APR 2012

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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2012 Sneak Peek Directory Subscribe Advertise Contact CORPORA TE MEETINGS and finding cost-effective ways to keep putting on events that help support business- critical goals." Usher in the era of the new corporate meet- ing—showcasing a much leaner, focused agenda. In light of this change, planners are looking for ways to arm themselves with effective strategies that are more focused on "getting in and getting out" while still creating a memorable experience. As an experienced corporate meeting plan- ner, Vanessa Nowland with State Farm Insur- ance said that her meetings today are definitely more focused than they were five years ago. "Everyone's time is valuable, so when we ask people to take time away from the office to attend a meeting, we know we need to give them a remarkable experience that is worth their time," she emphasized. "Companies are thinking about value…what's learned at a meeting and what's actionable." Loriann White, CMM, CMP, vice president of global accounts with Hospitality Performance Network (HPN), pointed out that her focus on international corporate incentive events has seen some notable changes. Specifically, the industry has become much more sensitive to increased transportation costs. Many groups are reducing the length of their programs and making the effort to shop for closer destinations —within a 2-3 hour flight time from the U.S. "Instead of shipping the premiums to the destination—accruing additional costs—they are sent to the recipient's home or office," White added. "Or premiums are purchased locally and are more personal to the overall experience of program." White noted that programs had also evolved to offer less in the way of entertainment. Instead of planned dinners and activities throughout the program, there is often a welcome reception with concentration on one reception or dinner for awards. Bates said that companies essentially want gatherings that are cost effective and experi- ence effective. "Holding meetings in cities that are more business-travel friendly can be a prac- tical way to reduce some cost," he suggested, pointing to a recent GBTA annual study that revealed the worst and best cities for hospital- ity taxes. "The rising cost of business travel and especially meetings and events is a key concern when planning." When putting a strategy in place, White emphasized that planners should listen on the www.con v APRIL 2012 ConventionSouth 13 "Everyone's time is valuable, so when we ask people to take time away from the office to attend a meeting, we know we need to give them a remark- able experiencethat is worth their time." —Vanessa Nowland, State Farm Insurance front end to attendees and stakeholders to under- stand the overall corporate objective, and then communicate effectively. "Use technology, social media to your advantage. Be clear, concise and strategic in your messaging," she explained. "This way, the attendee is aware of the objectives upfront and can go into the meeting ready to em- brace and achieve the overall goals." Nowland concurred, noting that planning on the front end goes a long way in creating an exciting and engaging event. Once a firm agenda with expected end results are in place, there is a strategic direction to put the needed touches in place, such as finding charismatic and inspiring speakers related to a relevant business topic, she said. "Planning also gives you time to get the cre- ative juices flowing around a theme, room design, table décor, music, and anything that gives the wow factor," Nowland pointed out. "We love to start our meetings with bright lights and upbeat music so that when attendees walk in to the business session it's already rocking… and that gets them excited about what's to come." Nowland leverages the size of her organiza- tion's event by combining efforts with other ➤

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