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Trend Report: One-Stop Shops

By Selena Fragassi


The idea of a One-Stop Shop is not slowing down anytime soon. With “one contact, one contract, and one bill,” the operating model has become a near standard in the collegiate conference industry that has benefits for both planners and the hosting venue by providing a seamless way to book a meeting or event with only having to contact one department for a variety of needs, including dining, housing, transportation, and more.

“We’re seeing it grow in our world at NACAS, and also globally in auxiliary services,” says Corey Salem, director of member engagement at the National Association of College Auxiliary Services, which works with campus departments that have a responsibility to generate revenue apart from student enrollment and academic experiences.

“Folks that report through auxiliary services, specifically summer conferences and events, have noticed pressure to become more efficient and take the lead in operations,” he continues. “They don’t have the resources and large staff that would allow for decentralized approaches. But a One-Stop Shop model does help streamline processes on the business side for the planners and clients, and it also helps support the student and faculty campus community in their own event planning.”

Salem points to a top attended webinar that NACAS hosted last year as proof of the growing popularity of, and demand for, One-Stop Shops. “Last year one of our members held a webinar on the importance of One-Stop Shops for campus operations, and it was one of the top three most attended webinars if that’s any indication of its strength. It’s becoming something that professionals really want to be a part of, whether through official certification or offering something similar to clients. It’s of interest for sure.”

Official certification comes through the Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors—International (ACCED-I), which requires an application and fee and yearly updated certification. To date, ACCED-I has certified One-Stop Shops for 57 colleges and universities, which they say, “makes a statement that the services more closely match the level of service provided by convention facilities and finer hotels.” Though, many more campuses have adhered to an unofficial model that mirrors this style of operations, and even expands upon it.

At Sheridan College, with three campuses in the area of Toronto, Ontario, the conference services department works in tandem with Residence & Conference Centre Canada (an independent firm that runs and manages the college’s residence halls) to provide a similar uniform experience for their clients.

“If someone calls me and just needs overnight rooms I’ll take care of it myself but if they need rooms with conference space it goes through Sheridan, and through the back door I’ll tell them what the rates are so the client only has to talk to one person or one office rather than going back and forth between the two of us,” explains RCC Sales & Conference Manager David Carroll about the working relationship he has with Sheridan College’s Manager of Conference Services and Ancillary Services Karen Chisholm. “With a hotel, you usually have one office for conventions and catering, so we’re trying to run like that,” adds Carroll. “The client doesn’t know we are a separate company at all, and really they’d be too confused if they did.”

Chisholm says this “one-stop-esque” way of operating has been developing for her team over the past couple of years after hearing how important it was through various seminars, including the Unique Venues Annual Member Conference.

“In the event planner huddle we participated in at the Unique Venues conference, one of the main points planners would stress is that you want to keep everyone’s experience of booking with a facility as easy as you can. You can’t be sending them all across campus because people will get frustrated and will go somewhere else to do that legwork for them,” Chisholm says, adding that the idea of a one-stop shop has made it easier for her department to manage events as well. “Keeping all the info here makes us a more efficient department. In the past, if clients would book catering on their own and then made changes to the schedule, we wouldn’t know about them, and then we’d be scrambling for technicians to turn the room over at the last second rather than knowing about it ahead of time.”

Plus, she says, when both companies work together, they can actually generate more revenue. “It’s a natural relationship where we sell facility space and upsell accommodations, and RCC is trying to sell accommodations and upsell facility space for us. David puts full trust in us in order to get back to the client in a timely fashion and provide a positive experience,” she says, seeing the bigger picture. “We act like colleagues rather than two companies working against each other, and that benefits us both.”

In the future, Salem says NACAS will continue to promote the idea of campuses getting certified as One-Stop Shops. “We are proponents of helping auxiliary service professionals make the best business decisions, and when you are tasked with doing more with less, this is one avenue we recommend,” he says. “Also, when it’s done right, One-Stop Shops do help cut down on the bureaucracy on campus that can sometimes be a roadblock for planners, clients, and the administration because it creates a more consistent experience and eases processes that helps all key stakeholders be on the same page when it comes to conferences and events.”

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Sheridan Conference Centre & Residence
Oakville, ON