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Event Design | A Brief History

The history of event design is brief but revealing. Let me begin by saying that event design is not event planning. Event planners are producers while event designers are set decorators. The first event designers were floral arrangers who competed for weddings and nonprofit fundraising banquets by designing unusual, thematic floral centerpieces that became all the rage. Floral themes began with seasonal themes: “Fall Colors” – “Winter Wonderland” – “A Burst of Spring” – etc. Florists became Floral Designers and event design was born.

A Profession Emerges

Floral seasonal themes soon gave way to integrated design themes that encompassed table settings, chair coverings, draperies, and artwork. Designers developed themes around food, drink, entertainment, holiday celebrations, historic places and events. They began to incorporate background music, lighting, costumes, modes of transportation (like boats and horse drawn carriages), and carried the theme through on invitations and printed publicity materials. Event design evolved beyond artistic floral arranging into a full-blown, stand-alone profession. The event designer became an indispensable member of the event planner’s team.


Many of today’s event designers studied architecture, learning how people move through space and time. The main objective of current event design goes beyond simply making event space beautiful to creating an experience by combining shape, color, flow, lighting, sound, and motion into a unified, purposeful happening.

The first question we now ask clients when planning an event is, what do you want your guests to know about you when they walk away from your event? In other words, what is your message? We then reduce their answer to one sentence: e.g.

• Our new product is revolutionary.
• Our mission is to feed the poor of rural America.
• We really care about our constituents.
• We are grateful for your participation in our mission.
• Etc. Etc. Etc.


The alchemy used by event designers is a sort of magic that transforms purpose into message – message into environmental impression – impression into experience – experience into takeaway. Their magic potion mixes color, shape, sound and motion into a new compound that communicates the event owner’s message to attendees on a subconscious sensory level. Great event designers are masters of human dynamics that utilize the artistic insight of master painters who used color, brushstroke, depth of field, and perspective to impact the viewer on an emotional level.

Start With Design

When planning your next event be sure to begin with message and design. Be clear about your purpose for holding the event and analyze your audience carefully. When you know what you want to say and who you want to say it to, your event planner can complete your event team by selecting the designer most qualified to tell your story. All successful events are the result of an event planner, designer, and client working together to create a pointed experience the guests will not forget.

Unique Venues

Rooftop Farms

To introduce a new artisanal blend made with its own heirloom apples, Strongbow, a U.K.-based brand, recently hosted a farmer’s market at Brooklyn Grange, the largest rooftop farm in New York.

Strongbow brand director Eric Markus explained that it was a natural fit to host a farmer’s market-style launch event, “Rather than hosting a traditional cocktail hour, we knew we wanted to provide a more organic tasting experience that would reflect our use of fresh ingredients and time-honored techniques”.

Grow it on the Roof

Rooftop farms are materializing across the entire country. As we lose more than 50 acres of American farmland to development every hour, our population grows by 240 people. Americans continue to migrate to urban areas, and growers are becoming even more remote from consumers. Restaurants initiated a “farm to table” movement after research revealed that fruits and vegetables grown closer to consumers retain more flavor and nutrients.

Bell Book & Candle

One of the first rooftop-to-restaurant farms was created by Chef John Mooney at New York’s Bell Book & Candle restaurant. After the chef harvests a variety of herbs, vegetables, and fruits from his “tower garden” on the roof, patrons enjoy the fresh produce only six floors below.

(tower gardens – plants grow in vertical towers in a soilless medium called Rockwool. The tower’s 20-gallon reservoir is filled with a plant food containing pure earth minerals essential to healthy plant development. The solution cascades down the tower garden, nourishing the plants. The mineral blend provides an all-natural shortcut for plants, which typically must source nutrients from decomposing organic matter. In a few weeks, plants are ready to harvest. Tower gardening on rooftops increases yields by an average 30% – grows plants up to 3 times faster – uses as little as 2% of the water.)

Chef Mooney’s rooftop farm was such a success in New York, that he started a second rooftop farm at his Bidwell Restaurant in Washington, DC.

David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Answering the cries of people everywhere for better convention center food, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center has begun a rooftop farm to grow all its own fresh herbs, lettuce, and other produce for Pittsburgh’s convention patrons.

L.A. Urban Farms

Leading the local food movement in Los Angeles, LA Urban Farms not only has its own rooftop farm but helps restaurants and businesses all over the world do the same.

NYC Parks and Recreation

In New York City, the Parks and Recreation Department converted a vacant building’s rooftop into a vibrant garden that produces fresh produce for local homeless shelters.

Rouses Supermarket

Imagine if you could go to the grocery store and buy herbs that were grown onsite! Talk about fresh! Well, thanks to Roots on the Rooftop – the nation’s first roof-to-supermarket aeroponic farm – this dream is a reality for Rouse’s shoppers in New Orleans.

Green Roofs Worldwide

In October of 2016, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require that certain new buildings be built with a green roof (an eco-friendly design technique that sows plants above a roofline). Green roof legislation is being passed around the world. Cordoba became the first city in Argentina to require green roofs in July. France’s new legislation that mandates at least partial coverage of green roof on all new construction went into effect in March. Back in 2009, Toronto mandated green roofs on industrial and residential buildings. Germany’s green roof industry has been legislated and supported by the government in various ways since the 1970’s.

Unique Venues

Rooftop gardening is a green, ecological, restaurant, and agricultural movement. Rooftop farms are becoming one of the most popular boutique venues in the event industry. Most of the rooftop farms we have contacted across the country welcome tours and many can accommodate medium-sized meetings and events.

Fitness – Its Own Reward

To one degree or another, every active adult in our society is working to improve their fitness. After all, everyone knows improved health increases happiness, self-esteem, productivity, and relationships both professional and personal. If nothing else, our egos drive us on to jog five miles a day, attend a spin class, compete in Cross Fit, and end the day in a Bikram Yoga class. Food is the enemy. Weight is a curse. Slipping into lululemon’s latest athleisure offering is almost like dressing for the Academy Award ceremony; a crowning achievement.

But it’s not easy. It’s a daily struggle. You never really win. You can never take a vacation from fitness. Think, then, how wonderful it would feel if your boss rewarded you with a week at a high-end fitness camp; or two weeks! Wouldn’t that be the ultimate incentive reward?

A Luxury Fitness Camp

PFC Fitness Camp, an award-winning program, is a good example of what a fitness camp incentive dream trip might look like. PFC offers the full spectrum of wellness from the nation’s top experts in behavioral health, nutrition, and fitness, all set in beautiful San Diego, CA at LaCosta Resort and Spa.

A typical day in PFC camp looks like this:

6:30 AM – Banana Boost Protein Smoothie
7:00 AM – Spin n’ Sculpt Class
8:00 AM – Coconut Farro Oatmeal
9:00 AM – TRX Suspension Training
10:30 AM – Greek Yogurt Parfait with Fresh Berries
10:45 AM – Band Burn
12:00 PM – Lunch & Learn; Psychology of Eating
1:45 PM – Hike at the Legendary Torrey Pines
4.30 PM – Organic Apples and Almond Butter
4:45 PM – Yoga at the Chopra Center
5:15 PM – Blackened Ahi with Roasted Vegetables

PFC at La Costa offers a one week “Kick Starter” camp; a two week “Momentum Builder” camp; a three week “Habit Changer” camp; and a four week “Life Transformer” camp. Depending on desire, need, and earned reward, employers can offer selected employees or preferred customers a wide variety of fitness incentive rewards.

A Wide Variety of Options

This blog is not an endorsement. I site the PFC fitness camp only as an illustration of what a fitness incentive travel reward might look like. There are many luxury fitness camps across the country that offer a wide variety of programs to the incentive travel industry.

  • MOVARA FITNESS RESORT – Red rock country of Utah – Corporate Wellness programs designed to reduce stress, increase productivity through nutrition and training, team building, and exercise.
  • PURE KAUAI – The island of Kauai, Hawaii – Bespoke fitness vacations where guests reside in private cottages and are catered to by personal trainers, health-minded private chefs, personal assistants and wellness practitioners from massage therapists to intuitive healers and astrologists.
  • THE RANCH AT LIVE OAK – Malibu, California – Don’t call it a spa – it’s a week of tough love. Nothing is optional: not the pre-dawn wake-up calls for morning yoga, not the 16km to 21km hikes every day, not the four hours of fitness classes, and not the super-strict diet (no meat, wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or processed foods).

The Key to Success

Fitness travel is a world-wide growth industry. You can see, however, from the few examples above, that the key to success is matching the reward recipient with the right camp. At Premier Meeting Services, we not only inspect each facility before booking, but interview every candidate to insure a perfect fit. The personal interview is the key to our successful fitness incentive programs.

Don’t Forget the Boomers

I recently attended an Insurance Producers convention in Scottsdale. I was there to browse around and mingle with participants. I knew from past experience that this group was largely composed of baby boomers with a more conservative cut to their jib. I would say they sorted at about 80/20 male to female, ranging in age from early thirties to middle fifties, wearing business suits and even a smattering of neckties. I wanted to find out what they wanted from events. Enough about GenX, GenY, and millennials. After all, baby boomers still make up a large percentage of conference attendees. How about what they want. Have their tastes changed? What about their diet? How handy are they with technology?

Private Investigator – Me

I mingled during breaks, at happy-hour in the bar, and at hospitality suites in the late evening. I knew some of the attendees from past conferences I had a hand in organizing, so they were not surprised to see me hanging around asking questions. I tried to keep my queries informal so they would be unguarded in their responses.

The first thing I noticed was that they were all glued to their cell-phones. This surprised me, so I thought I might mention it.

“You know, Jake,” I began to an insurance executive I knew from past conventions, “it looks like you guys use your cell-phones even more than the young people. What’s up with that? They’re accused of being absent by technology, but it looks to me that you guys are just as attached to your devices.”

He glanced up from his iPhone and gave me a vacant look. Finally, after a pause longer than I was comfortable with, he said, “We invented these things – not the kids. They’re playing games or talking to their friends, half the time. We’re checking the market or staying in touch with customers. That’s the difference.”

I thought his response was a little defensive, but since I had him talking I thought I might press on. “How did you like Doctor Clark’s presentation? A little long,” I commented hoping to bait him into a response.

“Clark is a genius. I write down everything he says and go back to the office and try to figure out how it applies to my division. It’s rare you get the chance to sit and listen to a guy with his experience and brains.”

So, the “sage on the stage” is alive and well in the baby boomer community, I concluded.

Investigation – Day Two

The next morning in the Starbucks, I eaves dropped on three women I knew from the adjuster’s office of a large national insurer having coffee and discussing their day’s activities. During the break between the morning and afternoon sessions they were planning to get a massage at the hotel’s spa.

“That’s why I love coming to this hotel,” one of them offered. “The spa is terrific.”

“Have you ever had the herbal facial?” asked the second woman dressed in an impeccable business suit. “It’s a little pricey but worth it once a year, in my opinion.”

“Oh definitely,” chimed in the third. “That’s what I have scheduled for today. Thank god they arrange these meeting schedules with a little free time in the middle for rest and relaxation.” They then continued talking about arcane adjuster’s issues and I drifted away. It was clear, however, that they weren’t rushing out to go zip-lining over the nearest rain forest.

Finally, I attended the banquet that evening in the grand ballroom. It was a semi-formal affair decorated with elaborate floral centerpieces, soft mood lighting, background music provided by a twelve-piece orchestra, and a four-course meat and potatoes feast like your grandmother used to put on after Sunday church; fattening but delicious.


There’s still a place for old-fashioned event planning. It all depends on your audience. The boomers are still out there strong, and we forget them at our own peril. Study your intended audience carefully. Be sure to identify the demographic mix and cater to GenY and millennial tastes gradually, never forgetting your “still-going-strong” baby boomers.

Our Crystal Ball 2018

This is the time of year that we take our crystal ball out of the closet, set it down for a séance, and look into the future. We are trying to identify the latest cultural trends. What will attendees find entertaining in 2018? What foods will they crave? Is everybody a vegan? Watching their weight? Gluten free? What about entertainment? Who’s hot? Who’s passé? Dress habits? More casual? More glamorous? Social engagements? Less formal? Prefer networking away from the venue? Over cocktails? Learning methodology? Sage on the stage? Small interactive groups? Technology driven? Transportation choices? Group or individual? Buses or Uber? Accommodations? Airbnb or luxury suites? In short, what are people up to these days? Pity the poor planner who doesn’t have a crystal ball.

What is Our Crystal Ball Telling Us?

It’s all about millennials. Roughly between the ages of 18 and 33, millennials now number 80 million people strong in the United States. They represent more than $170 billion in purchasing power and have definite preferences that vary from previous generations. Let’s listen to the crystal ball:

Ooohh…Dear planner…listen carefully…millennials are restless and curious…when they attend a conference or training they are interested in touring the host city as much as attending the conference…pick the host city carefully lest millennials drift away.

  • Ooohh…listen carefully planner…millennials are budget conscious. They prefer a little nearby Airbnb to a luxury suite. They’ll arrive in an Uber car, not even an Uber X. No black suburbans for them. They don’t want to pay for it.
  • Ooohh…wake up planner…millennials are bored easily. They do not like to sit in a large room and passively listen to a speaker. Nooo…they want to interact through their device in real time…they have opinions and questions…that’s how they learn.
  • Ooohh…take notice planner…millennials want to be entertained and surprised…your event must be “tweet worthy” to be successful…better start thinking now.
  • Ooohh…dig deeper my planner…millennials seek deeper meaning and insight at events… …meeting themes and objectives need to be more meaningful than let’s have some fun…for example…they take waste and the environment very seriously…maybe you should too.
  • Ooohh…note well dear planner…millennials are technology dependent even more than tech savvy. They expect technology to be at the center of everything they do…keep that in mind dear planner.

The Future is Now

Well…the ball has certainly given us a lot to contemplate. It does so every year. The consistent message year in and year out is, however, that now is the time to think about how the market is changing and how we can change with it. The future becomes the present in the wink of an eye and unless we’ve planned carefully we will not be able to deliver the product that an ever-evolving market demands.

Event Security – Proactive, not Reactive


Every event planner in the country felt a pang of fear witnessing the insane tragic killings in Las Vegas. This is a natural reaction that could, however, easily morph into a counterproductive overreaction. Fear produces adrenaline that causes our central nervous system to impulsively fight or flee. If we are not in immediate danger, however, it can cause us to overreact and take inappropriate action. We have already heard from planners who have doubled the size of their upcoming event’s security force, or hired armed guards for the first time, or changed venues because they were in a high-rise hotel that reminded them of the Mandalay Bay, or cancelled a future event scheduled for Las Vegas. As professionals, we must be careful not to overreact.


When it comes to security, the appropriate reaction is pro-action. Las Vegas is a stark reminder for planners to review security protocols to assure they are doing everything possible, not to prevent insane tragic violence or cataclysmic acts of nature, but to keep attendees as safe as possible in the event of a disaster. The following “best practices” should be considered carefully.

  1.  Although often unpleasant, develop a worst-case scenario with your security team prior to every event.
  2.  Communicate concerns to the facilities event management team well in advance.
  3. Connect with local law enforcement to be apprised of nefarious activity that might be on their radar.
  4. Instruct all event personnel outside the security team to “say something-if they see something”.
  5. Tour the venue in advance of your event to begin building an emergency response protocol. Do not leave it to the venue’s security service. Too often the emergency evacuation plan has grown stale and is not appropriate for your particular event.
  6. Contact the local EMT, hospital, and Fire Marshall to inform them of your event and audit their readiness.
  7. If your event is big and complicated enough, contact a security consulting company to learn what you may have missed when it comes to security and evaluate hiring the service to improve security and safety.
  8. Las Vegas is the shocking “wake -up call” that puts security at the top of the to-do list. If security has not been a top priority in your planning procedure and you tend to leave it to the venue, make it a top priority now.
  9. Incorporate the systemic process of identification, assessment and control to eliminate or minimize the risk of untoward outcomes.
  10. Finally, review registration and access procedures to ensure that appropriate limits are placed on what levels of access are granted.


The list above is by no means meant to be a comprehensive security plan. It is meant to remind planners to become more pro-active when it comes to security. Once you have carefully thought out and executed all appropriate security procedures, you have done all you can to keep your attendees safe. The rest is up to God.

Team Building – Helping Fight the Loneliness Epidemic

According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher. Additionally, the number of people who report having a close confidante in their lives has been declining over the past few decades. In the workplace, many employees — and half of CEOs — report feeling lonely in their roles.


Loneliness is the subjective feeling of having inadequate social connections. From a biological perspective, we evolved to be social creatures. Long ago, our ability to build relationships of trust and cooperation helped increase our chances of having a stable food supply and more consistent protection from predators. Over thousands of years, the value of social connection has become baked into our nervous system such that the absence of such a protective force creates a stress state in the body. Loneliness causes stress, and long-term or chronic stress leads to more frequent elevations of a key stress hormone, cortisol.

Causes of Loneliness

Why has this feeling increased over past decades? Partly because people are more geographically mobile and are thus more likely to be living apart from friends and family. In the workplace, new models of working such as telecommuting and some on-demand “gig economy” contracting arrangements have created flexibility but often reduce the opportunities for in-person interaction and relationships. Loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly.

What We Can Do

Our understanding of biology, psychology, and the workplace calls for companies to make fostering social connections a strategic priority. Research has demonstrated the link between social support at work, lower rates of burnout, and greater work satisfaction and productivity. A more connected workforce is more likely to enjoy greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while being more protected against illness, disability, and burnout.

Designing and modeling a culture that supports connection is more important than any single program. It will require buy-in and engagement from all levels of the organization, particularly leadership. Having senior members of an organization invest in building strong connections with other team members can set a powerful example, especially when leaders are willing to demonstrate that vulnerability can be a source of strength, not weakness. Ask yourself if the current culture and policies in your institution support the development of trusted relationships. The most important factor in work happiness, a UK study showed, is positive social relationships with coworkers.

Team Building

Team building events designed by Premier Meeting Services encourage personal interaction, build trust, and improve social skills. Once our clients recognize that they have a “loneliness” problem, we investigate to uncover the cause and then design a program to address the issues. There are multiple causes of loneliness in the workplace:

  • The popularity of remote “work from home” environments
  • The diverse geographic span of international corporations
  • The solitary nature of certain tasks
  • Highly competitive work environments
  • Generational diversity

The world is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. If we cannot rebuild strong, authentic social connections, we will continue to splinter apart — in the workplace and in society. Instead of coming together to take on the great challenges before us, we will retreat to our corners; angry, sick, and alone. We must take action now to build the connections that are the foundation of strong companies and strong communities — and that ensure greater health and well-being for all of us.

Calculated Misery

It must be accountants who are ruining the travel industry. Only truly diabolical bottom-line number-crunchers could think up the annoying extra fees that airlines and hotels have begun charging guests. Features that used to be considered part of good customer service are now only provided for an additional charge.


In an attempt to advertise the lowest competitive fares but still protect the bottom line, airlines now charge unexpected additional fees: a seat selection fee, a checked baggage fee, a Wi-Fi fee, a pre-boarding fee, an extra legroom fee, a change of plans fee. Services and amenities that used to be standard now qualify as “upgrades”. Meanwhile, the “standard” experience is frequently so miserable that many people will pay to make it better. The accountants call this, “calculated misery”. Like so many other clever schemes to outwit the customer, “calculated misery” is ultimately absurd. It would be as if a burger joint charged you for a patty of plain ground beef and a bun, then gave you the chance to make your burger more palatable by paying a seasoning fee, a medium-rare fee, and separate surcharges for lettuce, tomato, and onion.


At a recent convention in Scottsdale, Arizona I was having coffee in the lobby one morning and trying to connect my cell phone to the internet. My device informed me that I could pay a one-time connection fee or perhaps consider a weekly fee that would cover my stay at the convention. Considering the room rate I was paying I, of course, was outraged. Smiling, the barista told me that it was a new charge the management had just instituted. She thought it was stupid too, she admitted.

This was not my first stay at this first-class convention hotel, and as I worked my way through the week, I began to notice the accounting gremlins at work everywhere.

  • The swimming pool, always open in the past 24 hours/day for conventioneers, now opened at 8:00A.M. and closed at 8:00P.M. (Just the hours that attendees would be otherwise occupied). Not good customer service, I thought. It was a matter of insurance I was informed by the hotel assistant manager.
  • While checking out, I caught the accounting gremlins adding insult to injury. They had charged me an outrageous “resort fee” that covered my use of amenities like the gym and pool.
  • Parking had always been free at this sprawling resort. This must have been driving the accounting gremlins crazy all these years, because in addition to the Wi-Fi charge, the limited pool hours, and the new “resort fee”, now the parking lots were sporting entrance gates that charged you a fee for parking.
  • When I asked the gardeners what had happened to the famous beds of seasonal flowers that had decorated the entire entrance drive to the resort and had become a significant part of the resort’s identity, they informed me that dry desert landscaping saved water and money. Good-by flowers and identity.

The History of Misery

Charging additional fees for what had been considered standard service started in 1997 when hotels in the Caribbean started extracting the cost of beach towels and bottled water from the advertised room rate. The ruse worked and the entire travel industry was off on a treasure hunt. New additional travel charges exceeded $2.47 billion in 2015 according to a study by NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center. The accountants were hailed as business geniuses and many were promoted to CEO.

What Can Travelers Do?

The airline industry’s reputation has already been destroyed. They have reduced their service to a commodity and have eliminated all competitive quality distinction. One airline is as good, or as bad, as another. They have completely forsaken the market value of a competitive reputation for excellent service. The big boys have acquired or eliminated all those nagging little competitors and only five major airlines remain to divvy up the spoils.

So far, only the consumer has suffered. The travel industry will not surrender its profit windfall until travelers take action. Travelers must begin to vote with their feet by refusing to patronize airlines and hotels who nickel and dime them to death after advertising competitive rates. When travelers wake up it won’t be long before the old competitive spirit reignites in the travel industry and quality and service once again become distinguishing factors. The current accountant’s business model of taking away from the traveler will be replaced by the marketing department’s impulse to give everything back. The travel industry will once again realize that the top line is the most important component of the bottom line.

Hidden Gems – Our Five Top Boutique Destination Cities

Vegas, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Miami, and Houston are destination cities that get most of the large event action in the United States. San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta are the second-tier cities that also accommodate large events.

But as more and more companies see the value of face-to-face interaction with customers and employees, the number of smaller incentive and training events grows apace with blockbuster events, and the attendee demographic shifts toward Gen Y’s and Millennials.

Planners are constantly challenged to find better boutique destination cities that fit both the size and the demographic of these proliferating smaller events. Premier Meeting Services scours the nation evaluating smaller cities that are a better fit for the many smaller meeting and training events that we manage. Here is the current list of our top five boutique markets in the United States. This list is constantly evolving and we will update it here in this blog every ninety days.

Top Five Boutique Destination Cities

1. Savannah, Georgia
The old-school charm of horse drawn carriages and cobblestone streets that mark this walkable city would be enough to recommend it alone. Savannah, the nation’s largest historic district, is decorated with floral landscaping, gracious front porches, white columned mansions, wide streets, and 24 public squares.  The first planned city in America was laid out into grids by General James Oglethorpe, who named the state of Georgia after King George. Because of its beauty and charm, Savannah was the only city spared by General Sherman on his march to the sea during the Civil War.

The Lady and Sons, Paula Dean’s landmark restaurant, anchors a varietal and distinctly southern fusion culinary scene, while mid-sized boutique hotels and a modern convention center complete the southern hospitality conventioneers will enjoy when visiting Savannah.

2. Greenville, South Carolina

Most everyone knows Savannah, but few have ever heard of Greenville, South Carolina. Known as “the new Austin” because of its dining scene with more than 110 restaurants representing 27 different ethnic cuisines, Greenville is the perfect meeting location for young companies interested in vigorous outdoor activity.

  • The Gorge Zip Line Canopy Tour is a three-and-a-half-hour trip above the famous Green River Gorge on 11 zip lines, 2 huge rappels, and a sky bridge, while dropping 1100 vertical feet from start to finish.
  • The BMW Performance Center – attendees get to drive the newest, high tech BMW vehicles around a 1.7-mile test track. This is the ultimate adult playground.
  • Chimney Rock State Park – attendees can experience the thrill of hiking the 499-step Outcroppings Trail to the 315-foot Chimney Rock, where they’ll see an amazing 75-mile view of Hickory Nut Gorge and the Carolina Piedmont.

Five major airlines service the International Airport and the TD Convention Center contains almost 280,000 sq. ft. of convention space.

3. Monterey, California

In his masterpiece, Cannery Row, John Steinbeck made Monterey, California a household name in America. However, even Steinbeck did not adequately describe the raw beauty of the northern California coastline.
A drive along the Big Sur is to steep yourself in the world’s most unique ecology. It is considered the top road trip in America.
A round of golf at Pebble Beach, five miles from Monterey, is on the bucket list of every weekend golfer in the world.
Monterey’s conference center offers 41,000sq.ft. of exhibit or meeting space and the boutique lodging, Cannery Row, and Fisherman’s Wharf are once in a lifetime historic and ecological experiences.
Outdoorsmen from around the world have traveled to the pounding surf, rocky cliffs, and windy hiking trails along the Northern California coast.

4. Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Broadmoor, a AAA Five-Diamond resort, has inspired the adventuresome spirit of the West since 1918. Bring your outdoor, granola attendees to The Broadmoor for your next meeting and turn them loose for rafting, mountain climbing, shooting, golf, fly fishing, horseback riding, and falconry. That’s right…falconry. You never know.
The Colorado Springs Airport provides nonstop service to 17 destinations by six major carriers, and the Broadmoor World Arena holds 9,000 people while boasting 19,500 sq. ft. of exhibition space.

5. Lake Placid, New York

If your bank employees are not invited to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland do not despair. Hold your next meeting at Lake Placid, New York.

Lake Placid was the home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. High in the Adirondack Mountains, the little town is within a two-hour drive from airports in Burlington, Vermont, Montreal, and Albany, New York.

The Herb Brooks Arena holds 5,000 event guests and ski lodge hotel accommodations abound. If that mountain high, winter ski resort feel so envied in Davos is what you’re after, Lake Placid should be on your event destination list.

Hit it Better with Hybrids

Everybody’s hitting hybrids these days. Even Lydia Ko and Mo Martin hit hybrids every chance they get. At a recent charity golf event, one of my playing partners carried hybrids with only a driver, putter, and a sand wedge to round out her set. She shot 74 and won the tournament. I was sold and immediately went out and bought myself two more hybrids. Now I play four hybrids along with my wedges and driver and…I’m playing a lot better.


The first charitable contribution made at a golf event was $10,000 at the Palm Beach Invitational in 1938. Since 1938, the PGA TOUR has partnered with local charities across the country to raise an astounding $2.14 billion.  The Waste Management Phoenix Open alone recently announced that it had surpassed $100 million in charitable donations in its history. Unlike other professional sports organizations, the PGA TOUR relies on more than 100,000 volunteers annually to run its tournaments, and the vast majority of its tournaments are structured as non-profit organizations designed to donate 100% of net proceeds to charity.


Arnold Palmer made golf a popular sport for the masses. Before his televised “common man” charisma swept across America in the 50s, golf was largely an elitist “country-club” game. Then Arnold, and later Tiger Woods, captivated the “working-class” sportsman and golf took off. Everybody wanted to play golf, and this trend was not overlooked by corporations. The “golf outing” was born. Planners were called upon to design events that looked like the charitable golf events on the PGA TOUR but rewarded big customers and valuable employees. One-day corporate golf outings replete with tee prizes, hole-in-one prizes, and elaborate banquets with A-list entertainment were cloned from the already successful charity golf events on the PGA TOUR.


Then planners started to hit hybrids. They realized that corporate outings that partnered with local charities had a greater positive impact on employees and customers then simple company “golf tournaments”.  Charity golf events sponsored by a corporation are event magic. They tick all the boxes. Customers are happy. Employees are motivated. The community benefits. All corporate goals are met and often exceeded. The event ROI is off the charts.


Let’s take another look at the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s $100 million in charitable contributions. The event was started in 1932 by Bob Goldwater Sr. and the Phoenix Thunderbirds, a prominent civic organization. The Thunderbirds ran the charity event as the Phoenix Open at the Phoenix Country Club until 1987 when the tournament was moved to the TPC, Scottsdale. The investment bank, Friedman Billings Ramsey became the first corporate sponsor of the Phoenix Open in 2003, followed by Waste Management, its current sponsor.

This new hybrid form of charity event sponsored by a corporation has built the Phoenix Open into the best attended golf event in the world. In 2016, it set a PGA TOUR single day attendance record with 201,003 fans in attendance on Saturday and set a golf tournament attendance record of 618,365 fans.


The magic is in the chemistry of the Thunderbirds’ civic minded zeal and Waste Management’s corporate objectives. If you’re planning to run a golf tournament for your customers and employees, think about partnering with a local charitable organization. If you’re trying to organize a golf tournament to benefit a community or a nonprofit, find a corporate sponsor who’s interested in your cause. The resulting hybrid will exceed your wildest expectations.