J.B. Ryan, DMCP, has been a destination management professional in Florida since 1993. He has managed DMC offices in both Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, and since 2009 he has held the position of vice president and general manager of Access Destination Services – Florida. Ryan is past president and current board member of Site Florida. When he is not working on events in Florida, you can find him at the Windermere Little League baseball fields coaching one of this three sons. Ryan is located at the Orlando office of Access Destination Services, an accredited destination management company, which is headquartered in San Diego. Access leverages its long-established talent and experience to design and deliver exclusive and unique group programs to satisfied clients from around the world. In 2013, Access made the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies in America and was ranked No. 28 among the Top 100 Travel and Hospitality Companies.
The good news: Budgets for events in the insurance and financial industries are coming back. The challenge: With bigger budgets, event planners and DMCS are challenged with creating events that are stimulating, impactful, memorable, interactive and anything but stale.
Now, more than ever, clients are seeking what’s new and unique and are turning to us to deliver the unexpected. In the financial and insurance industries, Access Destination Services is seeing an influx of these requests for 2014 events.
Trends for 2014 include many facets — from incorporating technology and entertainment, to hosting an event at an unconventional venue, to highlighting regional tastes and smells at each event.
When it comes to seeking an event space, think beyond the traditional and expected venue. If you’re hosting a corporate retreat or annual conference, consider a major league baseball park, a motor speedway or even a working military base! These out-of-the-box venues are inherently intriguing, will create conversation and stimulate a group beyond the boardroom.
After finding a venue that fits your needs, consider incorporating the locale. Guests want to experience tastes of the destination. Incorporate local ingredients into the menu or feature a guest chef who can share their innovative dishes derived from locally sourced ingredients. Attendees — especially those who have traveled for an event — want to experience local flavors. They want to eat local cuisine, taste local beers and sip local wine. As planners, we need to offer them what they can’t have back home.
The aroma of local, farm-fresh cuisine is a crowd pleaser at almost all events. At a recent event, the rich smell of a design-your-own-gourmet-grilled-cheese station had guests clamoring for a taste. Alternatively, scratch-n-sniff stickers are making a comeback…in a unique way. The new version of this nostalgic technology offers interactive scratch-n-sniff wallpaper, which can be customized to showcase the scents of your choosing. At an event in San Diego, Access Destination Services featured the local fragrances of fresh green grass, salty ocean waves and smoky beach bonfires in scratch-n-sniff wallpaper, which was a huge hit.
Teambuilding continues to be an important and successful component of corporate retreats and meetings. At Access, we like to add fun challenges and unique culinary options to the events we produce. For instance, Access hosted an event for a financial client at an indoor racetrack, which featured an array of local food trucks as the F&B component. The fun, competitive challenge of go-kart racing was a hit on its own, but incorporating local specialty food trucks into the event after the race was a fantastic way to keep the group interacting with each other. “Ooh, you’ve got to try this!” was heard frequently.
Building events and experiences to awe your clients by seeking creative ways to activate all five senses will differentiate your meeting in a crowded market and give your attendees something to connect with through sight, taste, scent, sound and touch.
Sensory experiences are only as vivid as the memories they leave behind. Photo booths offer guests visual mementos of their fun, and we often recommend syncing your photo booth with social media websites so that guests can instantly upload their photos and videos to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For a new twist on the photo booth, slow motion video is a visual treat. Guests can star in their own short films, with their antics heightened by suspenseful slow motion, capturing their reaction as a handful of colorful confetti rains down on them.
Further engage your guests by incorporating a pampering touch and give them a reason to relax. A VIP Green Room, where guests are treated to makeup artists, manicurists, shoe shiners, hair stylists and old-time barbers offering straight razor shaves is a personal touch that will enhance their moods and provide an opportunity to unwind.
In finding creative ways to activate guests’ senses, you’ll see that the key to producing a truly great event is engagement. Whether you are planning a small VIP reception, or a large-scale gala, it’s designing a number of different elements, that when all brought together successfully, become something much bigger and will truly engage attendees in what’s going on around them. I&FMM