Author: Michele Woods

Back to School, Back to Work – Planning Around Life

You’d think that one of the most demanding parts of planning an event would be sticking to the budget or managing food and beverage. But one seemingly innocuous aspect takes more time than you’d think – finding a range of dates that works for everyone. Not just the hotel and flight schedule, but the attendees, their children, their school and work schedules, and their busy lives and variables to this specific task. We chatted with our most seasoned incentive planners to get their take on what to avoid and what to remember when planning around everyone’s schedule.

Keep important school dates in mind

We’ve had a lot of experience planning family incentive trips, and we know how complicated things can get if you don’t plan the correct dates right from the beginning. Even though incentives are generally a trip free of cost for the attendees, that doesn’t mean that they can totally put their lives on hold, pull the kids out of school, and rearrange their busy schedule just because it’s not on their dime. With this in mind, for summer incentives, plan for weeks in the middle of summer, and include a full weekend so mom and dad don’t have to take too many days off of work. If you are in the school year, you know those weeks where holidays and breaks fall will be hot travel times – book extra early to get the perfect destination hotels.

Know the company

Companies can have different fiscal years and internal schedules that may or may not be known to the public or planners. Some take the whole month of December off for holidays, some schedule a week every year for company meetings, some may participate in corporate athletic events and company picnics that limit some weekend. Though this is a slip-up that would be caught early, it’s better to be proactive and ask for important company dates throughout the year so you can plan around them.

Get feedback

If you’ve been working an annual incentive for a few years, chances are you send out an attendee survey at the end of the trip to get feedback on the location, the service, and the like. Consider adding a comments section asking how the dates and times worked for them. While you can’t please everyone, you may find some trends in the feedback and incorporate that into your planning for the group’s next incentive.

As a planner, you certainly can’t plan around everyone’s individual schedule. But you can make it easier on a group to travel – especially with children – by paying attention to universal flow of life events. By putting the attendees first, and not the hotel or resort’s schedule, you’ll offer more ease, peace of mind, and ultimately, fun.

On-Site Printing Solutions

On-Site Printing Solutions

In business, every detail matters. Things that might seem small, like an attendee’s name badge and registration process, can make or break their experience at an event.

At the very beginning of many events lies a common industry problem – how do we get attendees registered and checked-in as fast as possible? As the size of the event grows, so does the challenge. Sorting through hundreds or even thousands of name badges may no longer be an option for attendees who are in a rush and pressed for time to get to their meeting. Our extensive experience in large-scale meetings and events informed our solution to this problem through carefully utilizing technology and on-site, on-demand name badge printing. This enabled us to beat the lines and register attendees wherever they were – and have their badge ready in under 30 seconds – all from a tablet. Since then, we’ve been perfecting that process at many of our large-scale events, and we’ve learned three important things.

1: Choose and design your name badge wisely

Part of what makes our process work quickly is that we’ve blended the old and new processes to make a seamless attendee experience. Attendee badges are specifically designed in-house to be printed on-site. Our designers carefully lay out and test the badge with our printers to ensure the look and fit are exactly correct. Spending extra time up front pays off in the on-site execution.

2: Utilize technology carefully

Technology is one of the keys to any on-site printing process – but it’s important to select everything for a reason, and not just because it’s the latest tech. After ordering and extensively testing a number of badge printers in our home office for one large meeting, we made a selection that worked well with the additional technology we put in place for the registration process. Having just the right printers connected wirelessly to our tablets empowered our team to bust lines and come up to attendees wherever they were in the lobby and check-in area to provide them with a quick and painless registration process.

3: Train your staff, and don’t forget that personal touch

Despite the quick registration and abundant technology, we know from experience that a personal touch from a real person goes a long way. Providing extensive training and training resources for registration staff to make sure they were confident with the technology and the process is the base of a fast on-site execution. It might sound obvious, but never assuming knowledge and comfort with technology can be the difference between a seamless experience and on-site scrambling. The time to get comfortable with the tech is before you leave the office if possible not just before they see their first attendee walking towards them. Empower your staff to be experts so they can focus on the attendee.

Event Tech 2014 Wrap Up

What Happens in Vegas ... Comes Back to KC!

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…unless you’re there for Event Tech 2014!

Event Tech is a yearly conference focused on engaging attendees through emerging technologies in the event and marketing industry. Wellington’s Michele Woods and Karen Elliot attended the conference and came back with some of the hottest trends for the events industry. Event Tech prides itself on highly experiential seminars, so the following technologies have been tried and tested on the spot!

Google Glass for presenters

Google Glass is on the cusp of integration with events and speakers. This wearable technology allows attendees to engage with the presenter as they’re speaking. The presentation will expand onto each user’s set of Google Glasses and, in real time, they’ll be able to record the presentation, make notes, and share their experiences on social media. At Wellington, we’ve had a lot of success with technology integration on the planning side – incorporating tablets into on-site work has been invaluable. We think that keeping attendees engaged with the same technology can lead to a more effective and memorable conference.

Zox RFID wristbands

The Zox brand began (and still is) as a highly fashionable wristband brand. They have recently expanded to offer innovative RFID (radio frequency identification) technology in their wristbands for brands. These unique chips allow companies to track their users at an event and see what matters most to them – where they’re going, how long they stayed, etc. We’ve learned over the years that more data and more knowledge lead to a better experience for all. There’s no substitute for knowing exactly what a customer wants and being able to tailor an experience for them. Guests can even get deals and discounts on merchandise related to the event, and have the ability to share their experiences instantly on social media integration.

Bonfyre

Almost every technology today is integrated into social media. Bonfyre takes that concept one step further – with this app, you can create a private social network specifically for your event. Attendees, sponsors and speakers can share photos, statuses and content with the most relevant people – the audience at the event! We can see this being highly popular with some clients that prefer to keep their events private, but still want to share an amazing experience with their chosen peers.

Best Incentive Destinations

Best Incentive Destinations

You don’t have to go out of this world, or even out of the country, to give attendees the best incentive experience.

Napa Valley, California

Tucked away in the mountains of northern California is one of the world’s premier wine-growing regions. Not only is it a culinary and viticultural epicenter, Napa is also home to beautiful scenery and architecture, hiking, biking, and horseback riding.  Downtown Napa offers world-class chocolates and bakeries, a chef’s market, high-end shopping and unique art galleries for a truly Napa experience. Napa is one of our favorite and most successful destinations for incentives and meetings. We love the Westin Verasa Napa for its relaxing atmosphere, perfect after a long day of wine and scenery walking tours.

Hawaii

Get that “out-of-the-country” feel without bringing your passport! Hawaii’s Big Island is home to sun, surf, tranquility, and enjoyment. Hike to the top of ancient volcanoes, relax on the beach, and take in the natural wildlife and beauty unique to this exceptional island. We love the Four Seasons Hualalai at historic Ka’upulehu, one of the top resorts in the world. Set on the site of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village, this serene resort is home to award-winning restaurants, a tropical spa, and a Hawaiian cultural center. The resort prides itself on its use of indigenous décor and techniques that are sure to provide an authentic Hawaiian experience.

Banff, Canada

One of the most beautiful and protected places in the world, Banff offers extraordinary views of the Rockies and glacier lakes, hot springs, hot springs, hiking, and wildlife in its most natural habitat. We love Banff because it’s unique – a change from the usual incentive destination of sun and surf. For accommodations, we love the legendary Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the heart of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. For more than a century, ‘The Castle in the Rockies’ has been providing luxury in the heart of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The discovery of hot springs in the area led to the creation of Banff, Canada’s first national park. Within this setting, the Banff Springs hotel offers stunning vistas, exceptional regional cuisine and impeccable service for an unforgettable retreat.

Events We Love

Events We Love

Winter Olympics, Burning Man, Oktoberfest, Fifa World Cup

Winter Olympics

We can’t wait for the opening ceremony! This year’s Olympics are proving to be controversial, but we hope that organization of the event and the athleticism of the competitors take center stage. The Winter Olympics, first hosted in Chamonix, France in 1924, evolved from the Nordic Games, held in Sweden in 1901. In the 90 years that followed, the games have undergone plenty of change, but the games continue to showcase the best in winter sport. Though the event organizers have been known to have lips sealed shut on rumors about the opening ceremony, there’s still plenty of gossip. National team uniforms continue to be revealed (check out Team USA’s here) and it’s rumored that famous Russian composers Valery Gergiev and Denis Matsuev will be performing. Needless to say, we’ll be watching – not to mention that it’s the first Olympic games held in Russia since the end of the Russian Federation in the 90s.

Burning Man

It’s possibly the world’s strangest party, but it’s been attended by more than 653,000 people since its inception in 1968, including Mark Zuckerberg, P.Diddy, and Major Lazer. It takes place every year over Labor Day weekend in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, in a makeshift town called Black Rock City. Fun fact: during Burning Man, Black Rock City becomes Nevada’s third-most populous city. It’s a difficult event to explain, but according to Burning Man’s website, “attendees…dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.” The climax of the event is setting fire to a large wooden effigy – the burning man.

Oktoberfest

We know, we know…it seems like a cop-out. Of course the world’s biggest beer festival is going to be fun! But there’s more to it than you’d think. It’s been held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany since 1810 and it’s as much a part of their culture as it is an opportunity for tourist dollars. All beer served at Oktoberfest has to adhere to a specific set of qualifications – the “Reinheitsgebot,” a German beer purity law that dates back to 1487. Oktoberfest is actually free to attend, but a liter of beer will cost you around $12. As a celebration of Bavarian culture, Oktoberfest also includes delicious traditional food, like pretzels, dumplings, sausage, and strudel. You’ll also find the typical Bavarian waitress carrying what seems like an impossible amount of beer at once – the world record is 19 steins, or 90 pounds of beer!

FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is one of the most popular sporting events in the world – this year’s cup will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, five-time winners of the international title. There’s been some speculation as to whether the venues will be ready in time. Around half of the 12 stadiums being built or renovated are not yet completed, and the Brazilian government is rushing to complete the vital infrastructure linking the stadiums. But with world-class attractions like Christ the Redeemer, Tijuca National Park, and Ipanema Beach, Rio is sure to impress regardless. We hope you’ll join us in our commentary on the beautiful game in June and July!