ConventionSouth

APR 2018

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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MARKET SEGMENT REPORT: MEDICAL & PHARMACEUTICAL MEETINGS ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ A P R I L 2 0 1 8 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 14 CORPORATE MEETINGS at every break, which has been the standard for years. It's now quality over quantity—locally sourced, locally inspired, healthier options. The same applies to drinks. Authentic, local flavors can differentiate an event from the corporate norm." Sean O'Keefe, founder of Atlanta-based Sean O'Keefe Events, leans toward creating fresh, local fare and said he is seeing a trend of moving away from the larger style of events to meetings that are "unique and boutique." Making the meeting more interactive, O'Keefe said his top corporate clients are working with him to have smaller, more intimate events that are great for team-building and networking. "We are focusing on having attendees participating in the food experience rather than just being served," he said, adding that one group of corporate executives was in charge of setting their tables, choosing flower arrangements and other decorations, as well as cooking their own food. Another hot topic is food sensitivities and catering to those needs to make every attendee feel like they are important. "People have needs, including no gluten, no grains, vegan options … how do you accommodate them? One way is to set up interactive food stations, with some catering to particular sensitivities, where attendees can order what they want," O'Keefe said. Having different chefs participate in events is a feature of current events that O'Keefe said is a great way to promote "meet and greet mingling. We might have 10 people at a station with a chef in the center and then have the attendees move to another station with another chef presenting their version of food." In addition, O'Keefe emphasized focusing on the corporation itself in planning the entire event, including food and beverage. "I am creating events that are designed around the culture of the corporation and finding a way for that culture to be used as a blueprint," he said. Have you heard about the latest trends in beverages? Signature cocktails created for the specific corporation and attendees, craft beers and pop-up champagne bars have become the new normal for corporate events, according to O'Keefe. "I am the king of cocktails and have created signature drinks from spirits, wine and beer," he said. "The evolution of boutique beers is unbelievable. I've incorporated pop-up beer stands and even included fun games like beer pong for events. Interactive elements create conversation." His events are well known for featuring fun, interactive stations where attendees get to help create their own drinks. Mimosa bars with a variety of fusion elements to choose from, such as strawberry puree and fresh rosemary, get guests excited to be a part of the event, and O'Keefe uses American sparkling wine, a burgeoning market for the U.S., which appeals to the desire of using fresh, regional ingredients and products. Sustainable Meetings and Social Responsibility Meetings have been going green for a while now, but the focus on sustainable meetings is even more apparent in today's corporate meetings. Chief Executive Officer Karen Kotowski of the Events Industry Council, headquartered in Washington, D.C., said, "we recently completed a survey of more than 350 event professionals on the state of sustainability in the events industry. Since 2016, when we last completed a similar survey, we've seen an increase in the application of practices including offering vegetarian options (up from 65 percent to 86 percent), allergy- responsible menus (up from 59 percent to 80 percent) and the use of water stations instead of bottled water has increased from 56 percent to 76 percent. We've also found a continued difference in expectations about including information about sustainability in RFPs and proposals: 34 percent of planners expect it to be included without asking for it, while only 25 percent of suppliers include it regularly, and 49 percent of suppliers include it only on request. This means that roughly one third of planners are expecting to see sustainability included in proposals without asking for it, and 75 percent of the time, it won't be included." At a recent event held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Kotowski said many green elements were included: "we are currently redesigning the APEX/ASTM Sustainable Event Standards to make them more adoptable by the industry. As part of the process, we organized a rewriting committee meeting at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel," she explained. "We were fortunate to be hosted by a venue that was open to working with us on practices to make the event more sustainable. Some of the practices we included were water stations instead of bottles, vegetarian options (these generally have a lower water and carbon footprint), a reduced number of food options to help minimize waste and linen- less meeting room tables to reduce the need for washing. The Gaylord Opryland also actively participated in the meeting itself by sharing their expertise and provided a back-of-house tour to help us to understand their water and energy management solutions." Combining with green practices, social responsibility is another key factor for events, according to corporate planners. Choosing charities to endorse and incorporating projects like Habitat for Humanity into teambuilding can really put the spotlight on corporations and their role as leaders in promoting social responsibility, especially during corporate events. Innovative Technology and Virtual Attendance "Venue Wi-Fi should be capable of handling the fleet of attendee devices. Wi-Fi is something organizers should think about from the outset so they can negotiate it into the contract. This applies as much to meetings as it does to events and conferences," states CWT's 2018 Meetings & Events Future Trends report. Pop-up champagne bars have become the new normal for corporate events. 3 4 Sean O'Keefe Events

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