By Todd Gehrke
Cultivating experiences attendees reminisce about is a very valuable element of the sourcing and planning process of meetings and events. I say reminisce because it’s one thing to have a memory, but it’s another to look back and relive an engaging and positive experience.
It starts by knowing our attendees and our organization’s business objectives. That’s your baseline. However, these elements can dramatically affect your strategy. There is a big difference between 20-somethings networking and the C-suite level overcoming company procedural challenges. Every day, I receive program RFP’s lacking identified demographics and goals. Include them, and see who gets creative with a targeted response.
- Who is going to be there, and what is the affect our organization would like to see from the time spent at the event? You can’t get creative unless you have a sense of what resonates with your attendees.
- Always be thinking about ROI tracking. What does the organization want to see post event to track if it’s a successful investment?
5 approaches to creating experiences that resonate
Romance. No, I don’t mean exchanging room keys at the lunch buffet. Travel used to be glamorous and romantic. It’s a bit more frustrating these days, but we can still make an effort by integrating a bit of mystery and adventure. Provide nice luggage or techy gadgets that make travelers feel like movie stars. Access to a luxury airport lounge, private transportation loaded with the individual’s favorite movie candies, a champagne beverage from a flight attendant even though the traveler is sitting in coach class, or laying out the newest edition of his or her favorite magazines on the hotel bed upon arrival. Encourage attendees to post content and pictures on your travel journal social wall, to be shared with the group post-trip. A sense of place goes a long way. Find a back-door community hangout, such as There Bar in Telluride or The Minturn Saloon just outside of Vail, and encourage participants to engage like a local. Destination experiences should be romantic from door-to-door.
Impact and Purpose. Meaningful events have an extremely high level of retention. If possible, create a legacy within your event environment. Work with local nonprofits such as Community Agricultural Alliance in Steamboat Springs, San Miguel Resource Center in Telluride or Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, to raise money and increase awareness. Execute a hands-on activity to construct permanent fixtures that remain when attendees revisit the area. Even in the most affluent communities, there is always a nonprofit that can help make an impact. Launch an internal campaign to allow attendees to continue to connect and work with the organization even when they have returned back to the office.
Individual Passions. It’s vital for each and every attendee to feel like their opinion and their interests matter. Allow for facilitated free time with shopping, cultural and recreation local ambassadors who can assist guests to the best hot spots. Hidden fishing spots on a Colorado river or lake, a custom pair of earrings from the designers at The Golden Bear in Vail, or maybe a cowboy hat from Kemo Sabe in Aspen or Vail might all be things your local ambassadors can assist with locating. The participant’s voice matters, and the program should be about them, rather than a VIP’s favorite fishing spot or golf course. Another idea is Table for 2 nights, where you encourage time with a spouse rather than time with 150 people attendees may not really know.
Spontaneity. Create selfie stations and encourage guests to take funny pictures and post on their social wall. Utilize new tech beacons from companies like Gelo that can be placed along an outing. When an attendee passes a beacon, they get a special customized message on their phone or fun task to participate in.
Connectivity. The goal should always be to leave with a tighter team than when you arrived. This means building experiences that encourage camaraderie and networking among attendees. Change up who they sit, work, play and eat with. Be strategic, placing certain people together to spark innovation and conversation. In the most successful organizations, the C-suite is fully available and interacting with the worker bees. This means transparency and taking time to hear the concerns and ideas at all levels within the group.
A little creativity makes a big impact. This can make all the difference between a faded memory and reminiscing an amazing getaway.
Todd Gehrke has spent 20 years in the hospitality, tourism and event management Industries and has achieved a Certified Meeting Management (CMM) designation from MPI. He is currently director of sales and marketing at the Madeline Hotel and Residences in Telluride and owner of Kaizen Hospitality and Travel.