“Give your attendees what they want” is the No. 1 rule for choosing the best menu and the best entertainment for meetings and events, presenters agreed at a seminar held yesterday at the 19th annual Las Vegas Corporate Invitational Destination Showcase. The event, produced by MeetingsNet, was held at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.
Patti J. Shock, academic consultant to the International School of Hospitality in Las Vegas and professor emeritus at UNLV, noted the sharp rise in guest requests for healthier dishes, such as an emphasis on fresh produce. More diners want vegetarian and vegan options as they shift away from meat, she said, and many are looking for “authentic” foods, such as food that has not been genetically modified.
She urged planners to include alternatives along with traditional offerings, such as putting out a carafe of almond milk alongside a pitcher of coffee creamer for guests avoiding dairy products. She also urged planners to offer “build your own dish” stations so that guests can create exactly what they want to eat, and to label menu items clearly so that guests know what their choices are.
Other trends to watch, she said, are the growth of artisanal foods, menus from specific regions (such as Szchewan), the addition of activated charcoal to foods, and the new popularity of pickles and pickled foods.
BE CANNY ABOUT CANNABIS Shock advised planners to be aware of the rising tide of cannabis users as more and more U.S. states legalize recreational use. She reminded planners that laws vary widely from state to state; for example, Colorado permits cannabis lounges but Nevada allows smoking only in private homes—not hotels.
She noted that cannabis edibles induce a different, more visceral “high” than smoking does. And “never mix alcohol with cannabis,” she said.
Matthew Gucu, founder of Las Vegas-based New Moon Entertainment and ILEA Las Vegas vice president of communications, agreed that determining what the guest wants is essential to creating the best experience.
In selecting entertainment, knowing the generational preferences of the audience is key, Gucu said. He related his own experience as part of an ’80s, “Brat Pack” band playing for a highly disappointed audience of baby boomer Vietnam veterans. “It was the Animals’ ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’” he joked.
BON JOVI VS. BEYONCE Gucu also warned planners against letting the CEO dictate what style of entertainment to use. “If he likes Donna Summer and Bon Jovi, it won’t work with guests who want 50 Cent and Beyonce,” he said.
He reminded attendees to consider the ever-shortening attention span of guests, noting that it could be wise to book acts for briefer performances. He added that acts hungry for bookings will be delighted to pick up gigs on weekdays, when they often are idle.
Gucu urged planners to remember that “The backbone of entertainment is hospitality,” explaining that a friendly, welcoming attitude on the part of every member of the event team is vital to success. Planners should treat all members of their own teams well, and instill the philosophy that such gracious treatment of everyone at all times is a must. “Remember, the bartender who is in a bad mood could be serving your CEO,” he warned.