Special Events Blog
Claire Harrington of Social Tables

How to host a memorable reception: The Four Seasons' IMEX Red Party

Claire Harrington of Social TablesLast week marked the fourth annual IMEX America conference, which welcomed more than 10,000 meetings professionals to connect with the nearly 3,000 exhibiting companies on the trade show floor at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas.

Once the exhibit hall closed for the day, it was a planner’s dream when it came to receptions to attend. Each night welcomed a minimum of five events that offered a continued opportunity to network and build relationships off of the show floor.

Here’s a look at the Four Seasons IMEX Red Party, which--in this meeting professional’s opinion--stole the show:

The Location Attendees of the event ventured off the Strip to the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. The location is tucked away, offering guests of the property a handsome and welcoming respite from the lights and ruckus of the main drag. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the attentive Four Seasons staff, who led the way to the outdoor pool oasis that is nestled between the Four Seasons and the back of the MGM Grand.

The Overview Upon entering the pool deck, each attendee was greeted by a gentleman who handed out our badges with care. It was a nice first touch to be directly handed our badges, rather than sifting through an alphabetized nametag table on our own (which many of the receptions at IMEX opted for).

After passing through this entry point, we were greeted by what can only be described as the most beautifully considered reception I have ever attended. Red accents were everywhere: from red light bulbs hanging alongside the standard white lights, to human decor dressed in rouge with gold leaf accents around their eyes, to modern red chandeliers hanging throughout the deck area, to a live Cirque du Soleil-esque performance (photo below) by two elegant dancers on a platform in the middle of the pool, to imposing metal sculptures accented with bright bulbs (one of which quite directly played into the theme with three large letters spelling out R-E-D) (photo at left).

The food was given just as great attention as the decor of the party: more than 12 stations offered a differing array of edibles, ranging from sushi, sliders and a delicious, rich risotto to a dessert smorgasbord, which included caramel apple station, a red mousse globe (my colleague’s favorite), and a mini donut station. Each had an accent of red within them.

The Memorable Moment The party was abuzz with whispers of a “great surprise” that the Four Seasons team had in store for the attendees, though no one seemed to have even a general idea of what it would be. I had bets (we’re in Vegas, of course) that there was a surprise musical guest. We mingled, snacked and drank, wondering all the while when our surprise would reveal itself … until the wind picked up.

Our conversations were muted by the sound of a helicopter moving in over the pool.

I only had a split second to wonder how a helicopter fit into the event theme before I began noticing tiny specks of red falling from the sky: the crew onboard had opened the starry night with a shower of roses. Pound upon pound of fresh, brightly hued petals were sent cascading down upon attendees and the pool. It was a stunning sight, and a brilliant addition to what was already a perfect party …

…with a small hiccup.

Guests of the event will tell you that the helicopter’s presence was made all the more memorable when the wind off of its propellers began blowing food off the tables and hurricane glasses into the pool. The gorgeous red chandeliers hanging above the buffets swung in slightly concerning motions. I watched one woman duck under a tree for cover.

While I would imagine that the wind propelling objects to places they didn’t belong was not an anticipated result of the chopper’s presence by the planning team, they had obviously put thought into the petals on the ground, as the moment the bird departed there was a virtual swarm of employees with brooms sweeping away the potential hazard of slippery rose petals beneath our feet. Legal would be proud.

While we were all lovingly referring to the windy addition as “the beautiful disaster,” the cheering crowd that waved the helicopter away as it exited the property reinforced the positive impression its presence left upon the evening.

Wind-whipped hair or not, that was a bet I wasn’t sad to have lost.

Claire A. Harrington, CMP, is the manager of communications at Social Tables. She serves as committee chair for Women In Travel (WINiT) and is actively involved in the MPI, IAEE and PCMA communities. Her writing has also been featured in Special Events, Convene, BizBash, Hotel Business Review and MPI. Photos by Claire Harrington.

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