Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Curating Memorable Experiences: An Interview with Prevue Magazine

I was recently interviewed by Jessie Fetterling with Prevue Magazine for the professional development section of their website and newsletters related to the same topic.  Prevue provides meeting and incentive planners with insightful, experiential destination coverage to help them imagine and create exceptional group events. Prevue publishes its exclusive content across numerous platforms including a bi-monthly print edition (reaching 35,000 meeting and incentive planners), a digital edition, www.prevuemeetings.com and Prevue Extra (its monthly e-newsletter).


What do you define as a "memorable" experience?
A memorable experience is one that attendees will recall with a smile on their faces and continue to talk about weeks and months after the experience. Most often this is achieved y conducting a short pre-event survey. Find out more about the attendees--what do they want to learn, to see, eat? Allowing attendees to be involved in the process, ensures they have a great experience. A memorable experience involves getting out of the ballroom, outside the four hotel walls--it means hosting breakout sessions in a circle outside on the lawn, in a vineyard, on the beach. It means breaking away from your typical boring F&B options and customizing. Swap out the traditional "continental breakfast" for an avocado toast bar, for example. Lastly, I always try to use boutique properties that have lots of outdoor space and windows. If people are going to fly to across the country to a retreat--let them be reminded every minute where they are. Don't hold them hostage in a big box hotel conference room that could be anywhere in the world.

What tends to be the biggest hurdles to achieving "memorable" experiences at events?
Budget, time, and travel. The company must build in a budget for an experience, they must be willing to carve out time in their agenda, and be willing to have their employees travel to a destination that is often not a single flight away. 

What are three ways you have curated "memorable" experiences at corporate retreats?
1. Reserved a wine cave dinner in Sonoma County with fun photo photo props. The F&B was all local and seasonal and of course the wine was all estate wine. A real farm to table experience. I don't think one person in that group had ever dined in a wine cave. They had so many questions ahead of the dinner. They were excited, some were anxious. It was memorable and they are still talking about it a year later.
2. Arranged a Baja Truck driving experience in Colorado. The son of the resort owner is a well known Baja 500 driver and had a track and trucks on property with a driving school. I had the trucks wrapped with the company logo and they just loved it. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. 

3. Hired a corporate leadership facilitator to administer a DISC profile--a tool used for discussion of people's behavioral differences. Attendees completed the profile and received tips related to working with people of other styles. The exercise increased self-knowledge and attendees were better able to understand how they respond to conflict, what motivates them, what causes them to stress, and how they solve problems. It not only helped facilitate better teamwork, it helped the leadership team, to manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members.Now when the company needs to make company-wide decisions, they ask, "How will the D's react to this? Do we need to be concerned about the S's?" Overall, a fun exercise that truly made a difference to the company and it's employees.

What are three ways you have curated "memorable" experiences at off-the-beaten-path destinations?

1. I use a remote property in Western Colorado often as I can do a buy-out, and produce a truly memorable experience. It's a pain to get to, but once you're there, you forget about the travel. It's two hours from anything really, so everything must be done onsite. They have an Auto Museum on property and I produced a "Dinner through the Ages" Welcome Reception. The museum contains cars from the early 1800's up to 1989. I worked closely with Chef to choose small bites and a cocktail from each time period. That "Dinner through the Ages" is now a part of their menu--a huge compliment!

2. Chartered a boat to a private island off the coast of Southern Belize for attendees to enjoy the day as they pleased. Simply building a few hours into the agenda for attendees to explore the destination on their own and with whom they want can be memorable. Often Corporate Retreats are structured so much that there is no free time. 

3. Scheduled a hands on cooking class with an award winning James Beard Chef and author in Santa Fe. Everyone divided up into teams: appetizers, salads, main course, desserts. The experience was very interactive and the cuisine was all local fare and allowed for collaboration across different cross-functionally teams. Some people had never cooked before, others were "at home" in the kitchen. It was great to see everyone working together toward an end goal: a memorable, and delicious lunch. I made sure the recipes were all printed out so everyone could try cooking the meal back home. And, as a bonus, everyone was able to keep their branded apron as a reminder of their experience.

What tends to be the attendee feedback in regard to these experiences?
Attendees love the free time. Again, often agendas are jammed packed, run over, and there is no time to even breathe. Building in an hour every day--right before dinner--is always appreciated. It gives attendees a chance to checkin with family, clients, workout, rest and refresh. Some attendees don't mind the travel time to reach the memorable destinations, and some do. It just depends on the personalities of your group. They definitely enjoy experiencing the local food, culture, and activities. They especially enjoy the time away form he office and getting to know colleagues on a different level. The partnerships and bonds that are created during these retreats strengthen the work relationships and often translate into higher revenues and ROI. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Why Hire a Meeting Planner?

Planning a meeting or event is a full time job. When you hire a professional meeting planner, you not only recoup valuable staff productivity and money, you gain a team member whose core competency is meeting planning.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

How I Stay Organized

Who doesn’t like to feel in control of their life, their day, their week, their year? Meeting planners especially feel the need to be organized and streamlined—it’s in our DNA; it’s essential for our jobs.

As an entrepreneur with a thriving business and a busy two year old, I’m committed to one tool that has helped me tremendously to be more efficient, ensuring I never miss a meeting or appointment--business or personal.

I live by my calendar—if an event is not on my calendar, it well not even exist. I start by planning out the year and block off:

1.  National holidays
2.  Religious holidays
3.  Family birthdays
4.  Big events within my clients’ industries
5.  Meeting planner conferences I want to attend
6.  Personal holidays and trips
7.  Montessori school breaks

For example, I knew that I needed to severely limit my travel the first four months of this year due to a personal project. I was able to conduct all my site inspections for Q1/Q2 2018 in Q3/Q4 of 2017. I declined nearly all FAM, and conference invitations through April 2018. I limited nearly all client projects that required me to travel in Q1.

As for day-to-day organization—I have everything on my calendar. And I do mean everything from 8am Body Combat Class, to reoccurring client meetings, to Giovanna’s ballet class at 4pm. I block my calendar if I need a massage, or have a doctor’s appointment. I make time for me—and because it’s all on my calendar—it’s easy to see where I can fit in these personal errands and make sure they are achieved.

It’s difficult when you work from home to actually take breaks and take care of “life maintenance”. That’s why it’s key to put everything on your calendar. Sure, clients may need to move a meeting, a project may take longer than you thought, and some days you just won’t feel well. Life happens. But a surer way to meet your deadlines—all of them—is to start putting everything on your calendar.

If you’re struggling to stay organized, give calendaring a shot. It just may change your life.