramel, coupled with a dash of sea salt, layered with whipped cream and finished with a fresh raspberry and chocolate shavings.

Congrats to our team and all of the winners from the evening!

 

CRITICS’ CHOICE

Best Taste Dessert - Cherry’s Cheesecake and Delight’s

Best Presentation Dessert - Dutch Girl Cookie Factory

Best Taste Hors D’Oeurvre - Salamander Resort

Best Presentation Hors D’Oeurvre - Lansdowne Resort

 

PEOPLES’ CHOICE

Best Taste Dessert - Cherry’s Cheesecakes and Delight’s

Best Presentation Dessert – The National Conference Center

Best Taste Hors D’Oeuvre - Lansdowne Resort

Best Presentation Hors D’Oeuvre - Lansdowne Resort

 

A special thanks to Tom Barry for capturing the day so beautifully!

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dsc_2258Phillip Saims, NCC’s Director of Sales & Marketing & Holly Morris

dsc_2271Executive Chef Mason walks Holly through the steps of
creating his winning dish from last year’s event

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Soup-Tastic — Episode 6 “Perfect Chili”

March 7th, 2014 by

In Episode 6 of our Winter Culinary Series “Soup-Tastic,” Executive Chef Craig Mason shows us a classic recipe for chili. Perfect for this March snow!

Perfect Chili Recipe

  • 1 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound diced beef ribeye
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, seeded diced
  • 1 serrano pepper seeded, diced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 12 -ounce bottle amber beer
  • 1 can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, sliced scallions and/or sour cream, for topping

Directions

Heat a large heavy bottom pot and add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the onion and peppers and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and cook 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, white pepper, black pepper, oregano and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste is brick red, about 6 minutes (add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick). Add the beer and simmer until almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the, tomatoes, beef broth and beans and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili thickens slightly, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Add some beef broth if the chili is too thick. Ladle into bowls and top with the, cheese, scallions and/or sour cream.

Soup-Tastic — Episode 5 “Gumbo”

February 28th, 2014 by

Just in time for Mardi Gras! In Episode 5 of our Winter Culinary Series “Soup-Tastic,” Executive Chef Craig Mason prepares a New Orleans classic, Gumbo!

Gumbo Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound smoked andouille sausage
  • 2 pounds chicken thigh meat diced skin off
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon gumbo file powder
  • hot sauce

Creole Seasoning Spice Blend

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Directions

In a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and chicken and cook until well browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage  and chicken with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the same Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.  Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Stirring, slowly add the chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Stir in the green onions, parsley, and file powder, simmer for an addition 10 minutes. Serve over hot steamed white rice with hot sauce on the side.

 

Soup-Tastic — Episode 4 “Bouillabaisse”

February 21st, 2014 by

If you love seafood, then you’ll really enjoy this quick and simple recipe for bouillabaisse, a classic French stew.

 

Bouillabaisse Recipe

  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup leeks, julienned
  • 3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • Juice and zest of one orange
  • 1 cup fennel, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh white fish (cod, grouper, haddock)
  • 2  pound shrimp, peeled and devined
  • 1 pound mussels
  • 1 pound little neck clams
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 gallon fish stock

Serves 8
Saute garlic, leeks, fennel, and tomatoes in olive oil. Deglaze with white wine.  Add pinch of saffron. Add seafood and broth and simmer for 8-10 minutes and clams and mussels are open. Add juice and zest of orange, parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with crispy French bread for dipping.