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Incentive Travel – A Deeper Dive

As incentive travel becomes a greater part of the meeting planner’s portfolio, we continue to work with our clients to identify what truly motivates modern workers and to understand what they consider a significant reward.

Traditionally, management believed that monetary rewards were the most obvious and powerful incentives. This belief has been completely debunked by recent studies into what motivates today’s workforce. Apparently, the relentless growth of the American middle class has changed the way workers look at themselves and their earnings.

Finding #1

Once people have earned enough money to provide for their basic needs, they are driven by a desire to raise their self-esteem — not just their earnings.

In other words, monetary rewards are no longer the only significant motivators. How people feel about themselves after they have their needs met digs a little more deeply into the 21st. century worker’s psyche. This realization has presented human resource professionals with an entirely new paradigm to decipher. How can we help our employees feel better about themselves?

Finding #2

Recent tracking by Gallup Daily shows that 32% of employees in the U.S., and only 13% of employees worldwide, are engaged (meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace).

This revelation helped planners and clients see the self-esteem issue in Finding #1 a little more clearly. Workers were not “engaged” in their work. They feel disconnected from what they are doing, who they are doing it with, and who they are doing it for. A reward for excellent job performance, therefore, that would enhance their sense of purpose, community, and worth would be both a powerful incentive and a self-enhancement tool.

Finding #3

Studies suggest that non-cash incentives, specifically travel, have more impact and lasting value.

  • A once-in-a-lifetime, high-end travel experience creates lasting memories that will be talked about and shared by participants and motivate future performance.
  • During a program, the positive reinforcement given by company executives to top performers increases the “trophy value” of the travel award and its usefulness as an incentive.
  • Each time the participant remembers a trip, he or she is reminded of the recognition, which increases their commitment to the company.

Finding #4

Modern workers no longer define REWARD as “lying about” baking in the sun on a tropical beach sipping a Mai Tai.

  • A survey of over 6,000 workers who had earned a reward for excellence revealed that the majority preferred an opportunity for self-improvement or social engagement over a luxury vacation.
  • Mark Sergio, senior vice president, global sales organization for FRHI Hotels & Resorts calls the new trend, “Experience over commodity,” adding, “Groups continue to be drawn to programming that embraces learning and unique experiences.”
  • Alison Taylor, senior vice president of the Starwood Sales Organization at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, says “Making sure that people are part of the community when they travel, and are socially responsible — that they contribute to the community — is a must-have in this market. It’s so important to have social responsibility be part of the experience,” she says. “People want to feel they’ve made a connection, actually met people, and become friends.”

It’s A Whole New Product

Designing a successful incentive program demands cooperative effort between corporate managers who identify the business objectives and skilled planners who can create a program to achieve those objectives. Before designing an incentive program, planners should ask:

  1. What is the business intent and what are the objectives?
  2. How will the program be measured?
  3. How do we encourage the best job performance?
  4. What can we do to ensure the program is meaningful, motivational, memorable, and delivers the desired business results?

We’re finding working with clients on this new product at Premier Meeting Planners both a challenge and an opportunity.

Sneaking Off to Luxury

Incentive travel planning must look at the client’s needs and wants and design a custom travel experience for the specific employees or clients being rewarded.

A Case History

A Silicone Valley CEO recently requested that we find him a destination to which, after he put his two top VPs on the company’s Dassault Falcon, he could sneak them off for a long weekend of reflection, relaxation and rejuvenation before the next round of strategic planning began. He wanted an all-inclusive venue with private accommodations and direct access to and from an airport. “You know,” he said, “great weather, near a secluded beach with a good spa attached and away from the tourist crush. No checking in, checking out, signing checks, or any admin at all. We need to decompress and improve our fitness a little while we engage in some free-form thinking. You know what I mean?”

Research – I Got Lucky

I knew what he meant, but I wasn’t sure where I could send them. Great weather in March near a secluded beach narrowed it down a little, but total privacy with attentive service and all-inclusive food and beverage presented another challenge. Also, the fact that they were going to fly in on their Dassault Falcon tipped me off to the level of luxury this top executive was accustomed to.

After searching in Hawaii, South America, Florida, and the French Riviera and finding wonderful resorts that did not, however, quite fill the bill in my mind, I took a trip to Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya in Mexico on a tip from a colleague. There I found the perfect location for my Silicone Valley CEO; GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA RESORT.

A Destination That Ticks All the Boxes

A short private limousine shuttle from an airport that easily handles a Falcon, my CEO and his VPs would be driven directly to the Presidential suite in the secluded ZEN EXPERIENCE section of Grand Velas Resort. Minor check-in details would be handled in the suite by their private butler.

Accommodations

The Zen Grand 3-bedroom presidential suite is immersed in the exotic beauty of the Mayan jungle separated only by the suite’s private plunge pool. The suite is situated in a lush private garden with an open-air shower and a jacuzzi tub. A private butler and maid are assigned to serve you 24 hours a day.

All-Inclusive

Your every wish is  truly all-inclusive at GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA RESORT. Two exotic restaurants, Sen Lin serving Asian fusion fare, and Chaka delivering an enticing blend of all-natural dishes and healthy cuisine are both conveniently located within the Zen Grand Area of the resort. Piaf (French), Frida (Mexican), Covina de Autor (Exotic European), and Lucca (Italian)are a short shuttle ride over to the main resort. I guess that’s case closed on all-inclusive food and beverage.

Fitness

A luxurious spa is located within the Zen Grand and customizes daily treatment and fitness protocols for each executive during their stay. If what you seek is meditation, exercise, healthy food, a leisurely exchange of ideas among colleagues, all managed by an attentive, professional, private staff, I could find nothing comparable to the Zen Grand Experience at the GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA RESORT in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

With a Little Bit of Luck

I tell this story to illustrate how far meeting planners will go to customize incentive travel to the recipient’s wants and needs. “With a little bit of luck”, this is the level of service we provide.

Large or Small… A Meeting is a Meeting

A meeting is a meeting is a meeting. Whether large sales meetings held at an off-site venue or impromptu department meetings your supervisor holds to “bring everyone up to speed”, all face-to-face contact is designed to intensify communication among team members. It is estimated that there are 11 million meetings in the U.S. each day, and according to research, at least a third of them are unproductive. Why? What can we do to improve our face-to-face group communication? We took a look at what professional meeting planners do to make the larger meetings we are asked to organize more productive for attendees. Then, we applied the same techniques to the individual planning that all team members must do in their daily lives.

Schedule

Obviously, the first step in the meeting planning process is to find out when the client wants to hold the meeting. It wasn’t a huge mental leap to realize that individuals would find meetings more productive if they could properly plan them into their daily schedule. We all have pockets of time when we do our best work. For some, maximum productivity hits first thing in the morning. For others, mornings may be the time to catch up on emails. Whatever your rhythm is, don’t let meetings get in the way. Block your calendar to maximize your most productive time of day and save meetings for the lulls.

Purpose

The second question meeting planners ask clients is, “What is the purpose of the meeting you are planning?” Only then can we begin to design the meeting. Whether you call them  check-ins, or brainstorming sessions, or project status updates, your meetings take on new definitions depending on their purpose. Be sure to design your department meetings around your intended purpose. If you have a few incidental questions that have cropped up during production, for example, instead of blocking a 30-minute meeting by default, try a 10-minute huddle at your coworker’s desk.

Control the Flow of Information

The meeting planner’s third task is to design the functional flow of the meeting; who talks where and when and for how long. Every meeting you conduct in your company must have an agenda. At a minimum, your agenda should list the meeting objective, meeting topics, and time allotted for each topic.

Guest List

Obviously, the client must supply the meeting planner with his guest list. We have to know who is going to attend and why. Your in-house department meetings must also have a carefully thought out guest list.  Invite too many people to your meeting and the conversation goes sideways. Invite too few people and you won’t have all the necessary stakeholders to make a decision. Here’s a rule of thumb that seems to work:

  • To solve a problem, invite 4 to 6 people
  • To make a decision, invite 4 to 7 people
  • To set an agenda, invite 5 to 15 people
  • To brainstorm, invite 10 to 20 people.

Or you could follow Jeff Bezos’s famous “two pizza rule” – if the group is larger than you could feed with two pizzas, your meeting is too large.

You’re in Charge

 The advantage meeting planners have over team members is that they can design and control the meeting in advance. Too often, team members feel they are meeting “victims”. They have to hold or attend meetings too often and for vague purposes. That “victimology” must change. Take control of both your meeting attendance and hosting duties by always applying the four disciplines above and your meeting productivity will soar.

A Reluctant Sage

Interns and young colleagues often ask me what it takes to be a successful planner. I admit I find their inquiries a little “off-putting”. I don’t see myself as a grizzled old pro, but I suppose that’s how they see me and, I suppose, that’s exactly what I am.  So, I recently decided to surrender to their flattery and think carefully about what I consider the skills required to be a successful event planner. I began by reviewing the step-by-step process I used when planning my last complex event. If you ask me, here’s what it takes to be a successful event planner.

  • Strategic Thinker – The most important piece of the meeting and event planning process is defining the strategy. If a client doesn’t know why their having the meeting, they shouldn’t have one.
  • Project Manager – After developing the strategic plan I develop a framework for tracking deliverables, deadlines, and keeping track of all meeting elements.
  • Financial Manager – Developing and adhering to a budget is a critical part of an event planner’s task. I am not a CPA or a CFP. It took time to develop this skill, but it is essential to delivering value to an event client.
  • Administrative Mastery – A successful planner must be a good administrator. Let’s face it, there’s an enormous amount of paperwork involved in the meeting planning process. If you like to fly by the seat of your pants, you better get over it. Orderly administration is essential to successful event outcomes.
  • Human Resource Professional – The successful meeting planner must be able to evaluate, select, train, motivate, and direct staff members, volunteers, and vendors.
  • Stakeholder Manager – This complex skill is especially critical to meeting planners. Every meeting or event has internal and external stakeholders – clients, CEOs, board members, participants, officials, and sponsors. It is essential to define what’s important to each of them, then prioritize and coordinate those interests. It’s a pretty neat trick if you can pull it off.
  • Designer – The design of meetings and events has become an increasingly important competitive element. Attendees expect to be wowed by your meeting’s design theme or your meeting will fall flat in comparison. Although I usually engage a professional designer, I cannot afford to take a hands-off approach. I have the best feel for what my audience anticipates and have a firm grasp on the message my client is trying to send.
  • Marketing Manager – There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all marketing plan. Your event has multiple audiences that may want to attend, so it’s important to define who those potential audience segments are, articulate what they care about, and determine how you’ll reach them.
  • Nice Person – Meetings and events are social occasions. They are so complex that it takes a comparatively large team to put them together and “getting along” with people is an indispensable skill for forming and leading large teams. You have to naturally care about people, respect them, and have a sense of humor if you expect to “make it” in this game. In other words, you may be a hard-working genius, but if you’re not a nice person you will never succeed as a meeting planner. 

Old – But Not Grizzled 

This is what I tell my young colleagues about what it takes to succeed as a meeting planner. All of the skills above, however, will not “add-up” to success unless they are informed with a massive dose of enthusiasm. I may be “old” but I’m not “grizzled”. I love what I do.

Award to Reward

Every time your best customer’s 72-year-old CEO is awarded a dream trek over the Himalayas as a reward for faithful patronage, he gulps, says “thanks” and immediately sends his undeserving nephew to visit the Dali Lama. In order for incentive travel awards to truly be considered rewards by the recipients, they must be customized and personalized. When it comes to incentive travel awards, “one size does not fit all”.

A New Art Form

Planning incentive travel is a fairly new art. Corporations have only recently begun to understand the motivating power of incentive travel awards, and planners have had to hit the ground running. Our initial idea was to design travel we thought would be “anyone’s” and “everyone’s” dream. Caribbean cruises, exotic golf trips to Scotland, foodie travel to chef-inspired Italian cooking schools, high-brow art tours to the museums and opera houses of ancient European capitals, and mysterious tours of China’s Great Wall all seemed “wonderful” to us and were sure to impress clients.

Problems in Paradise

We were surprised, however, when deserving recipients collected their “rewards” to mixed reviews. Some returned to their offices complaining about accommodations or weather or airline schedules or rude waiters or too much art. Some said they were “exhausted” and needed a few more days off to recuperate. Some said they wished they had just “gone to the beach”. WOW! We were astounded by the number of disgruntled “award winners” we had attempted to “reward”. Something was wrong, and clients were starting to lose faith in incentive travel rewards.

Blaming the Victim

At first planners and clients blamed the recipients themselves. “They were ungrateful.” “They were too entitled.” “You couldn’t make them happy no matter what you did.” After that misguided response played itself out, we all got back down to business. We realized that in order to ensure that an incentive travel award was truly a reward, it had to be customized to fit the individual recipient.

The problem we faced was how to customize an award before you knew who would be receiving it. The simple answer was – plan ahead. We started by developing the following procedure for designing nearly “bespoke” incentive travel.

  1. Engage with the client’s human resource department at the very outset of the company’s incentive program development, usually a year in advance of granting awards.
  2. Identify the potential recipient categories being considered for rewards (senior executives, department managers, line supervisors, productive employees, valued customers, or dependable vendors.
  3. Segment the potential awardee population by age, gender, function, hobbies, educational level, and family situation.
  4. Factor in any personal preference information available in public documents.
  5. Design a “finals” questionnaire that can be distributed to known finalists toward the end of the award period.
  6. Finally, design multiple alternative travel awards that can be selected by the ultimate winners.

Turning travel awards into rewards requires advanced planning and client coordination. One size does not fit all. Disappointment is never a reward.

PLAN AHEAD

Back to the Future

Research from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research suggests that planners go “back to the future” when integrating technology into event marketing. Specifically, the report suggests that the website is still the most important digital channel to help attendees decide whether to attend an event.

Pity the Poor Website

Back in the day of digital dawning, the website was the only way meeting planners knew to communicate on the mysterious internet playground that had morphed into existence. To advertise its existence and lure attendees to its offerings any event worth its salt needed to display its own website. Website wars ensued, and everybody was jousting with “key words” and “algorithms” to get on Google’s first page.

E-Mail

But then we discovered the power of email and put all our attention to designing intrusive and pointed email campaigns while letting the old website go stale on the shelf.

Texting

Too many emails later, we unleashed the power of the text message and our websites drifted even closer to their “sell-by” date. We started to talk directly to potential attendees in real-time, and the cyber geeks aided and abetted our intrusive violations of society’s last shreds of privacy.

Facebook 

How about perpetually telling your story to an unwitting audience that somehow thinks they are telling you their story? The Facebook Faustian bargain of “if you let me show off, I’ll watch you show off” was struck by almost everyone. In this animated world of bragging rights, websites went stale, stiff, almost moribund.

Twitter

Texting? Facebooking? Too cumbersome. Here’s a dedicated cyber track that lets you talk to potential attendees in only 140 characters. Now that’s getting down to business. We all started “tweeting” one another and eventually came to the conclusion that if Trump could run the entire United States of America with only 140 characters, we could easily promote our events the same way.

Back to the Future

But, The Focus Report on Organizer Pre-event Communications and Registration Offerings tells a different cautionary tale. It tells us that fully 75% of potential attendees still prefer to use an event website to make event attendance decisions, and the most common digital devices used to register are desktop and laptop computers. Only 15% use mobile devices.

The report also goes on to say that attendees are inclined to register for events on websites that offer them:

  1. The ability to review and register for conference sessions
  2. Access to an interactive floor map
  3. A searchable exhibitor directory
  4. Ability to make hotel reservations
  5. Downloadable speaker presentations
  6. The ability to see products based on their own profile
  7. Promotions and special prices for attendees
  8. A searchable attendee directory
  9. The ability to download attendee information

In addition, the study found that 55% of returning attendees want their registration form on the website to pre-populate with information from the last time they attended. Also, a majority of attendees prefer, but are not offered by most organizers, the ability to print badges in advance from the event website.

The study concluded that by offering a wide array of services, the well-designed website is still the digital channel preferred by a majority of new and returning attendees. Don’t neglect your event’s “old faithful” website. It is still serving you well.

The Perfect Executive Golf Retreat

 

Small, exclusive executive retreats can present planners with challenges equal to the large, complex events that take up all the event planning headlines.

The Assignment

Find a golf resort that can accommodate twelve board members for five days in the luxury to which they are accustomed with adjacent private meeting facilities, a gorgeous natural setting, a world-class spa, and one of the top-ten golf courses in the world. Price is no object.

The Discussion

CEO: Everyone in this group of directors plays golf, and they all belong to exclusive country clubs around the country. Two of them actually belong to Augusta National, so we will probably need one of the world’s top ten golf courses to impress them. Realize that I’m trying to pick the brains of the country’s most successful business executives, and I want to find as many ways to make them feel comfortable and appreciated as I can.

PMS: Will you be meeting or just playing golf?

CEO: We will be meeting, of course. This is the most important strategic planning session our corporation has ever undertaken. The atmosphere must be conducive to collective creative thinking but not be negative or punitive in any way. I want the directors to relax and have fun, so they are open and free-flowing with their creative insights. And I want to impress them, and believe me, they’re not easy to impress. 

PMS: How much meeting space will you need?

CEO: A small private room that can accommodate about 25 people, I guess. We’ll have the twelve board members and a smattering of our senior executive staff plus support staff and some IT guys. I don’t want it to be a typical meeting room chopped off from larger convention space at some big resort. The meeting space has to be private and preferably part of a dedicated lodging complex. The meeting sessions should not feel like typical corporate employee meetings but more like a private club of successful men getting together to hash out their club’s annual spending budget. The room should have a clubby feel, not a meeting room feel. 

PMS: How about the golf? How much golf?

CEO: Every morning from eight to noon. All twelve directors playing together every day on one of the world’s greatest golf courses. Can you arrange that?

PMS: We’ll certainly try.

CEO: And they will demand great food. We’ll need a chef dedicated to our group and some world-class nearby restaurants for a little variety through the week. Oh…and you’ll have to arrange something with a nearby spa. They all go to the spa for their aches and pains. See what you can find nearby the living facilities.

PMS: Anything else?

CEO: Yes. We’ll need a card room or a billiard room next to the meeting room. Some of them like to play a little high-stakes poker late at night. The room must always be available for a spontaneous card game whenever the spirit moves them. You know. Like they have at their clubs.

PMS: (writing) Card room…pool table…nearby…always available.

CEO: We’re trying to motivate, reward, and make the directors feel at home while we painlessly pick their brains. They know what’s going on, so they expect us to treat them well.

The Final Arrangement

After intense and extensive research, we found Casa Palmero at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. It is simply the world’s finest venue for the perfect executive golf retreat.

Casa Palmero is a Mediterranean villa with 24 luxurious rooms and suites and a state-of-the-art meeting facility set in lushly landscaped grounds, trellised walkways and sun-drenched patios overlooking the 1st and 2nd fairways of the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. The iconic course is, of course, home to the PGA tour’s annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, five U.S. Open golf championships, 2018’s U.S. Amateur Championship, and 2019’s sixth U.S. Open. We knew it would do.

The Boardroom of Casa Palmero could accommodate a maximum of 85 people but was designed with a cozy, clubby, kind-of old-world feel that made it perfect for the intimate brainstorming sessions our CEO was envisioning.

Casa Palmero also contained an intimate private dining room, a smaller conference room for private break-out sessions and a beautifully landscaped patio where outdoor meals could be enjoyed, weather permitting. And, believe it or not, it had a billiard room and club room where the directors could adjourn for cards and cocktails.  Wonder of wonders, The SPA at Pebble Beach was only steps away. This elegant private world was all nestled against Pebble Beach’s breathtaking fairways and perhaps the most beautiful stretch of Pacific shoreline in all of California.

Incentive Travel News – The World’s Largest Cruise Ship

This Year

Here at Premier we work hard to keep up with the newest, most innovative destinations for incentive travel rewards. Just last year we reviewed Harmony of the Seas, launched as the world’s largest cruise ship featuring high-energy attractions including zip lining, water slides, surf simulators, rock climbing and 18 dining venues.

2018 World’s Largest Cruise Ship

Well, Royal Caribbean has done it again – only a year later. The cruise ship company has launched Symphony of the Seas, a 230,000-ton behemoth that takes the title of world’s largest cruise ship away from Harmony of the Seas before the great ship had a chance to finish a one-year reign.

Symphony of the Seas

 Symphony can accommodate an astounding 5,535 passengers, a crew of almost 2,000 and comes with all the perks of a big mega-ship, but nearly none of the pitfalls passengers found on Harmony of the Seas. When building Symphony, Royal Caribbean listened to the feedback from Harmony’s maiden voyage passengers and attempted to mitigate the reported negatives through innovative design.

Neighborhood Design

As cruise ships have become bigger and bigger, passengers report that they get lost moving around the ships from venue to venue and can almost never find their stateroom again, once venturing away. On the massive Harmony of the Seas, this disorientation grew to a source of constant anxiety for passengers.

Royal Caribbean has addressed this negative on Symphony of the Seas by designing the ship with an easily navigable neighborhood concept which includes Central Park, Entertainment Place, and the Boardwalk. With plenty of signage and an intuitive sense of orientation, these “neighborhoods” create a brilliant passenger flow that makes it impossible to get lost for long onboard. Even though the vessel is even more massive than Harmony, passengers will readily feel “at home”.

Bigger and Better

Despite having many of the same features as other ships in its class, Royal Caribbean was not afraid to go bigger with Symphony, adding new concepts like “Battle for Planet Z” laser tag; Hooked, a seafood restaurant; Playmakers, a sports bar and arcade; Sugar Beach, an expanded ice cream and sweets shop; El Loco Fresh, a new Mexican eatery; and a Bionic Bar where drinks are served by robots.

It’s an unforgettable experience to sail on a ship that has three multi-deck water slides, four deck-top pool areas, two flow-rider surf simulators, a miniature golf course, a nine-deck high zip-line, and the Ultimate Abyss slide, a nine-deck high twin tube plunge that is the most ambitious attraction ever conceived for a cruise ship.

Incentive Family Travel

As more companies are offering incentive travel rewards that include the employee’s entire family, these extravaganza family cruise ships are the perfect reward. Symphony of the Seas even offers an over-the-top, two-deck ultimate family suite for your company’s top performer. It is a 1,134 square foot playground for families containing a private 3D cinema, an air hockey table, a slide from the kids-only bedroom to the living room, floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall and a 212-square-foot wraparound balcony with a whirlpool, climbing wall, and kid-friendly pool table. The kitchen features a tiny Coca-Cola fridge and an Orville Redenbacher popcorn-maker.

We Need a New Classification

It’s no longer accurate to call these mobile amusement parks, cruise ships. Royal Caribbean has built them so massive, so extravagant, so action packed, and yes, so over-the-top, that they can hardly be called ships anymore. Yes, they float and move through the water, but that’s their only association with the name – ship. They’re more than “hotels” on water. They’re only slightly less than full city blocks. They’re bigger than some amusement parks and contain more residents than some small European countries. They’re not – ships; they’re…Aqua-funations.

Stressed Out

The annual nationwide study of the world’s most stressful jobs is out for 2017. Here’s the top ten most stressful jobs in America and their stress intensity factor on a scale from 1 (completely without stress) to 100 (blow the top of your head off stressful):

  1. Enlisted military personnel – 72.74
  2. Firefighter – 72.68
  3. Airline pilot – 60.54
  4. Police officer – 51.68
  5. Event coordinator – 51.15

( WHAT! STOP RIGHT THERE! What did you say?)

  1. Newspaper reporter
  2. Senior corporate executive
  3. Public relations executive
  4. Taxi driver
  5. Broadcaster

Is this list for real? Event Coordinator is ranked in the top five right behind Police Officer, Airline Pilot, and Firefighter! Is this a joke?

No Joke

Let’s take a closer look. When you consider the complex, collaborative nature of a career where the measure of success is set at 100% for every event you begin to get a feel for the stress levels involved. Event planners must be masters at managing projects, building relationships, developing best practices, managing budgets, coordinating logistics, setting agendas, overseeing F&B, and procuring accommodations — not to mention practicing duty of care/risk-management and now meeting GDPR requirements and much more. Come to think of it…no wonder the job is ranked at number 5 on the stress scale!

No One’s Laughing

On the heels of the stress scale report above comes the ironic announcement by Marriott that they will be cutting third party commissions on group bookings from 10% to 7%.

“Other folks I’ve talked with weren’t surprised, but I genuinely was,” said Lori White, CMP, Director of Convention and Meeting Sales for Destination Niagara, USA. “Here you’ve got people with passion and experience …. Their contribution to the business-events industry cannot be discounted, but this does just that. People need to recognize intermediaries for what they are — entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, they rely on getting compensated for their services. That’s support-worthy,” White added. “The independent planner has played a huge part in growing our business-events industry. They operate with their client’s full knowledge of the commission structure. And their clients find the service they provide valuable, so why any hotel would take exception to what their clients think is valuable is beyond me.”

It Never Fails

Planners have also been talking about the lack of adequate warning to adjust their pricing structures and business models and noted that the hotel industry is experiencing a “golden age” of profitability that is expected to continue for several more years. As the “face-to-face” meeting experience becomes more essential to corporate strategic initiatives, the job of the meeting planner becomes more essential, complex, and stressful.

Wouldn’t you know that would be exactly when the hotel giants would get greedy? As the pie gets bigger they want a bigger piece of a bigger pie.

It never fails.

It must be human nature.

 

 

Gamification

Bad word – good idea. What in heavens name is Gamification? It’s another technological advance available to meeting and event planners that we should all take a look at.

Definition

Gamification is applying the science and psychology of gaming in a non-game context (meeting or event) to motivate and reward your attendees to perform certain desired behaviors. Event gamification utilizes a mobile game app to encourage attendees to ask questions, complete challenges, connect with colleagues, and visit with organizers and sponsors during a meeting or event.

Benefits

The fundamental purpose of any meeting or event is to drive attendees to take action. Planners want attendees to interact with vendors, network with each other, share their experiences, and engage with presenters. Game mechanics, immediately available on attendees’ mobile devices, encourage participation in games, competitions, and goal-oriented activities that create psychological and physiological benefits such as motivation, self-efficacy, improved motor function, neural processing, and self-esteem.

Science

Humans are naturally inclined to compete, improve themselves, interact with others and achieve goals. Digital gamification provides external and internal incentives that make participants want to take part in everything you have planned for them. Incorporating goal-oriented activities with your planning helps you encourage guests to stay engaged, interact with vendors, promote your event, and create valuable connections. As a bonus, when you provide your guests with games and activities, it helps them focus, process information, and feel good about themselves.

Team Building

Often, our responsibilities as event planners involve facilitating team-building exercises and helping attendees connect with one another. Conference gamification apps and activities are a great way to combine participants into unique groups to promote communication and collaboration. Organizers can create groups based on:

  • Geographic location
  • Work responsibility
  • Personal interests
  • Strategic teams
  • Custom criteria

Case Study

Meeting Play, an event planning app developer and a pioneer in gamification development, recounted the following case study on the use of gamification in team building.

“Our client was organizing an event to bring together global divisions with the goal of sharing best practices. They needed to match people in one division with their counterparts in the same division from another country. Once again, the gamification feature of our event app served as the perfect solution.

“Using the information provided by the event organizer, as well as our match-making algorithm, we were able to define 16 recommended connections for each attendee. We populated the participants’ digital bingo cards with their top connections. Attendees also wore iBeacon lanyards to alert them when they were near another attendee on their networking list. Participants were able to scan the codes on their connections’ lanyards to populate their bingo squares in the app. The entire process was fully automated.

“The results were astounding. Our client was able to organize meaningful conversations within strategic teams to help them move their business forward. At the same time, attendees made valuable connections to help them enhance their careers.”

Conclusion

One can readily see the utility of gamification in information gathering, networking, team building, vendor visitation, and product awareness. Companies like Meeting Play design and implement digital “games” for a wide variety of applications and customize games to suit individual planner’s goals. It’s time for us all to take a closer look at this new technological application.