HOW DO YOU IMPRESS guests who truly have it all? That was the challenge for A Great Event of Long Beach, Calif., charged with producing events during a four-day asset-management conference for wealthy individuals. Lido Consulting, also based in Long Beach, hosted the conference.
"We wanted to give the guests more than just meetings and information," says Sam Kimball, who partners with Kevin Lemmon in A Great Event. "The people at this conference have everything. It was up to us to create an experience they would never forget."
GOING CRUISING Although conference guests never left the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, Calif., A Great Event took them to ports on an international "cruise." The conference invitation was mailed to guests in a mini steamer trunk, which contained the message in a bottle. Attendees enjoyed a Scottish-themed golf tournament, an Italian winery tour, and meals including a Greek luncheon, African cocktail party, Dutch breakfast and French dinner.
Sponsors funded the segments as well as such prizes as a Mercedes-Benz, a Caribbean cruise, and daily in-room gifts that ranged from coffee-table books to leather notepads.
Every evening started with a themed cocktail party in the hotel's courtyard. The Russian party featured flavored vodkas and a cigar roller; the African party included live tribal music. Guests could also watch the progress of a giant sand "boat" being built by Sandcastles Unlimited of Newport Beach, Calif. Sculpted from five tons of sand, it sported sponsor logos.
VIVE LA FRANCE For the gala dinner, which featured a French theme, 30-inch wrought-iron replicas of the Eiffel Tower served as centerpieces. The sculptures are part of A Great Event's prop collection. "They were simple yet elegant, and they did not obstruct the guests' view of one another across the table," Kimball explains. The tabletops featured battery-operated neon light tubes covered by plexiglass and pillbox linen in French blue over white organza underlays. "The illuminated tables allowed us to bring the house lights down for a more intimate atmosphere," Kimball notes. Pink and white rose petals scattered over the tabletops and votive candles completed the decor. Blue lighting enhanced the elegant ambience.
The evening's entertainment was a promised mystery guest. Attendees had been speculating throughout dinner who it might be. They were surprised to see "President Bill Clinton" show up at the lectern.
Actually, the mystery guest was a Clinton impersonator, accompanied by two "Secret Service agents." Why Clinton? "This group is very influential in the political realm," Kimball explains. "We thought something comic with a political bent would break the ice and allow them to laugh."
IT'S A CIRCUS IN HERE On the third and final evening, guests enjoyed dishes from four international food stations-French, Spanish, Italian and Asian-in one of the hotel's ballrooms. After dinner, Cirque Ingenieux, a 24-member group based in Hollywood, Fla., gave a 50-minute performance. "It was a fast-paced, exciting show," Kimball explains. "The combination of artistic elements, technology and acrobatics was perfect for a high-maintenance crowd."
To ensure kid-glove service for its high-end clientele, A Great Event marshaled a team of almost 80 staffers to care for the 200 conference attendees. About half of the staff had direct contact with the guests; the other half worked behind the scenes. Another 80 resort employees helped the conference run smoothly. On top of that, "we even had close family members assist us-my two sisters and Kevin's family helped out," Kimball notes.
The meeting was a success, he adds. "We have received about 20 letters from pleased sponsors and attendees." And the sponsors are on a roll: A second conference, featuring a Monte Carlo theme, will take place next year on Coronado Island, Calif.