In today's fast-paced environment, people seem to have a lot of basic needs that are not being fulfilled. Some are needs that equate to our "comfort zone."
The globe-trotting that people in the business world are forced to do has changed a lot of our desires. Having to be on the road so often, many experience an emotion similar to grief. A certain depression can creep into one's life, and it might be only what we experienced during summer vacation at camp--plain old homesickness. This ailment usually was cured the moment we found ourselves back in surroundings that included familiar sights, smells and family traditions.
Today, special events surround almost all types of business meetings. (Forgive me for using as examples only the types of events pertaining to business meetings.) With current business trends leading to global as opposed to national events, it is important that we learn about the traditions of the different nationalities we are entertaining.
GO BEYOND SUSHI
It is easy to put together an event with decor and food that represent the obvious characteristics of a location; however, will this serve the needs and desires of the guests? Often a Japanese party will include sushi, but what about a station serving oden, a traditional family soup? This dish tends to be recognized by people from that region of the world rather than the guests as a whole, making its presence especially significant. I am not suggesting that you abandon sushi; just add a homespun, traditional dish known in the home rather than the open marketplace.
The food of the Southern states of America consists of much more than fried chicken and biscuits and gravy. Have you ever enjoyed the delight of a Goo Goo Cluster? By the same token, Southern decor includes more than chintz and magnolia blossoms. What about a ceiling draped in tobacco cloth?
New England is famous for more than lobster. Have you ever savored a johnnycake swimming in maple syrup? For decor, go beyond lobster traps. A buffet piled with syrup buckets spilling acorns can add the real feeling of home for guests from that region.
SEARCH FOR THE SOUL
Bring in the feelings of home, the soul of the environment you are trying to create, as opposed to falling back on the obvious. To do this, it is important to research native traditions--not just festivals--from the areas you are representing in your food and decor. Festivals are wonderful, but look for the places of the heart to strike a feel-good atmosphere for your travel-weary guests. Dig deep, look for the essence of home, the fundamental tonic to cure the homesick. Why? Because making people feel good helps them be more open to doing business, and this is our goal. When they do business, the events pay for themselves, and you as the planner, decorator or caterer will be the hero. It is easier to convince people to loosen their purse strings if there is a proven return of investment.
Looking outside of your client base might not always be the place to look for new markets. Explain your desires and motives for the coming events to your client, and you might find a whole new market within your Rolodex.
John Daly is president of John Daly Inc., International, a design firm (805/963-5007), and CEO of PRA, a destination management company (805/884-0600); both are based in Santa Barbara, Calif. His e-mail address is [email protected]